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Oakland’s Older Vietnamese Supporting McCain

3 November 2008 No Comment

By Adelaide Chen

An older generation of Vietnamese Americans is leaning toward Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain–while their younger counterparts are favoring Barack Obama.

Among Asians in California, Vietnamese are most likely to support McCain, at 53 percent, according to the National Asian American Survey conducted by professors from three universities.

In Oakland, a city where 70 percent of voters are registered Democrats, older Vietnamese voters with first-hand experience of the war favor McCain while younger Vietnamese favor Obama.

Lu Le, 80, plans to vote for McCain in her first election ever.  On a recent Friday afternoon.  She was playing Bingo at the Vietnamese Community Center of the East Bay on International Boulevard.

“The Vietnamese voting for Obama never experienced harsh conditions under the Communist party that robbed and killed people,” she said, her brow furrowed.

Her vote will show appreciation to McCain for what he did during the war, she said.

Down the street at an Asian grocery store, Ly Vien, 62, a soldier who fought with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, said McCain is considered an ally in his community for fighting Communist Vietnamese forces during the war.

McCain fought in the war as a pilot and was captured, said Vien.  After returning to the U.S., McCain advocated for the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees in the U.S., a plan under which Vien arrived 14 years ago.

But Loi Huynh, 23, said he planned to vote for the Democratic Presidential ticket.  He arrived 15 years ago and is now a student at Laney Community College.  He said his parents are also leaning towards Obama.

“It was up to them,” said Huynh said.  He hasn’t tried to influence them one way or another.  “Because they believe Obama can do more than McCain can.”

But not all young Vietnamese are Democrats.  Even though her peers are voting for Obama, student Thao Pham, 20, voted by mail for McCain.

“(My friends) said they voted for Obama because he will make the country better,” she said. “I heard my grandfather say McCain helped us during the war. I think that’s right.”

But Philip Nguyen, director of the Southeast Asian Community Center in San Francisco said McCain’s reputation as a war hero is not as important as the fact that he represents the Republican party.

“The notion among the older Vietnamese generation is the Republicans are more anti-Communist than Democrats,” he said.  During the 2004 Presidential election, they voted for Bush, even though the Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry, was a Vietnam war veteran.

Nguyen said, even though there are no reliable statistics, younger Vietnamese appear to support Obama.

Oakland resident and Republican Tran Tuan, 40, said he follows the views of the older generation.  But his children, ages 10 and 14–all too young to cast ballots–are leaning towards Obama, swayed by a city where almost everyone seems to be Democrat.

“All the teachers and everybody, they’re Democrats.  They brainwash the kids,” he said. “Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Thanks to An Nguyen of Oakland for Vietnamese translation.

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