At a Historic Moment for Asian-American Candidates, Andrew Yang Leans In
They broke into cheers every time he referred to numbers or statistics. They chanted “PowerPoint! PowerPoint!” when he renewed a pledge to use the program to deliver the State of the Union.
And when the 2,500 rain-soaked supporters of Andrew Yang realized he was about to drop his biggest applause line, they screamed the words to help him finish his New York rally with a bang.
“The opposite of Donald Trump,” Mr. Yang yelled, pausing to let his fans join in, “is an Asian man who likes math!”
Though the scene at Washington Square Park last week might have seemed unusual to the uninitiated, it was emblematic of Mr. Yang’s long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.
“It’s heartwarming when people are excited to see me because they feel like I represent their community,” Mr. Yang said earlier this month in an interview at a bakery in Concord, N.H. “And I will admit that there are many Asian-Americans who are looking at me and my candidacy and want to make sure I reflect positively on the community, so I’m very aware.”
For the first time, there are three Asian-American and Pacific Islanders seeking a major party’s nomination for president: Mr. Yang, Senator Kamala Harris of California and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. As groundbreaking as that is, Mr. Yang in particular has embraced the largely untested strategy of using his Asian ethnicity and identity to appeal to voters nationwide.
这是首次出现三位亚裔美国人和太平洋岛民寻求一个主要政党的总统候选人提名：杨安泽、加利福尼亚州参议员卡玛拉・哈里斯(Kamala Harris)，以及夏威夷州众议员图尔西・加巴德(Tulsi Gabbard)。虽然这已经具有开创性，但杨安泽尤为特别，他欣然接受了一个基本上未经过检验的策略，那就是用自己的亚裔族群认同来引起全国选民注意。
Mr. Yang said he was proud of his background and that he hoped his blunt acknowledgment of his race ― and his bold political ideas ― would help him stand out, particularly in the early stages of a primary contest where the nearly two dozen Democratic hopefuls can blur together for many voters.
“When people hear from me, they say, ‘You don’t sound like any other politician,’” he said. “In a very crowded field, the person who sounds different is going to keep getting stronger and stronger.”
More than a year after he kicked off his bid for the presidency from a position of almost total obscurity, Mr. Yang’s approach to campaigning and pledge to provide a universal basic income to every American have netted him more than 100,000 donors and helped him qualify for the first Democratic debate. Though he remains something of a fringe candidate, he routinely draws thousands of people to his big-city rallies, and he has garnered support from a range of voters, including parts of the Democratic-leaning Asian-American community.
Scholars and community leaders who study Asian-American history say Mr. Yang’s emergence onto the national political scene is no accident. After decades of immigrant exclusion, second-generation Asian-Americans have come of age and grown up steeped in American politics. The 2018 midterms saw a record number of Asian-Americans run for Congress at a time when the racial group continues to expand at a faster rate than any other in the United States.
“This is absolutely a moment of importance,” John C. Yang, the president of the national arm of the nonprofit advocacy organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said of the three presidential candidates. “It says something about how far we have come.”
“这绝对是一个重要的时刻，”非营利的倡导组织亚裔美国人正义促进会(Asian Americans Advancing Justice)的全国机构主管约翰・C・杨(John C. Yang)在谈到这三位总统候选人时说。“这说明了我们已经取得的进步。”
More than four decades later, the candidates in the 2020 field have addressed their background in varying ways.
Ms. Harris, whose mother was Tamil Indian and whose father is Jamaican, attended Howard University, one of the most prominent historically black schools, and was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest black sorority. She has bristled at the suggestion that she has downplayed her Indian heritage, pointing to her memoir, in which she writes about the influence her mother and grandparents had on her. But Ms. Harris has also sometimes deflected questions about her identity, choosing to describe herself simply as “a proud American.”
哈里斯的母亲是泰米尔族印度人，父亲是牙买加人。她上的是霍华德大学(Howard University)，这是历史上最著名的黑人学校之一，她也是最古老的黑人女生联谊会Alpha Kappa Alpha的成员。她对人们暗示她淡化了自己印度血统的说法不满，指出她在回忆录中提到了母亲和外祖父母对她的影响。但哈里斯有时也会回避有关自己族裔认同的问题，选择简单地把自己描述为“一名自豪的美国人”。
Ms. Gabbard, the first American Samoan and first Hindu elected to Congress, has formed deep ties with Indian Americans over the course of her career. As recently as January, she wrote an Op-Ed for Religion News Service decrying the “religious bigotry” and “anti-Hindu sentiment” she said was directed at her after she announced her run for president. But on the trail, Ms. Gabbard, who served two combat tours in the Middle East, has chosen to focus mostly on her foreign policy credentials.
加巴德是当选为国会议员的首位萨摩亚裔美国人和首位印度教教徒。在她的职业生涯中，她与印度裔美国人建立了深厚的关系。就在今年1月，她还为宗教新闻社(Religion News Service)写了一篇专栏文章，谴责“宗教偏执”和“反印度教情绪”，她说，这种情绪是在她宣布参加竞选总统后针对自己而发的。但在竞选活动中，曾两次在中东战场服役的加巴德选择了把主要注意力集中在自己的外交政策资历上。
Mr. Yang focuses on policy as well, issuing dire warnings about job losses and arguing that $12,000 a year will help blunt the impact of automation. But on a recent swing through New Hampshire, he told those who came to see him that it was O.K. if all they knew about him was that there was “an Asian man running for president who wants to give everyone $1,000 a month.”
“My Asian-ness is kind of obvious in a way that might not be true of Kamala or even Tulsi,” Mr. Yang said in Concord. “That’s not a choice. It’s just a fairly evident reality.”
The way Mr. Yang has chosen to lean into stereotypes about Asian-Americans, though, has led to tension among members of the community.
John C. Yang treaded carefully when asked about the candidate’s embrace of those tropes, calling it “a very complex, difficult area.”
“We want to celebrate our successes,” he said, “but not feed into the model minority stereotype.”
That stereotype, which overgeneralizes Asians as diligent and high-achieving, traces back to a broader culture of anti-black racism in America that “helped to justify a kind of racial order,” said Ellen Wu, an associate history professor at Indiana University. In more contemporary times, she said, the stereotype is problematic because it flattens a massive group of people into a monolith.
这种刻板印象将亚洲人过于笼统地概括为勤奋、成就斐然，可以追溯到美国更广泛的反黑人种族主义文化，并“帮助证明某种种族次序是合理的”，印第安纳大学(Indiana University)历史系副教授艾伦・吴(Ellen Wu)说。她表示，在更现代的时期，这种刻板印象是有问题的，因为它把一个巨大的群体扁平单一化了。
“People who are math nerds ― you can be proud of that,” Ms. Wu said. “But in some ways, leaning in on those kinds of caricatures of Asian-Americans, we run the risk of reproducing the narrow characterizations that Asian-Americans encounter in mainstream culture.”
For his part, Mr. Yang said he was “very aware of the model minority myth” and that he was simply trying to be “true to myself.”
“It would be unfortunate if you say, ‘I’m an Asian guy who likes math, thus, all Asian guys like math,’” he said. “Hopefully, people will see our community is very diverse.”
Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, who went to college with Mr. Yang, said he believed the candidate was drawing on his background in part because he was “comfortable in his own skin.”
加州大学河滨分校(University of California, Riverside)政治学教授卡尔希克・拉马克里什南(Karthick Ramakrishnan)曾和杨安泽是大学同学。拉马克里什南说，杨安泽利用自己的背景部分原因是他“对自己和自己的能力充满信心”。
“He is trying to play up to these positive stereotypes of being capable and good with numbers, but he also has this very extroverted quality about him,” Mr. Ramakrishnan said. “He’s trying to be memorable.”
Lily Jin, a 21-year-old senior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., who went to see Mr. Yang speak there earlier this month, said she’s well aware of the stereotypes Asian-Americans encounter and thinks the concerns around Mr. Yang’s strategy are valid.
新罕布什尔州汉诺威达特茅斯学院(Dartmouth College)的大四学生、21岁的莉莉・靳(Lily Jin)在这个月的早些时候听了杨安泽在那里的演讲。她说，她很清楚亚裔美国人所遭遇的刻板印象，她觉得，人们对杨安泽策略的担忧是有道理的。
But to Ms. Jin, Mr. Yang is “addressing his identity head-on,” and also breaking the mold, by helping show young Asian-Americans that they can pursue something other than what she called the “preplanned paths” of medical or law school.
“Growing up in a household that never encouraged me to go into politics or really even vote, an important piece of this is encouraging more Asian-Americans to get involved,” she said.
Interest in Mr. Yang’s candidacy has been particularly high among younger, second-generation Asian-Americans, especially Chinese Americans like Ms. Jin. Many of his most fervent supporters are involved in the technology industry and actively promote him on social media. Some have even become enthusiastic members of the “Yang Gang,” the name given to Mr. Yang’s most devoted supporters.
Norman Qian, 20, of Flushing, Queens, said he had first become aware of Mr. Yang’s candidacy because of friends in his predominantly Asian-American neighborhood. When he looked harder at Mr. Yang’s website, he said, he found he appreciated that Mr. Yang appeared data-driven and policy-oriented.
“I really believe in his analysis of automation and how that’s going to take away jobs,” Mr. Qian said. “I also love the fact that Asian-Americans have been seeing more representation in our government, and I think Andrew Yang is at the forefront of all that.”
Research has shown that having Asian-American candidates in a campaign increases voter turnout by and donations from members of the racial group. Asian turnout increased nationwide from 27 percent in 2014 to 41 percent in 2018, a year when dozens of Asian-American or Pacific Islander candidates ran for Congress, according to one analysis.
But while Asian-Americans are steadily gaining more political power, they have not reached the point where they can propel candidates to victory on their own. Only one congressional district in the mainland United States, in Northern California, is majority Asian-American. Any viable candidate for president will, of course, need to build broad coalitions across demographic groups, experts said.
Shekar Narasimhan, the chairman of AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC focused on mobilizing voters, projected that the continued anti-immigration rhetoric by President Trump and Republicans in Congress could help drive 1 million new Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to vote next November.
AAPI胜利基金(AAPI Victory Fund)是一个专注于动员选民的超级政治行动委员会，它的主席谢卡尔・纳拉西姆汉(Shekar Narasimhan)预计，特朗普总统和国会共和党人持续不断的反移民言论，可能有助于激励100万新的亚裔美国人和太平洋岛民参加明年11月的投票。
“I don’t know if an AAPI candidate is going to win the presidency in 2020, but we are playing a long game,” Mr. Narasimhan said. “Do I think Andrew Yang will have an influence on the race and will make a difference? I absolutely do.”