For Fil-Ams, elections a matter of choosing the lesser evil | Global News

For Fil-Ams, elections a matter of choosing the lesser evil

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 04:19 PM November 08, 2016

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NEW YORK—In the kitchen of a Filipino home in Queens, laughter mingles with the scent of steaming adobo as family members talk about the US presidential elections on Tuesday with a familiar narrative: People unfriending people on Facebook over their poll choices.

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“You have two days to change your mind,” Trinidad (last name withheld), a mother of two who has lived in the US for about four decades, ribs a Donald Trump supporter.

A 30-minute walk away, another Filipino immigrant washes dishes in her own kitchen and talks about how for the first time since becoming a citizen in the ’90s, she won’t be supporting a Republican.

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“Right now, Hillary (Clinton), because she’s the lesser evil,” said Luisita (last name withheld), 81.

Both kitchens provide a glimpse of what’s cooking as America votes for its next president as far as some Filipino-Americans are concerned: In a divisive campaign that has brutally segmented American voters, the choice could ultimately boil down to who could hurt America less.

The divisiveness mirrors the ugly clash of public opinion that marred the Philippine presidential elections this year, where social media wielded its power in a heated campaign that witnessed the remarkable rise of President Rodrigo Duterte.

But the parallels do not end there. And while from halfway around the world, where a nation grapples with the choice of a leader who espouses a violent war against drugs and who is often caught on camera using foul language, it may seem odd that a bigot who has such low regard for women is still within an earshot of the presidency, a lot more complex factors come into play before Tuesday’s vote here.

“For a lot of us, it’s about change,” said Maria Rosello, a nurse who has lived here since 1982. “But who do you trust that change to? Trump, of course, has his faults but Hillary isn’t a saint either.”

Between her ties to Wall Street and the email controversy that needed another probe by the FBI before it was cleared for yet another time two days before the elections, Clinton has been viewed with a shade of wariness and distrust by several on-the-fence voters who, in seeking a break from the ennui of “same-old” politics, romanticize the idea of a Trump presidency.

“There is this sense of, at least with Trump, you already know what his bad traits are,” said Rosello. “With Hillary, we really don’t know what her agenda is.”

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Trump’s message, “Make America Great Again,” resonates with a lot of these undecided Fil-Ams, a lot of who also suffer from “liberal fatigue” and look to Trump’s campaign promise as a chance to return America to a more conservative time.

A public school teacher, who declined to be identified because she works in what she calls a “very democrat and liberal environment,” said liberal policies of the past administration, especially in immigration, have her leaning toward Trump.

And while for some, there is a sense of irony that an immigrant would vouch for a candidate who has vowed to deport undocumented residents and build walls to keep migration at bay, the 61-year-old school teacher said her stand is not contradictory at all.

“We went through the entire process,” she said. “We filed our documents, we waited in line and we complied with every requirement to get our citizenship. And a lot of the liberals look at the wave of immigrants who come here and want to grant them easy access to US citizenship.”

Both Clinton and Trump will pitch camp here Tuesday, fittingly since both have New York roots. Trump, the business mogul, was born here while Clinton ran for the US senate representing New York.

Clinton will reconnect with her home base supporters at Jacob Javits Convention Center, which is on Manhattan’s west side, as she seeks to become America’s first female president and fulfill a campaign promise of shattering “the highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

Trump, meanwhile, will address his supporters at New York Hilton Midtown.

Both campaigns made last-minute pleas to voters to trust in their vision of tomorrow’s America, with Clinton easing the attacks on her opponent and preaching unity to end a bitter campaign that has split a nation at a crossroads.

“Tomorrow, you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America,” Clinton said in a speech in Pittsburgh.

In another campaign stop, however, she urged voters to make the right choice by making Tuesday’s election a battle between right and wrong: “The decision you have to make is clear,” she said, asking voters to choose between Trump’s divisive politics and her promise of a united America.

Trump continued to be menacing and mocking on the campaign trail, hitting at the FBI’s decision to clear Clinton in the e-mail controversy and telling voters in a speech in North Carolina that it was in their hands “to deliver the justice that we deserve at the ballot box tomorrow.”

Trump also mocked Clinton’s campaign stops, saying the former secretary of state couldn’t fill a room without her celebrity entourage that included, at one stop or another, the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and basketball star LeBron James.

“Is there any place better to be than a Trump rally?” he said. “We’re having fun. And I don’t have a guitar and I don’t have a piano.”

Clinton’s biggest endorser, though, is President Obama, who is set to leave office with his highest approval rating.

Obama made an emotional plea to voters in Ohio, a traditionally red state, that could resonate to Fil-Ams who are on the fence and willing to settle for who could be the “lesser evil.”

“This is not about choosing who you shouldn’t vote. You have someone great to vote for.”

Speaking before a huge crowd in Philadelphia Monday night, Obama turned nostalgic in his final push for a Clinton presidency.

“Eight years ago I asked all of you to join me on an unlikely journey,” he said.

“I have always had the odds on my side because I am betting on you. In this place where our founders forged the documents of freedom; if you share my faith then I ask you to vote. I am asking you to work as hard as you can this one last day to elect this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother: the next president of the United States.”

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TAGS: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Filipino Americans, Hillary Clinton, New York, US election
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