Don't Cross This: Single-Issue Voters

August 28, 2008

I was listening to NPR last night, as they had a chat about the Democratic National Convention with listeners and some in-studio luminaries.

I was especially struck by this guy: Christopher Hitchens, author of "God is Not Great." Now, the fact that he's a flaming atheist makes him automatically rather dear to me -- which is why I was all the more appalled to hear him saying that he will cast his vote for president on a single issue: he'll vote for the guy with the toughest and least apologetic stance against Islamic Jihadism. 

Add to that McCain's recent definition of "rich" as pulling in more than $5 million a year, and I'm now just excruciatingly baffled how anyone who makes less than that can in sanity propose to vote for him. It seems to me that legions of people must be willing to vote against all manner of actual benefit to their own livelihood and quality of life -- in order to dictate the lives of strangers. If those strangers are gay, for instance, or women of child-bearing age.

But then I realized, I'm a single-issue voter too.

While the choice between Obama and McCain is easy for me on many, many fronts, were you to (hypothetically -- let's not get too carried away) flip their positions on the single issue of abortion, I might have to flip too. Do I feel that strongly about pro-choice? Yes, I do. Is it entirely rational? Probably not. 

Which leads me now to wonder: what other single-issue votes are there, lurking amongst the Asian American voting community? Whether we register as Democrat, Republican, or something else entirely, do we each harbor one neon, pulsing, defining line by which we vote? What is yours? What single issue would your candidate cross at his peril? 

Asian Americans are considered particularly unintelligible as a voting bloc, and it's been said that's because we speak so many different languages, differ so greatly by generation, bring so much non-matching political baggage with us from our homelands. Would we as a group be more intelligible or less if we were able to figure out, and chart, what single-issue votes we nurse? If push came to shove, might Asian American voters throw down for principles that aren't particularly "Asian American" at all?




erin K Ninh

contributing editor & blogger

erin Khue Ninh is a former blog editor and onetime publisher of Hyphen, who won't seem to go away. She now teaches literature in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Aside from Hyphen, erin believes in recycling, Planned Parenthood, and Type A first-borns.



It always baffled how my parents voted republican. I really didn't see how they could relate to a party I perceived to be rich, white and not concerned with immigrants, except to paint them as villians. For them, the issues they seemed to base their choices on were communism (and who was going to be more of a hard-ass about it) and the economy.