Candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at a fundraiser in Delaware | Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President via Flickr/Creative Commons-2.0
In all past elections in modern history, even though Filipinos comprise one of the largest minority population blocs in the country, the Filipino vote has never been seriously regarded as a major factor that either political party can sway of elections.
There are several reasons for this perception: (a) Except pockets of visible and articulate elite groups of Filipino leaders in both parties who wage open campaigns for their candidates and engage in public political debates, the majority of the more than four million Filipino residents in the US are apathetic to the political process, do not donate to political campaigns and do not even register to vote; (b) The voter turnout among Filipinos parallels another sleeping giant – the Hispanics who are now predominant but underrepresented in large border states – and is eclipsed by the turnout of more politically active black and citizens of Asia-Pacific descent; and (c) Filipino voters have in the past been roughly evenly split between the parties and tended to cancel each other out.
“Because Filipinos over the decades tended to immigrate to and concentrate in the largely-populated states of California, New York/New Jersey, and Washington State, all Democratic-leaning big states, surveys showed that Democratic.”
There was a time when Filipinos did not vote according to party affiliation but rather on which personality appealed more. Thus, Filipinos voted for Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barrack Obama and their “winning personalities.” During George H.W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s tenures, Filipinos started being indoctrinated in the political process and discerning the two parties’ ideological differences. That was also when Filipinos started becoming interested in running for public office, which is a rarity considering their large numbers. It finally ushered in an era of political activism among Filipino-Americans.
It is interesting to note that it was the former leaders of the anti-Marcos regime in the Philippines, some of whom migrated to the US as political exiles or as followers of the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, who became more closely identified with the Democratic party which they thought were more sympathetic to their anti-dictatorship cause.
Which party enjoys a bigger share of Filipino-American voters?
Because Filipinos over the decades tended to immigrate to and concentrate in the largely-populated states of California, New York/New Jersey, and Washington State, all Democratic-leaning big states, surveys showed that Democratic Filipinos consistently outnumbered the Republican Filipinos in sheer numbers. But the Filipinos who identify themselves as conservative Republicans are stronger and more hardline in their convictions concerning conservative issues that appeal to mainstream and older Filipinos, such as the pro-life, pro-gun, low deficit, and pro-military spending issues, as well as more stringent immigration policies. This could be why Filipinos who were staunch supporters of Donald Trump stuck with him to the very end.
For the most part, Filipinos have tended to vote in lock-step and in proportion to the states’ relative voting strengths where they reside. For example, most Filipinos who live in New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, and Washington State have voted Democratic. On the other hand, Filipinos who live in smaller but strongly Republican states like Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and the southern states have strongly voted Republican.
What changed in the November 2020 elections?
More Filipinos registered to vote and actually voted in the last presidential elections than ever before. This was the case throughout the U.S., but especially in the 6 or 7 “battleground” states. The dramatic increase in turnout was mainly due to the heightened interest and passion among Filipino voters in the polarization of issues that could not have been more stark and the burning controversy about Donald Trump’s character and controversial words and actions. The Democrats went so far as describing the November elections as their “fight for the soul of America.” The uncontrolled pandemic that had killed more than 300,000 Americans by election day was also a big and compelling issue against Trump’s re-election. The Filipino Republicans, on the other side, accused their Democratic friends of supporting left-wing issues such as socialism, liberalism, and unfettered abortion.
The Filipino-Americans’ national and grassroots strategies for the Biden-Harris campaign were demonstrably more organized and more effective than their Republican counterparts. They staged daily Zoom rallies and house-to-house telephone banking, text, and email blitzkriegs. They aligned closely and shared resources with the energized and powerful Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who worked 24/7 to support the historic candidacy of fellow Asian Kamala Harris, half-Indian. Filipino “Internet Warriors” articulately and incessantly attacked Donald Trump as an uncaring person and a derelict president. According to early surveys, more people who voted Democratic were voting against Trump than voting for Biden.
“The Filipino-Americans’ national and grassroots strategies for the Biden-Harris campaign were demonstrably more organized and more effective than their Republican counterparts.”
The public debates sponsored by non-partisan TV stations featured articulate Filipino speakers from both parties and attracted thousands of Filipino voters. The Democrat debaters dominated the debates both in substance and style.
The unprecedented passion and diligence of the Filipinos for Biden-Harris paid off handsomely. Hundreds of seasoned Filipino phone bank volunteers from the “safe states” of New York, California, Washington, Oregon, and Illinois are called every day. They persuaded thousands of Filipino voters in the swing states of Michigan, Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, and Georgia to vote and vote Democratic. In Texas, Filipino volunteers organized a “Roll to the Polls” program to offer rides to senior citizens and disabled voters on election day. The grassroots campaign executed with precision by the Filipino Democrats’ well-trained volunteers, including the resurgent young Filipino leaders, resulted in victories in 5 of 7 critical battleground states that swung the election to Vice President Biden. And it was the same army of Filipino phone-bank volunteers who helped deliver Georgia’s votes to the two Democratic senatorial candidates that upset the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
As a direct result of the massive campaign efforts of Filipino volunteers to get the votes out on election day, Filipino voters throughout the U.S. gave the Biden-Harris ticket a record margin of approximately 55- to 45 percent, which is higher than the plurality that Hillary Clinton received in 2016 from the same voting bloc. (Reactions to this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gus Mercado is a Filipino business and civic leader in Texas for 40 years. While his wife, Honorary Consul Ethel Reyes-Mercado, is a devout Democrat, Gus is a registered Republican who votes Independent in national elections. He served as State Chair of the FilAms for Biden in Texas and the silent but large national “Republicans Against Trump” movements.