It was mid 80s, and I had just started living in New York. I came across a newspaper article one day that the mayor of New York City refused to attend the Lunar New Year festival in Chinatown, saying it would be a waste of time because Chinese Americans never vote or donate. That article I read on the Village Voice is still fresh in my memory after thirty years. I tell this story to people every chance I get, because it best sums up what I have learned from working with elected officials for twenty years. Politicians assess a group’s political leverage on two things only: their votes and donations. No politician caters to a group that has low voter turnout or rarely donates. One must build its reputation as an influential group in order to receive help from any elected official.

The biggest political event in the United States this year is the midterm election in November. 35 seats out of 100 seats in the United States Senate, and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election during this time. Minority groups contest fiercely to gain political leverage during the midterm election through voter registration and donations, and the group that works the hardest are the Jews. The Jewish population had intensively supported Rahm Emanuel and succeeded in making him one of the strongmen of the White House in 2002. They also gave organized, systematic  support to the “Young Guns,” consisting of Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy. Eric Cantor has been serving as the House Majority Leader since 2012, and the trio has surpassed John Boehner in terms of political clout. These political feats were only made possible by donations from Jewish Americans from all over United States. It comes as no surprise that they will try to accomplish that once again at the midterm election, especially when its outcome will ultimately influence the presidential election.

The slogan of the Jewish grassroots organizations taking part in this year’s midterm election is “Stay Loyal.” One of the biggest electoral shifts in United States election history is anticipated because several members who harbored skepticism about the extreme polarization of the Washington DC have retired. Large number of Jewish candidates have seized this opportunity and risen for the occasion. The most active Jewish grassroots organization is AIPAC. AIPAC goes by strict principles in regards to their political funding. The first principle is to support incumbent congressmen who are favorable to the Jews, regardless of their parties. Incumbent political leaders of Jewish descent go as far as to encourage and support Jewish candidates who might challenge their place in congress. AIPAC earns the trust of incumbents by telling them that if they act in accordance with interests of the Jews during their service, AIPAC will support them over their own siblings and relatives during the election. This shows that AIPAC’s priority is to strengthen the political leverage of Jews, not increasing the number of Jewish politicians in the congress.

A Korean American has announced candidacy for a position in the Korean American populated areas of New York and New Jersey. This has caused tension among the incumbents because Korean American electoral participation has been growing. An incumbent in Fort Lee who is challenged by this newcomer  has been unfavorable toward the Korean American community, so it should be easy for Korean American voters to make their choice. However, the incumbents of Flushing have established close relationship with the Korean American community and have shown constant support for the interests of Korean Americans.  At this year’s midterm election, we should remember the examples set forth by the Jewish grassroots organization before casting our ballots.

Categories: Column / Opinion, News
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