Politics | Clinton's Asian American snub could have cost her Michigan
Analysts argue that Asian Americans were among the supporters that Hillary Clinton took for granted on election day. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Analysts argue that Asian Americans were among the supporters that Hillary Clinton took for granted on election day. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

Clinton’s Asian American snub could have cost her Michigan

The margin of 10,704 votes was the closest in the state's history

December 3, 2016 10:11 AM (UTC+8)

The almost razor-thin margins in battleground states that elected Donald Trump as the next US president have some observers wondering if Asian American voters might have helped to tip the balance for Hillary Clinton if events had taken a slightly different turn.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Michigan, where on November 28, the state’s election board certified Trump as the winner almost three weeks after the contest by two-tenths of a percentage point, or 47.6% to 47.4%. The margin of 10,704 votes was the closest in Michigan history.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is pressing for yet another recount in the Midwest state. However, it’s already abundantly clear that Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, as well as those of other swing states, pivoted to Trump on the basis of several thousand votes in key election districts. Florida and Pennsylvania, the two electoral wins that signaled that Trump had won the White House, were decided by a difference of one percentage point each between the two candidates.

Asian Americans, after the final ballots were cast on election day, had voted for Clinton over Trump by a whopping 79% to 17% nationwide margin, according to exit polls by the nonprofit Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

But there are hints that Michigan might have gone “blue” if Clinton had won a stronger and earlier endorsement from an influential national Asian American voter organization. As it turns out, Michigan’s Asians favored Clinton by a 65% to 29% margin, noticeably less than the nationwide average.

There are more than 145,000 eligible Asian Americans and Pacific Islander voters in Michigan, comprising 1.8% of the state’s electorate, according to data from Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, a nonpartisan electoral and civic group. Counting voters and nonvoters, the total population includes 103,000 Indians, 59,000 Chinese, 39,000 Koreans, 35,000 Filipinos, 17,000 Vietnamese and 16,000 Japanese.

Hillary skipped meeting

In a post-election analysis, S.B. Woo, the president of the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, a political action committee, contends that Clinton could have pulled more Asian American votes in Michigan, as well as nationally, if she had actively pursued the group’s endorsement.

Woo noted in an article posted on 80-20’s website that Clinton was asked to attend 80-20’s endorsement convention in August with the promise of a full endorsement if she showed up. But Clinton declined.

As a result, Woo says 80-20 postponed endorsing the Democratic presidential nominee for more than two months and only issued an endorsement with “reservation,” shortly before the election.

He added that 80-20 conducted a large membership poll in summer and reckoned, based on the results, that they could deliver an organizational voting bloc of 80% for Clinton nationally if they gave their full endorsement to Clinton.

Doing the math, Woo estimates that a full endorsement would have given Clinton nearly 21,000 more Asian American votes in Michigan, theoretically pushing her over the top in a state that was decided by less than 11,000 ballots.

“But she didn’t want to come. So we punished her by delaying our (endorsement) for about 2.5 months, and even then only endorsed her with reservation,” Woo wrote.

Would it have made a difference if Clinton had enjoyed 80-20’s full backing? No one can say for sure.

But some analysts argue that Asian Americans were among the supporters that Clinton took for granted on election day — with what have since proved to be catastrophic results. The others reportedly included millennials, white women, and blue-collar workers in traditionally Democratic states.

Doug Tsuruoka is the Asia Times Editor-at-Large

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