In the red part of blue state California, Asian Americans have felt the burn, find hope in Sanders


With everything so presumptive in politics these days, it’s easy to see why the primary season has turned secondary.

So Donald Trump crushing his GOP opponents in Nebraska and West Virginia was just page A4 in my morning newspaper on Wednesday morning. (Oh yeah, newspapers, I still read them. But I gave up the horse and buggy last year.)

More astonishing is that on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders absolutely trounced Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. I don’t think that was the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith vote.

The media keeps saying it’s an insurmountable lead for Clinton and that the race is over. But Sanders has raised more than $182 million.

You don’t think he should give any of it back, do you?

Nah, he should take all that money and let it ride for democracy.

Just to keep them all honest.

And with California’s 546 Democratic delegates up for grabs on June 7, why not?

The Asian American faces were pretty visible in Stockton,Calif. on Tuesday.


As West Virginia voted, Sanders was in California, in the place I call “the red part of the blue state.”

Historically, Stockton has been an important place for Asian Americans. For the Chinese during the Gold Rush of 1849, you don’t get Hop Sing cooking on the Ponderosa in TV’s “Bonanza” were it not for the Chinese in Northern California, with Stockton as its base.

Stockton was important for Japanese Americans, who made their livelihoods farming the Central Valley, once again with Stockton as a base.

And for Filipino Americans, Stockton was the home of Little Manila, at one time the largest community of Filipinos in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the papers there, The Record, is famous for anti-Filipino editorials that called Filipinos “unassimilable.”

Many years later, it was the height of irony for me to work for that paper (under its new owners) and to tell Filipino stories on the front page.

This week, Sanders made news by showing up for a rally. And it was jammed with thousands of people who make up the new Stockton.

Of a population of 302,000 people, Stockton is 12 percent African American; 1.1 percent American Indian; 40.3 percent Hispanic; 21.5 percent Asian.

It’s 37.5 percent white, but just 22.9 percent “white alone.” And that alone tells you this is as mixed and diverse a city as you’re going to find anywhere in America.

Among Asian Americans, you won’t find a more diverse community than Stockton, with Sikh, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Lao peoples.

When I reported from there, I learned that Asian American did not mean “Chinese.”

And just looking at the crowd, it just seemed like they were all there rallying for Sanders.

Some may think people of color aren’t attracted to Sanders. But the vast majority of Asian Americans are still recovering from the recession that started at the tail end of the Bush years.

They’ve felt the burn.

“People of Stockton know Wall Street very, very well,” Sanders said from the podium. “You know what Wall Street’s greed and recklessness and illegal behavior have done to this community.”

Of all the nation, California’s Central Valley was one of the hardest hit areas in terms of bad loans, foreclosures, and job losses during the recession.

Recovery after devastation has not been easy.

The city of Stockton itself was hit, filing for bankruptcy in June 2012, more than $700 million in debt. At the time, it was the largest city to seek Chapter 9 protection.

Just last year in February, Stockton has come out of the hole, but was still being sued by Franklin Templeton for its full share of the debt owed, $37 million.

Seeing the faces of diversity, the oft-forgotten victims of the recession, it just seemed natural for the city and its people to see Sanders as their hero.

Stockton can’t easily relate to Hillary’s comfort and wealth.

Stockton isn’t Chappaqua. And I’ve been to both.

Throughout the nation, there are Asian Americans who aren’t in the 1 percent. They work in restaurants, hotels, and service jobs. They work in the Chinatowns of America. They live in forgotten cities like Stockton.

Sanders’ visit to Stockton made me wonder if the Democratic race was really over. There are people out there who haven’t been heard from, who know the economic pain that only he seems willing to address head on.

So maybe it’s not quite over, yet.

Clinton has 1716 delegates.

Sanders has 1433.

The race to 2383 is mathematically difficult but not insurmountable.

There are 714 super-delegates, and many can be up for grabs if the convention is contested.

Will it?

There are 1065 delegates left to be distribute.

On June 7, California’s 546 and New Jersey’s 142, are available.

On May 17, there’s Oregon with 71, and Kentucky with 61.

It’s been a strange campaign year, but a long-shot scenario remains to get the government many of us need, and not just the government we always settle for that seems good enough.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
read Emil's bio