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Rep. Ted Lieu reflects on becoming the highest-ranking Asian American ever in House Democratic leadership

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who not too long ago turned the primary Asian American to be elected vice chair of the Home Democratic Caucus, took a second to replicate with NBC Information on how he bought there. Lieu, a Taiwanese immigrant, mentioned a lot of his early years within the U.S have been spent along with his household on the flea market in Cleveland, promoting items and heading off shoplifters to make ends meet. 

“To go from that, to now being in Home management within the Democratic caucus,” Lieu mentioned, reveals “the sturdiness of the American dream.” 

His arc can be considerably of a metaphor for a bigger phenomenon occurring within the Asian American group. Prior to now few years this group has skilled a surge of political exercise, affect and visibility — they’re more and more understood as part of the American society, he mentioned. And this evolution, Lieu famous, coincided along with his personal trajectory. 

“It’s really extra of a recognition by my colleagues of the rising significance of the Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities,” he mentioned. 

Along with the Asian American group’s rising political energy, Lieu’s rise is seen as attributable to the energy of coalitions, his lively participation within the caucus and numerous expertise he’s racked up alongside the way in which. 

Lieu, who additionally gained re-election of his seat earlier final month, shall be succeeding fellow California Rep. Pete Aguilar, the brand new caucus chair, firstly of the brand new Congress on Jan. 3. Lieu defeated three different contenders: Reps. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Debbie Dingell of Michigan, and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania in a vote amongst his colleagues within the Home. 

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., speaks in the course of the second Trump impeachment trial on Feb. 11, 2021.Senate Tv through AP file

The congressman mentioned he credit his election partly to an “understanding” from the caucus that having Asian American illustration in management was a necessity, given the group’s burgeoning political energy.

In 20 years the Asian American voters surged 139%, in keeping with Pew Analysis. And in the course of the midterms, the Asian American vote made up the margin of victory in a lot of races together with in Nevada, the place Asian People make up 10% of the voters and helped swing the third Congressional District blue, and Georgia, the place the racial group might tip the dimensions in a decent runoff Tuesday. 

The congressman added that past Asian People, his win additionally showcases the facility of a broad collective. Along with the sturdy assist from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Lieu mentioned the endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, that included a speech from chair Rep. Raul Ruiz of California, was additionally an vital side of the marketing campaign. 

“For those who take a look at what the Home Democratic Caucus did, it was, I really feel, outstanding. Over 200 folks in unbiased elections and races principally elected a management group that represents the gorgeous variety of America,” he mentioned. “It reveals that each one our numerous teams and caucuses are working collectively to principally put folks earlier than politics and assist American households.”

Madalene Mielke, president and CEO of Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Research, advised NBC Information that Lieu in Democratic management might have a big impression on the Asian American group.  

“This actually does put type of a pin in that Asian People now have somebody within the room who may also help to set legislative priorities and be capable of actually give it some thought from the lens of an Asian American,” Mielke mentioned. “I believe this is part of the evolution of how the management within the Democratic caucus has actually embraced the reflective variety of its members.”

In fact, Mielke mentioned, merely electing an Asian American doesn’t all the time translate to a illustration of the group’s pursuits. Real inclusion includes a concerted effort to make sure that Asian People really feel seen throughout all legislative priorities from well being care to training, she mentioned. And already, Lieu has been vocal about language entry, a problem of crucial significance to Asian People, who’ve a disproportionate variety of folks with restricted English proficiency or whose English is a second language, Mielke mentioned.

Lieu additionally mirrored on paving the way in which for others. 

“I keep in mind rising up and once I discovered that S.B. Wu was lieutenant governor of Delaware, I assumed, ‘Huh, this Asian American is in a fairly excessive place in Delaware.’ After which I found later Gary Locke was governor of Washington state,” Lieu recalled. “It occurred to me that properly, if they might try this, then anybody might be something in America. And I believe that’s true. Personally, once I see numerous illustration it does give me hope.” 

Whereas Lieu’s win is significant and historic, it’s not essentially shocking, Mielke mentioned. She identified that Lieu beforehand served as vice chair of the Coverage and Communications Committee and has made a reputation for himself as a vocal member of the caucus. Final 12 months, Lieu co-sponsored the article of impeachment on Trump and was subsequently chosen by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a supervisor in Trump’s second impeachment trial. In June, Lieu went viral for reciting what “Jesus mentioned about homosexuality,” earlier than standing in silence on the Home ground for 20 seconds. 

Lieu has been well-positioned to ascend in management, she mentioned. 

“He has a fairly strategic plan in relation to how he communicates messaging to folks — to his constituents and to folks throughout all communities,” Mielke mentioned. “He has simply proven that he’s a frontrunner that occurs to be Asian American.”

And whereas Asian People have lengthy been stereotyped throughout industries pretty much as good staff fairly than sturdy leaders, one thing that’s hindered the group in sectors from enterprise to regulation, Mielke mentioned Lieu has managed to buck the trope within the eyes of his colleagues.

“Congressman Lieu has all the time simply been a really type of forthright particular person. He’s simply type of no-nonsense. And I believe his tweets actually spotlight who he’s as an genuine particular person,” Mielke mentioned, referring to his sharp Twitter presence that has properly over 1 million followers. “I believe that’s part of the narrative that individuals have about who he’s and assembly the second.”

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