The PacMan and the Politician

BY DAN-CHYI CHUA
Nov 03, 2010
*Special to asia!

Is it a sign of the times when the Philippines' most famous fighter is pulling votes for a senior Democrat in one of the tightest races in the US midterms?

 

135 Manny Pacquaio or Pacman, the Philippines' most famous boxer-cum-politician (Photo credit: Ben de Jesus)

 

Boxer Manny Pacquaio is one of the most influential men in the Philippines. When he fights, the entire country sits up and watches. The army and Islamic insurgents stop fighting to see the outcome of his match. Now a congressman in the Philippines, his influence just keeps growing.

This past weekend, Pacquaio was in Las Vegas by the side of Harry Reid, a four-time senator facing a tight re-election fight in the state of Nevada.

Reid - the most powerful member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party in the Senate - is up against Sharron Angle in one of the most-watched races in the 2010 US Midterm elections.

Angle enjoys the endorsement of the Tea Party Movement, a collective of groups against various Obama administration policies, including the massive bailout of the banks and healthcare reform.

Political observers predict the Tea Party movement will help swing votes against the Democratic Party, which now holds a majority in both the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Angle is an anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage conservative, who also advocates repealing Obama's healthcare reform plan and the US withdrawing from the United Nations. Polls have put this former teacher in the lead ahead of Reid.

So what can Pacquaio do for the Nevada senator who is fighting for his political career?

 

The Asian factor

At slightly over 5%, Filipinos form the largest non-white racial group in the state of Nevada after African-Americans. With Pacquaio's popularity among his countrymen, including those who have become American citizens, Reid could do a lot worse than having the boxer stump for him in his re-election campaign.

Hordes of Filipinos turned up at the Reid rally, mostly to see the renowned boxer. But will this be enough to pull in the Filipino vote for Reid?

What is certain though is that by their numbers, Asians are starting to matter more politically.

Between 2000 and 2008, Nevada's Asian population grew 69.5%, according to the US Census Bureau, the most in any state.

In that same time frame, the overall Asian population in the US increased 26.8%, about three times that of the general population.

Asians are also starting to make inroads into the political leadership.

These midterm elections see six Americans of Indian origin running – as Democrats – for Congress, and another – a Republican – for the Senate.

In California, Vietnamese-American Van Tran is hoping to win Orange Country for the Republican Party from the incumbent congresswoman Hispanic Loretta Sanchez.

Down in Louisana, Saigon-born Joseph Cao is hoping to be re-elected, after becoming the first Republican to serve in a district that - since 1890 – had always voted Democratic since 1890; his district usually votes overwhelmingly Democratic.

These are just some examples. Asians have come a long way since Punjab-born Dalip Singh Saund became the United States Congress's first Asian member in 1957.

Who would have thought back then that a veteran US politician would be seeking the endorsement of a Filipino boxer?

But the 2008 presidential elections have shown, these are changing times for the United States.

Like a black man who once had the audacity to, these Asians have made a place on Capitol Hill their American Dream.

And that dream, as Obama has proven as well, can actually become reality.

 

* Election update: The Democratic Party retained control of the US Senate, while losing majority in the House of Representatives. The showings of the Asian candidates reflected largely the fate of their parties.



Of the six Indian-American Democrats only, Hansen Clarke won his race in Michigan.

Republican Nikky Haley won in South Carolina became the first Indian-American woman govenor.

Democrat Joseph Cao lost in Louisana.



Republican Van Tran is still neck-and-neck in the Orange County race with Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Harry Reid fought off Sharron Angle to remain Senator of Nevada.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi