By Edwin Quinabo
Donald Trump’s critics have called him a dictator, “liar-in-chief,” and endless other unprintable names.
To his die-hard base, Trump is no ordinary politician. He’s a political and cultural savior who can do no wrong, has proven to be bullet-proof time after time from all controversies, even impervious to the “BIG I” (impeachment). But more stunning than the long list of political and personal embroilments he has weathered, is Trump has managed to keep his core base support of 40 + percent even as the CDC reports over 7 million COVID-19 cases, 203,180 deaths in the U.S. (as of Sept. 26) — worst infectious and death rates in the world by far.
Whether Trump’s handling of COVID-19 could have been better handled is debatable. But to have any sitting president during a tragedy of this magnitude (not to mention deepest recession ever) to still be in contention, and possibly win reelection, is as peculiar as the rare blue moon to appear this Halloween.
In many ways Trump is the political Superman of our time; or to others the Dark Knight millions fear. But whichever characterization voters chose, he’s nothing short of towering strength. His political brand —polarizing and attention-grabbing — has kept everyone intrigued 24-7 for years now.
Stepping into the fray to challenge Trump in the General is three-time presidential candidate Joe Biden, a political heavyweight and establishment darling. Tested in truly significant ways personally, Biden survived the loss of his 30-year-old wife and 13 month old daughter in a car accident; and later a son who died from cancer in his 40s. Biden is certainly character-tested and resilient, in ways beyond politics like Trump. But that’s about where similarities end.
It’s fair to say Biden is politically “old guard” as the former Vice President which is both his weakness and appeal. But he has also shown to be flexible to changes in the primary, showcasing his Biden 3.0 version. Perhaps the prized mano-a-mano titan who would have been better matched to box the distance with Trump was runner-up Bernie Sanders. But Biden as a knock-out, “in-your-face” politician – that was never his strength; his strong suit is more akin to what Obama was, a bridge-builder, unifier, and arguably the antidote some believe is needed to heal the unprecedented strife prevailing in communities throughout the nation. Some historians say only in the Civil War has the country seen worst division that today’s acrimony; which metastasized almost immediately after Trump’s inauguration.
While the 2020 Presidential race is between Trump and Biden, it’s also reasonable to say it’s a race between Trump and everyone who wants Trump out of office. It also has been a contest between Trump and Democrats, collectively, that includes their party’s all-stars from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to rising personalities like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) who have been taking their best shots at the poll-steady Trump.
Filipino and Asians as a whole: who are they supporting?
Given the hammering immigrants sustained at the heavy-hand of Trump for almost four years, it could be perceived as a surprise that he still has a fair amount of support among Filipinos nationally. According to a recent survey (up to Sept. 10, 2020) by the nonprofits AAPI Data, APIA Vote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC — 52 percent of Filipino registered voters say they will vote for Biden compared to 34 percent for Trump, 12 percent undecided, 2 percent prefer another candidate.
In the same survey, collectively among all Asian American groups, the breakdown was 54 percent Biden to 30 percent Trump. Biden enjoyed the highest support among Asian Indians (65 percent) and Japanese (61 percent). Trump had the highest support among Vietnamese at 48 percent, the only Asian group having Trump ahead of Biden (36 percent).
In a post-election poll conducted in 2016 by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 79 percent of Asian Americans said they voted for Hilary Clinton, while 18 percent chose Trump.
In comparing the two national polls on Asians, Trump actually has improved his support among Asians; or inversely Clinton was far more appealing a candidate than Biden is for Asian Americans.
The HFC poll taken earlier in the year from July 3 through July 12, had Hawaii Filipinos for Biden at 30.5 percent over Trump 24.5 percent with 45 percent undecided/refused to say.
Locals on the General Election
Maribel Domingo, a retired accounting clerk, Ewa Beach resident, said she plans to vote for Biden because she believes Trump is too divisive. She said while she is a Democrat, her vote is more an anti-Trump vote than a pro-Biden vote. Her first pick in the Primary was Sanders.
“Even though Biden is not the ideal candidate for me, Trump cannot be given a second term because our country is being torn apart. Who knows how much worse it would get. Already we’re seeing violence in the streets across the country and Trump hasn’t been the leader to bring healing. Trump has been a president only to his base and has never made attempts to bring Americans together. But I don’t think that is even an effective strategy politically because a 40 percent base is not enough to win re-election. But you never know with the Electoral College. It will depend on the swing states.
“His attacks on immigrants is also a big problem for me. My parents came from the Philippines. My husband is also an immigrant from the Philippines. I take his devaluing of immigrants’ contributions to our country as a personal attack on me and my family. Immigrants are great for our country. But Trump lies about immigrants and makes us look like bad people. What Trump is doing is wrong.
“His repeated attacks on immigrants is just scapegoating and completely unnecessary. I know it’s a ploy to appeal to his base. But he does that at the expense of hurting the millions of immigrants in this country, millions of immigrants who are proud Americans who love our country,” said Domingo.
Precy, 23, a student in Kahului, Maui (requested to have her surname withheld) also said Biden is not the ideal candidate, but plans to vote for him because Trump is an even worse choice.
“Neither candidate is a good choice for the presidency, but Biden is all we have. He wasn’t one of my top choices from the Democratic party, but he is clearly the better candidate among the two. I’d rather Biden have a chance at making changes for the better than the misogynistic, racist, hypocritical man currently at the White House,” said Precy.
This 2020 General Election will be Precy’s first time to vote. She said in the past she believed her vote didn’t matter so she hasn’t voted. “I will vote this time to ensure Trump doesn’t win again.”
She said while the stimulus check was great, “it does not change my opinion about the current president, and it never will. One seemingly generous act does not make up for a lifetime of despicable ones. Any policies that seek to eliminate any choice or protection concerning reproductive health, rights of LGBTQ+ people and people of color are deplorable.
“I have not been personally or directly affected by Trump’s policies, nor am I part of the LGBTQ+ community, but I am a person of color, and those policies could affect me and my loved ones in the future. I do not understand why people think they can control others or why others think that people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community don’t deserve to be treated as humans,” said Precy.
She said some people do not want to get involved in politics or vote because of the deeply ingrained corruption, deflection by politicians and their refusal to provide basic human rights to everyone. But she’s seen, since Trump took office, how politics can take a turn for the worse and affect people in ways that cannot be ignored.
Leon Albayalde of Pearl City, a registered Democrat, said he is voting for Biden because he is concerned about Medicare and Social Security. He’s approaching retiring age and wants to make sure these social programs are protected.
“I know Trump says he is for protecting Medicare. But that is a lie because he has recommended twice in his presidential budget priority to Congress to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The Democrats have proven their commitment to these programs. Republicans, not just Trump, have talked about saving both programs, but have proposed privatization. In former president Bush’s case, he wanted to turn Social Security into a private voucher system.
“People cannot just trust politicians’ words. They will lie and sometimes do something completely opposite from what they are saying.
“Trump is a terrible president, lousy person. But for me, it’s about the issues, specifically these senior programs,” said Albayalde.
Maridel Ramos, Waipahu, Medical Assistant, said she is voting for Biden. She said she gets stressed just watching him on TV. “The way he carries himself and what he says are disturbing.”
She also doesn’t agree with the President’s use of social media. “Tweets are so informal and should not be how presidents communicate.”
Las Vegas resident and frequent Hawaii visitor CJ (requested anonymity), a female small business owner and federal contractor, politically Independent voter, said she will vote for Trump. She said she doesn’t like Trump as a person, but she agrees with his policies and what he’s done so far for the country. On trade with China, she said “I’m so happy that finally someone has stood up to China. The Chinese themselves have been laughing at the U.S. for getting what they themselves would not have allowed the U.S. to do to them. Patents and technologies that our lawmakers allowed China to steal. Biden was in office for 8 years and yet he was more concerned about climate change than what the U.S. was losing.
“China was basically asking U.S. imports to meet their expectations such as giving their technologies but would not do the same for their businesses in the U.S. China took advantage of U.S’s benevolence – this includes Biden! He just turned his head the other way. We lost so much during the peak of manufacturing in this country,” said CJ.
Data show that the U.S. trade deficit with China ballooned under both the Obama and Trump administrations. According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) the U.S.’s trade deficit with China grew over the course of Obama’s presidency, reaching $375 billion at the end of 2016. During Trump’s presidency, the deficit ballooned to an all-time high of $418 billion in 2018.
Trump has levied tariffs; China retaliated. The tit-for-tat trade war with China has slowed down China’s trade advantage, but not in a meaningful margin just yet, analysts say.
CJ says there is new support for the awarding of government federal contracts. She said this helps the local economy and levels more fairly the playing field with more opportunities for Americans to compete. “So many back doors were used and continue to be used by foreign nationals in their effort to get Federal contracts,” said CJ.
CJ says she also supports the President’s calling on other nation’s to pay their fair share in supporting international organizations like WHO and UN-backed initiatives. She agrees with Trump’s hardline stance on immigration: “I am an immigrant myself and there is a legal way to become a resident, then a U.S. citizen. Why should others think they can bypass the process and aggressively push their way into the country? He (Trump) has placed America first as his priority.”
On immigrants and social welfare she said, “what’s the incentive for taxpayers to continually fund illegal immigrants? Why should taxpayers pay for others who come here illegally and even become demanding and entitled to benefits that many of us worked hard for and earned?”
Immigration advocates argue illegal immigrants also pay taxes, sales tax, sometimes income tax, and rent, which helps landlords to pay for their property taxes. Illegal immigrants on payroll also pay for Social Security and Medicare taxes but do not take advantage of the benefits because of their status. Money that illegal immigrants contribute helps to fund social programs that American citizens can apply for. Illegal immigrants do not qualify for government assistance.
“There is a real political transformation among younger Asian American adults registered to vote. In the last presidential election, only about half of younger Asian American adults registered to vote, and this survey indicates that more than 7 in 10 are now registered for the upcoming election. A remarkable shift!”—Paul Ong
a research professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
CJ also says “Why do we have to have ballots in different languages? Why do we have to have interpreters? It’s the responsibility of the immigrant to learn the language of the country they chose. If I move to Latin America, it’s up to me to learn to speak Spanish so I can assimilate to the culture I want to join.”
Samuel Sonson, a Trump supporter, also likes what Trump is doing with trade specifically the reforms made to Nafta and for pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sonson credits Trump for improving the economy and creating more jobs, and claims the U.S. economy was “the best in the world before COVID-19 hit.” He cites other reasons for supporting Trump including making the country more energy independent, rebuilding the U.S. military, securing the Southern Border, and maintaining law and order in American cities where riots have occurred.
He also believes Trump’s response to COVID-19 was quick by stopping flights from Europe and China into the U.S. early on. “Thousands more could have died had it not been for his bold action,” said Sonson.
A regular voter, Sonson said he considers himself to be a Conservative Independent. He claims under Trump, he has benefitted from his IRA and other investments in the stock market. He also refinanced his mortgage to take advantage of the very low interest rate.
In yet another poll, conducted by the National AAPI Power Fund and the National Education Association that focused on younger Asian voters, Biden showed a commanding lead over Trump, 73 to 17 percent; the undecided were 10 percent.
Of those who said they would vote for Biden, 50 percent said their decision is based more on their disapproval of Trump; while 35 percent said they would vote for Biden because they like him.
Paul Ong, a research professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, said there is a real political transformation among younger Asian American adults registered to vote. “In the last presidential election, only about half of younger Asian American adults registered to vote, and this survey indicates that more than 7 in 10 are now registered for the upcoming election. A remarkable shift!” said Ong.
Pew Research also confirms the political shift occurring. It found that Asians are the fastest growing demographic of eligible voters compared to all other major races and ethnicities.
But voter turnout is not as high as others, according to Pew. In the last 2018 mid-term election, Asians had a 42 percent turnout rate, compared to the Black community at 51 percent.
Issues important to Filipinos
In the same AAPI Data, APIA Vote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC national survey on Asian Americans, Filipinos found the following to be extremely important:
– Jobs and the Economy 63 percent
– Healthcare 56 percent
– Education 51 percent
– Racism and racial discrimination 46 percent
– the Environment 38 percent
– Taxes 35 percent
– Gun control 35 percent
– Immigration 30 percent
In the HFC poll taken in July, Hawaii’s Filipinos top three issues were Economy/ Jobs, COVID-19/Public Health and the High Cost of Living.
Filipinos top three issues of concern are related to COVID-19 and Biden supporters say do not reflect well on Trump because he’s had more than six months to make improvements but little to marginal improvements have occurred.
On the economy and jobs. Most economists say this recession (GDP level, highest unemployment ever) is the deepest since the Great Depression.
On healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic showed how inadequate the system of employer-based health insurance is as millions lost their jobs and their insurance. Trump’s nomination to SCOTUS could also jeopardize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) shorty after the election when hearings on ACA begins. If ACA is struck down, millions more will lose their health insurance at a time when it’s needed most.
On Education. Due to the pandemic, most schools have resorted to all or part-virtual, at home instruction. Quality of instruction has suffered for students; and working parents having to stay home for younger children have been facing hardship.
On the top issues, Trump already put all his cards on the table. With conditions remaining the same and worsening in others, Biden voters say it makes perfect sense to give Biden a shot.
Traditionally presidential incumbents will lose in a bad economy, which narrows Trump’s chances for reelection on that pattern alone.
Filipinos nationally identified themselves as Democrats (46 percent), Republican (28 percent), Independent (16 percent), do not think in terms of political parties (8 percent), don’t know (1 percent).
In the HFC poll taken in July, Hawaii’s Filipinos responded: Democrat (28 percent), Republican (17 percent), Independent (16 percent), don’t want to say (39 percent).
General Election information and important dates
The last day to register to vote in the General Election is Oct. 5. Ballots will begin to be mailed on Oct. 5, 6 for Honolulu, Oct. 7 for Hawaii (Big Island), Oct. 8 for Maui, Oct. 9 for Kauai. If registered voters do not receive their ballots by Oct. 16, it’s advised that they contact their County Clerk’s Office (visit: elections.hawaii.gov for County Elections Division).
All signed ballots must be received by your Clerk’s Office no later than 7 p.m. on November 3, the day of the General Election. To meet this deadline, it’s strongly encouraged to mail back your ballots by Oct. 27 to give mail-handlers sufficient time.
There are also ballot drop boxes, including at the Voter Service Centers. Visit the same elections website above for drop box locations and Voter Service Centers locations and hours. In-person voting and same-day registration (if you missed the Oct. 5 deadline) will be available at Voter Service Centers.
Remember Nov. 3 is General Election day. But actual voting can begin as soon as registered voters receive their ballots.