(Posted in http://www.barackobama.com during his first presidential run. The article is updated and reposted for its continued relevance to President Obama’s reelection bid.)
As the US presidential elections enter fever pitch, let me share some thoughts on how to target the millions of Filipino-American (FILAM) voters.
Apart from the usual demographic profiling of this voting constituency, there needs to be a concrete grounding on deeply rooted Filipino psychology and how it plays into the electoral arena. First and foremost is to understand America from the point of view of immigrant Filipinos. A lot of the immigrants went to the United States and worked 2 to 3 jobs. The impetus for this is a zealous commitment to succeed and help relatives at home. Usually, when these folks go home to the Philippines, they are assumed to be huge success stories despite physical, psychological, and emotional hardships experienced in the US. There has to be a real affirmation on the part of the Democratic Party and its standard bearers President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that FILAMS are a positive economic and political force. In other words, a pat on the back and showing that the Democratic Party cares in specific and not in superficial terms would endear it to the FILAM immigrants. Since majority of FILAM immigrants are Catholic, many frame their life experiences as part of their journey towards physical and spiritual salvation. For them, the United States represents the promised land and salvation and deliverance from the hardships of their lives in the Philippines.
Second is to leverage the value system of immigrants in targeting succeeding generations of FILAMS. Succeeding generations of FILAMS, or those who are born in the U.S. are already acclimatized along American values and for all intent and purposes are mainstream Americans already. The core message for succeeding generations of FILAMS is that the Democratic Party by and large is the political party cognizant of the immense contribution of immigrants to the country’s wealth and power. Emphasis is to be given on a long track record of making sure that immigrants benefit from a strong educational, health care, and welfare system that empowers FILAMS to be productive citizens and integral to the knowledge economy.
Third is to send a clear message of doing concrete steps for the betterment of Philippines. The passage of the Veterans Bill will benefit around 18,000 surviving Filipinos who fought side by side with Americans in World War II. If passed, it will be a dramatic milestone in Philippines-US relations. Simply put, a lot of the veterans of world war II have died and the base of support is dwindling and its immediate passage would be much appreciated. The Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2008 which set aside $198 million for benefits of Filipino veterans is worth pounding on as a concrete achievement. A more compelling argument for the Obama-Biden ticket is to help bring actual peace to the Philippines, a strong commitment parallel to what it is doing to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. There must also be a strong push to empower the Armed Forces of the Philippines. An increase in Aid and Investments with an end in view of having a strong economic and development alliance between the two countriesenvied by others in the region be put forth. Nothing excites FILAMS more than seeing the motherland again becoming a strong political, economic, and military ally of the US. The operative word is “Decisiveness”. FILAMS needs to feel that the Philippines is at the center of the South East Asia or even the Asian stage as a major power. In other words, the Philippines must be part of the conversations at the Obama-Biden dinner table.
Fourth is to appeal to the Filipinos in the Philippines to ask their relatives in the States to vote Obama-Biden. Nothing beats direct appeal to the locals in the Philippines to endorse an Obama-Biden ticket to the ones in the States. The strong ties that bind Filipinos across the continents is the very foundation of support that moves the diaspora forward. Information Technology like text messaging, phone calls, e-mails, would be the main driver of communication. Folks from both countries are now conversing everyday through text and email. The use of media outlets in the Philippines to place ads on what the Obama-Biden ticket will do for the Philippines and FILAMS and an appeal to locals to get in touch with their loved ones in the States is a powerful methodology. There are media outlets in the Philippines and in the States which specifically reach the FILAM audience. The operative word for this methodology is “personalize”. On a practical note, US citizens in the Philippines, numbering around 200,000 still have to see the Democratic Party reaching out to them. In a closely contested match between the Republicans and Democrats for the White House, the need for personalized micro-targeting will have a big sway on the turnout. Florida, California, and Nevada, all swing states, all with a sprawling mass of FILAMS.
In the final analysis, it will be about building very personal relationships between FILAM voters and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party must not look at FILAMS in a transactional way. Personal relationships are at the core of Asian societal philosophy.