Anh “Joseph” Cao became the first Vietnamese-American Representative in the House this week. First of all, congrats my Viet brother. But brotherhood aside, I don’t know anything about this guy, and I know you guys don’t either. So I read up on him, and here are my thoughts.
First off, I’m completely biased against people that change their names from an ethnic one to an Anglo one. So let’s get that out of the way. Anh “Joseph” Cao, Hieu “Kate” Cao and their daughter Sophia are pictured above. Is it so bad to have an ethnic name there, Anh and Hieu?
My second problem with him is of course, he’s a Republican. He ran in 2006 as an independent, but according to nola.com, he ran as an independent for strictly political reasons:
“Though Cao described himself as a longtime Republican — he opposes abortion, supports school vouchers and wants to shrink the size of government — he ran as an independent. He concedes it a matter of “political maneuvering” in an effort to appeal to the district’s mostly Democratic electorate.”
Political Maneuvering?!! It’s rather disingenuous to run for a party that you don’t really share ideals with. But this time around, Cao ran as a Republican, and straight up won. Although his competition was probably the easiest person to beat considering William Jefferson, the incumbent Democrat, was charged with 16 counts of racketeering, bribery, money laundering and obstruction of justice. On top of all that, dude had $90,000 in cash stashed in one of his freezers. I don’t even know anyone with MULTIPLE freezers!? The other two candidates were Libertarian Party candidate Gregory Kahn and Green Party candidate Malik Rahim. And I don’t see the people of a metro city like NOLA voting for a Libertarian candidate and I don’t see any Southern city voting for a Malik Rahim…
But the weakest thing about this guy is his hypocrisy. In his words:
“I also hope that many of our young people will consider being more politically active and being move involved in the community. Because as you can see, really anything can happen.”
And then in the same damn article on CNN, probably because he’s a newbie to the political scene, he says the following:
“We were hoping for a low turnout because it would provide us with the greater chance of winning,” said Cao, a lawyer and community activist. “Based on the demographics of the district, a high voter turnout would have gone to our disadvantage.”
WE WERE HOPING FOR A LOW TURNOUT??? In a case of stating the obvious when you really shouldn’t be (Oscar de la Hoya saying he EXPECTED to lose to Pacquiao comes to mind)… Maybe the young people he was referring to were Young Republicans? We all know Republicans have a considerable advantage when voter turnout is low, due to hardships with the physical voting process (usually hurting the Democrat voter, rather than the Republican one)… But come on, don’t start off your career with this kind of rhetoric.
Which leads me to the most important question. If a politician wins because of a very low voter turnout, due to natural reasons- Hurricane Gustav caused the postponement of the election for one month (this wasn’t voter suppression people, although the effects are still the same), does he truly represent the people? Cao’s district is predominantly African-American and pretty much Democrat territory. One of the reasons he won was due to the white voter turnout, which came in at 2-1 over the African-American vote count. So the question is, can Cao represent the people in his district and serve their needs?
Plus, there’s this, from the NY Times. Apparently Cao forgot the fact that McCain hates gooks, although he’s one of the Viets that might argue it was the gooks that put his father in reeducation camp.
Now that I’ve vented all my negatives about the guy, I wanted to say that I think I actually like him. Actually, more specifically, I don’t actually hate him as much as I do with a lot of Republicans. At first I thought I’d be writing this based solely on things I’ve read up on, but in this case, I’ve spent some time (albeit, a very short amount of time) with the very people that helped Cao win this seat. Cao is a community activist, and worked with two organizations that helped out the Vietnamese-American community in NOLA after the hurricanes, Boat People SOS and the Mary Queen of Vietnam parish. He is an immigration attorney who advocated for refugee rights in Washington. He practices immigration law in NOLA and his home AND office were destroyed after Katrina hit. He lobbied for the Katrina landfill to be shut down. His academic career included an undergrad at Fordham (a Jesuit school in the Bronx) and a JD at Loyola NOLA. He was headed to the seminary to be a Jesuit priest, which if you didn’t know, is the most liberal of all Catholic orders (some of my favorite Jesuits have actually advocated for female priests and gay marriage rights) before Jesus told him to run for public office.
Although he is a self proclaimed “political moderate” and is staunchly against abortion rights, I think his ties to the Mary Queen of Vietnam church, which from what I’ve personally experienced, is a very strong community of very caring people, and his first person experience with the damages of Katrina will be an asset to the people of New Orleans. If I had to choose between a political moderate and a crook, I would go with the moderate. Although, as one of my friends pointed out to me, it would be great to get a Vietnamese-American community organizer/activist with progressive values in office for once, instead of the anti-Communist, de facto Repubs that keep popping up. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I think any direction away from NeoCon is a step forward, especially during these times. But seeing firsthand how politics and community development in the South is directly related to Faith, it would be hard to get a progressive from the community in office in NOLA since religion plays a significant role in the daily lives of most Viets down there.