VIRGINIA’S VIETNAMESE, OTHER APA VOTES HELP JAME WEBB, DEMOCRATS TO VICTORY
Wife Hong Le Webb, ‘Real Virginians’ Trounce ‘Macaca’ Slur
By: Rita M. Gerona-Adkins
CHURCH, VA --- The Vietnamese are on a roll in both sides of the
Their country of origin, Vietnam, hosted for the first time the Asian Pacific Economic
Cooperation, an economic savant of 21 Asian and Pacific countries. After a
feverish transition from communist to a more capitalistic form of government,
it is now the fourth ranking trade partner of the United States, and is in the cusp of gaining a coveted membership
in the World Trade Organization.
On this side of the Pacific, Vietnamese American voters
in Virginia helped tilt the balance of political power in the
midterm election from the well-entrenched Republicans to the victorious
Democrats in the United States Congress.
“Democrats Take Senate, Thanks to Virginia,” a New York
Times sub-headlined on Nov. 10, with a final 51 to 49 advantage. And so went the nation, too, with help from a
big turnout of Vietnamese American and other Asian Pacific American voters in Virginia.
If that may seem a stretch, ask the Vietnamese Americans
in Northern Virginia and elsewhere in the Old Commonwealth who flocked to the polls in greater numbers to help
elect Democratic candidate James Webb in a tight-wire senatorial contest with
incumbent Republican U.S. Senator George Allen.
is the husband of one of their own, Vietnam-born and Virginia-bred Hong Le
Webb, 38, a privacy-preferring corporate securities lawyer whom the electorate,
including Asian Pacific Americans, hardly was aware until the election. Thrust into the public eye in the later part
of her husband’s six-month campaign -- a move that was spurred by political ads
that painted Webb as opposing women’s entry into the military and for having
remarked and written sexiest allusions to women – Hong Le, with her long black
hair and Asian features, enhanced the picture of diversity that even Virginia
and the conservative South have increasingly embraced.
personable presence by Webb’s side, and candid and enlightening interviews with
the media [including the omnipresent YouTube], can be
assumed to have helped in drawing out more Vietnamese American votes, as well
as those of other Asian Pacific Americans who altogether form 3.1 percent of
the voting age population in the state of Virginia.
ads do not give Jim an accurate picture of what he truly is, a very fair and
family-oriented person,” she told Asian Fortune when spotted in the
sidelines during a campaign rally Nov. 2 in Arlington.
her rounded middle in a womanly gesture, she also told Asian Fortune that she is
expecting to deliver their first child in December. Both she and Webb, who met
years ago while doing business in Vietnam, have children from earlier marriages.
Vietnam Ties – A Political Plus?
close ties to Vietnam – as a U.S. Marine combat veteran who fought in the
trenches, won honors for his military service in Vietnam, which later
catapulted him to Secretary to the Navy during Republican President Reagan’s
administration – further burnished his
appeal especially to the Vietnamese American electorate, many of whom had fled
their country during the war.
one of the immigrant groups from Southeast
Asia that sought refuge, and
helped increase the population, in Virginia, Vietnamese Americans opened up not only new economic
markets but also opportunities for political empowerment for their community.
example of their impact [as well as of other APA ethnic groups] is the
proliferation of their small businesses and other forms of entrepreneurship
that made the Mixing Bowl behemoth a necessity in order to ease Virginia’s transportation needs and accommodate its growing
Webb is a good man,” Tuy Le, an enthusiastic
campaigner from Fairfax, VA, told Asian Fortune.
one of the young APA members of the “Real Virginians for Webb,” a multi-racial
and multi-ethnic group that formed overnight to counteract what was deemed as
xenophobic if not racist remarks by Allen when he referred to S.D. Sidarth, a Virginia-born and raised video tracker for the
Webb campaign, as “macaca”, a term for a monkey
specie and which is regarded as a slur in some African countries.
members, notably Esther Oh, D. Van Long, Dewita Soeharjono, and Annabel Park, were among those who helped
organize volunteers for sign-making, sign-waving, literature distribution,
phone banking, and get-out-the-vote sorties.
bring your own cell phone if you have unlimited minutes on the weekends. That way we will be assured of having enough
phones for everyone.” Their flyer urged.
group showed up in numbers in a rally held at Café Asia on Nov. 2, following
the huge rally that jam-packed Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington, where actor Michael J. Fox and former Democratic
primary presidential candidate General Wesley Clark gave rousing endorsements
a passionate impromptu speech at the rally, eliciting long applause of approval
not only for his endorsement of Webb, but especially for his unabashed public
this writer asked if Webb’s ties to Vietnam may have been the consideration for his support, Tuy responded, “Jim Webb is a man that will fight for you,
with dignity and honor.”
other than having fought in Vietnam, will he fight for issues that are good for Virginia?
fact that he fought in my country with a very good record, he will fight for
fairness in other areas of business,” he argued. “As one who cares for people,
he will promote fairness, good education for families, and will protect you
from unfairness [coming] from people who may hate you.”
James Moran, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 8th District, also delivered a stump
speech after being introduced by Joe Montano, a Democratic National Committee
staff. Other speakers included old-time Democrat campaigner Rose Chu, Jackie Bong Wright and other community leaders.
APA rally was all the more roused up when Hong Le Webb’s message was read, part
of which said, “Please know that Jim has deep appreciation for the Asian
culture and history, and will make us all proud when he gets to the
Senate. Thank you and God bless!”
APAs Flock to Rallies
was by his side at her husband’s victory rally held Nov. 9 at Arlington’s Court House Plaza, where he first announced his campaign six months
earlier. And so were his APA supporters, some of which tried to bore themselves
through the sardines-like crowd to get to him with their signs and digital
cameras. A cross section of the APA community – Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino,
Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Indian, Pakistani – as
well as representatives from Arab American communities, along with white, Hispanic,
black and other racial and/or ethnic Americans, made a truly eclectic spectacle
of the “real” Virginia.
proliferation of support signs identifying their APA communities added to the
pageantry of the event: “Filipino Americans for Webb,” “Chinese Americans for
Webb,” “Indian Americans for Webb,” “Pakistani Americans for Webb,” “Arab
Americans for Webb, “Vietnamese Americans for Webb” are among the most obvious
D. Tran, an analyst with the U.S. Army proudly held up his Vietnamese support
sign until the crowd thinned.
need to speak up, come out and vote,” he told Asian Fortune. “This is America, and we have to make people know we are here.”
Webb: ‘Economic Fairness and Social
his thank-you remarks, Webb reiterated his concern for “economic fairness and
social justice” and renewed his pledge to join New York Senator Charles Schumer
(D), who was on the stage with him along with VA Gov. Tim Kaine,
in raising the minimum wage as among the first steps for helping American
also acknowledged that Sen. Allen “was gracious” in his telephone call he made
an hour earlier to congratulate him. However, he lost no time in stressing the
plea he said he made to President George Bush to have his party “stop the
politics of divisiveness and character assassination.”
at this point shouted “Goodbye macaca!” – which did not elicit an approving response from the crowd, a
sign that may suggest that Virginians are moving on.
am indebted to you, and I will not forget my loyalties, thank you so much!”
Webb, with raised arms, ended his remarks.
exiting the plaza, a smiling Webb, with Hong in his arm, posed for Asian Fortune,
reiterating his message, “Thank you all for your support!” Hong said the same.
Allen: Gracious Concession
who in his campaign also elicited significant support from the Vietnamese
community and other APA groups especially those in the Hampton Roads area and
Virginia’s suburbs, was gracious and conciliatory in his farewell remarks,
saying “I see the people of Virginia, the owners of the government, have
spoken, and I respect their decision.”
lost by only about 9,000 votes out of Virginia’s 2.3 million votes cast, he could have elected to
have a recount at the state’s expense.
see no good purpose being served by continuously and needlessly expending money
and causing any more personal animosity,” he told a crowd of saddened but
upbeat supporters who gathered for his concession speech in Alexandria.
also reiterated his record:
have more people in welfare reform living independent lives… Families,
retirees, entrepreneurs are keeping more of what they earn …with better
education, with more knowledge, and with better opportunities in their
lives…For people who have committed crimes, they are staying behind bars…”
ended by saying that he would continue to serve Virginia as “an ordinary citizen”, adding, “I want to focus on
how best Virginia can be effectively served by Virginia’s Senator Webb.”
Dietrich-Hall, founder and first president of the four-year old Filipino
American Republicans of Virginia, a Bush-appointed member of the White House
Advisory Commission of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and staunch friend of
Allen who helped persuade him to cosponsor a Senate Resolution honoring the
Filipino World II veterans in the 109th Congress, took in Allen’s
election loss with a wry comment:
talks in politics. The DNC [Democratic
National Committee] poured a lot of money – some $5 M for TV commercials.”
she acknowledged that Allen’s “misstep” was that he might have just assumed
that the “macaca” controversy “would just go away” in
to FARC’s “learning experience,” she said that
participating in the campaign, knocking on doors, and other GOTV activities not
just in Northern Virginia but also in the Hampton Roads area, prepared them for
a better job next time.
will start our grassroots-level training early,” she said, without directly
referring to the 2008 presidential contest.