Gangnam-style: Of convention bounces, Psy hopping, and voter ID laws


If the Democrats had answered the Republicans’ Clint Eastwood star-turn by going Gangnam-style at its convention (imagine a hybrid donkey-horse dance and the repetitive phrase “Hey, Sexy Lady”), who knows the kind of bounce the president would have had.

As it is, most polls are putting Obama’s post-convention bounce at five points vs. a one-point bounce for the GOP figurehead Romney.

Meanwhile, is anyone more popular on earth these days than the father of the aforementioned Gangnam-style, South Korean rapper Psy?

The funky-tuxed Psy has become the most ubiquitous person with an Asian face in American media. Fueled by the viral YouTube video of his ridiculously aerobic dance, within the last week alone he’s showing up on Saturday Night Live, Ellen, and the TODAY show.

Indeed, not since the departure of TODAY‘s Asian American co-host Ann Curry has that program had such an Asian American presence. For his appearance last week, Psy seemed to turn Rockefeller Plaza into Koreatown.

Now let’s be clear. Psy is still basically an Asian pop star and not an Asian American. But due to the dearth of Asian anything on the screen, and by his newfound crossover appeal here, we’ll skip the immigration formalities and claim him.

Why not? Asian Americans show up so little in mainstream American anything that visibility itself of anything remotely Asian in American pop culture is tantamount to a political act. When are issues of inclusion and diversity not political?

I don’t know how long Psy can go on with his horse bit (maybe he does other animal dances). But surely, Psy has erased the pop culture ghost of William Hung, the American Idol failure who was then marketed as an Asian American Stepin Fetchit. Psy is no Hung, but a unique and talented performer. His mocking of the South Korean wealthy trendsetters even positions him as a “populist” of sorts. At first, his shtick appears a tad goofy, but he’s for real and should be cheered for as long as his 15 seconds last.


From horse dancing to the actual horse race: The New York Times/CBS News Poll last week documented the Obama convention bounce. It put Obama’s lead at 48 to 42, with a +/-3 point margin of error. The edge disappears when the category is likely voters, where Obama leads 46 percent to Romney’s 45 percent.

The poll also shows 86 percent of voters had made up their minds, while 13 percent had not.

In the fight for those undecided voters, the convention bounce goes to Obama. Among the undecideds in the NYT/CBS poll, Obama was up 5 percent to 51 percent among all those who are said to be leaning toward him. Leaners for Romney were down -2 to 43 percent.

Among undecided likely voters, the margin is reduced to Obama 49 percent, Romney 46 percent. But then, this is a poll where the majority identified themselves as liberal to moderate, and where 76 percent identified themselves as middle or working class.

And where are the Asian Americans?

Who knows? The poll suffers from the same disease most mainstream polls suffer from. Fewer than 30 Asian Americans caught in a national poll can’t tell you a darn thing about Asian American sentiment. Unless a poll increases its costs and oversamples, we’ll never really show up.

Doesn’t make the poll useless. Just limited.


The question I found most interesting deep in the NYT/CBS poll was Question #76 on photo ID laws (I repeat the question here since that’s critical in evaluating any poll result):

“As you may know, there have been efforts in some states to require voters to show a photo identification card to vote. Some people say this is needed to prevent people from voting who are not eligible to vote. Other people say such efforts are designed to suppress voting by minority voters. What do you think–do you support or oppose efforts to require voters to show a photo identification card to vote?”

The answer: 70 percent support, 28 percent oppose, with only 2 percent undecided.

And the answer appears in synch with likely voters: 71 support, 27 oppose, 1 undecided.

This is distressing for those of us who believe that photo ID laws are the modern day rollback of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Take a look at Rep. John Lewis’s speech at the DNC–the best, most emotional speech that no one talks about because it wasn’t in prime time. In it, Lewis recalls his effort to secure the rights that are in danger today.

Of that, there is no question. The national movement of limiting democracy by requiring ID (now in 33 states) began with massive funding efforts by the infamous Koch Brothers. Need I say more?

But these new poll numbers suggest that with eight weeks to go, waiting for court rulings to make things right may be futile, especially in Pennsylvania where the law is already in place.

At this time, some community members are mobilizing efforts to get voter ID cards, just in case. It’s a prudent course to guard against the real possibility of being disenfranchised.

But talk about wreaking havoc with democracy and the system. Even if the law were intended to stop vote fraud, officials readily admit there are zero instances of fraud in Pennsylvania. It’s like having a telethon for a bogus disease. Voter ID laws are a prophylactic against some boogeyman issue–totally useless. Unless, of course, the real purpose is to manipulate the system and to effectively keep large numbers of people of color from participating in democracy.

It could be more than just people of color, too. It’s reported that in Philadelphia alone, 200,000 don’t have the ID they need to vote.

For Asian Americans, it’s tough enough that some ballots and instructions will not be in Asian languages in Pennsylvania. And then there’s the name thing: Is Chow Yun Fat, Mr. Chow or Mr. Fat? The placement of surname first or last, Asian or American style, will surely disenfranchise some Asian Americans.

Unfortunately, if voter ID laws are intended to keep minorities from voting, the law has some unwitting allies–Asian Americans.

The embarrassing truth is that most Asian Americans don’t vote. Little more than half of us who are eligible actually register. And only 48 percent of registered Asian American voters actually went to the polls in 2008. The Census puts our turnout as the lowest among all registered groups.

Voter ID laws? Really, the GOP and the Kochs don’t need to bother. Not when we have proven we can do their dirty work all by ourselves.

Hard to believe, we’ve chosen to be invisible.

Asian Americans can reverse the past in a positive way right now. All it takes is registering and voting.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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