Vietnamese Vote Is Key To California's 48th Congressional District Race

12 hours ago
Originally published on October 19, 2018 10:36 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There is a competitive race here in California's 48th Congressional District. Voters here might really help determine control of the House of Representatives. And we have been spending time listening to what is on their minds. So this is Orange County. It's home to the largest Vietnamese population in the United States. Part of this district is actually known as Little Saigon. And Thien-Tam Tran lives here. She works in community affairs for a utility company. She is raising two kids. Her parents also live in this community, but she says their lives and hers are so different.

THIEN-TAM TRAN: My parents are pretty much - their lives are in Little Saigon. My dad works at a pharmacy, and so their lives are in the Vietnamese community, right? And for me, I go out in the world. I experience racism. I know what it feels like to be discriminated against. I think my parents haven't because really their lives are here. Their community is here. They go to Vietnamese Mass, they go to - their customers are Vietnamese, are diverse. And now I realize my experience as an American is very different from my dad.

GREENE: And these generational differences extend into politics. Older Vietnamese Americans have tended to vote Republican. Many of them fled Communism, and they see Republican presidents from Reagan on as being tougher on Communist leaders. Some younger people, like Thien-Tam Tran, have been leaning more Democratic, and that is one reason the party believes they can unseat the Republican incumbent here. So when we went to visit Thien-Tam Tran, we had heard there were some political differences in her family, though I'm not sure she herself knew quite how stark they were.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi.

GREENE: Hi. Hi.

She invited us into her parents' home. Her kids were playing around, they were eating snacks and they were orbiting around their grandfather. Cau Tran is Thien-Tam's father. He primarily speaks Vietnamese in his everyday life, including when he talks politics with his daughter. He's been backing Republicans since he first started voting in 1992, and he told me he was certainly no fan of President Barack Obama, who he said just wasn't tough enough on the world stage.

CAU TRAN: Obama, I don't like him very much.

GREENE: And then what - now I guess we're - today we have Trump. What do you think of Trump so far?

C. TRAN: So far in this country, he do a good job.

GREENE: What do you like? What do you...

C. TRAN: The unemployment rate is low. And the stock market profit increasing.

GREENE: So the economy is important to you?

C. TRAN: Yeah.

T. TRAN: This is eye-opening. (Laughter). I didn't realize how he thought of Trump 'cause we haven't talked about that.

GREENE: This is the first time you're having...

T. TRAN: Yeah. So I'm surprised because then I'll have a conversation - well, what about the other stuff that he does? Against the media, against, like, just civil society? We grew up knowing how undemocratic Vietnam is. The crackdowns on freedom of the press, on basic rights. Women don't have the same rights there.

And to see some of that happening now in America, you know, in some factions of government, is scary because that was something that I never would imagine we would be in a situation where we have a president basically calling the press the enemy of the people. Like, we hear that from Communist Vietnam, but we don't hear - you know, I would never had imagined that would be reality here today.

GREENE: Could you say that to your dad?

T. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: I just wonder why, when Trump calls the media enemy of the people, what your reaction is to that.

T. TRAN: (Speaking Vietnamese).

C. TRAN: I think that is sometimes the press talk about what they think, but they don't care about the truth. You just had said that CNN against Trump, but Fox support him.

T. TRAN: So they're not - they're biased.

C. TRAN: Yeah.

T. TRAN: Fox News clearly is biased.

GREENE: I don't know if your dad sees it that way.

T. TRAN: (Speaking Vietnamese). Fox is, like, Trump's, you know, megaphone. (Laughter).

GREENE: You think the media is too negative...

C. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: ...About Trump?

C. TRAN: It's not fair. They say that Russia interfere into the election in this country. But when they know that? Why they don't action before the election? They wait until from vote elected, and they make issue.

GREENE: So if they find out that Trump worked with the Russians, would that bother you?

C. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: But you don't...

T. TRAN: So my dad just needs proof.

GREENE: You don't believe that yet?

T. TRAN: (Laughter).

C. TRAN: They don't prove that. I don't need to believe them.

T. TRAN: (Speaking Vietnamese).

C. TRAN: They don't prove that.

T. TRAN: (Speaking Vietnamese).

C. TRAN: Yes.

T. TRAN: So he believes that the Mueller investigation should continue so they have - we have the facts. I agree with that. Yeah.

GREENE: So there's something you agree on.

T. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: There are a lot of families who have been divided over their views of Trump. Like, you hear, like, dinner conversations that go really badly and, I mean, people get up from the table.

T. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: I mean, this, it doesn't seem to be happening in this family.

T. TRAN: No because I don't think our country should be torn apart because of one person. I clearly am strongly against, you know, what the president stands for, but I also believe it's important to - I mean, I respect my parents. I know what their experience has been. And we came here so that we can have the freedom to have different views, to have these kind of conversations, 'cause they don't happen in Vietnam. And so the fact that my dad has a different view from me on this particular issue, that doesn't bother me because we have that freedom. That's why my parents left Vietnam to be here in the first place.

C. TRAN: Everybody got to go to voting.

T. TRAN: Yes.

C. TRAN: Vote for our choice and for our future as we're thinking.

GREENE: So you think everybody should vote?

C. TRAN: Yeah.

T. TRAN: You know, my father - I didn't mention at the beginning - after the war, he was a political prisoner for - (speaking Vietnamese)?

C. TRAN: Three year.

T. TRAN: Three years he was held in a political concentration camp, or (speaking Vietnamese)?

C. TRAN: Re-education camp.

T. TRAN: Yeah. Where the Communist tries to, you know, basically get him to change his thinking.

GREENE: It's powerful to hear you say that people should vote...

C. TRAN: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Coming from the history that you have.

T. TRAN: Yeah. I just think we need to vote to protect our democracy. (Laughter).

C. TRAN: Don't worry about we vote wrong or right because if we vote wrong, the next time we make it right.

T. TRAN: We have another chance? (Laughter).

C. TRAN: We have another chance to (laughter) make it.

GREENE: That was Thien-Tam Tran and her father, Cau Tran. They're two voters here in Orange County, Calif., and we're going to take you to other corners of this district elsewhere on the program this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.