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Fil-Am voters go for lesser evil

/ 01:23 AM November 09, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts to the audience at a campaign rally at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts to the audience at a campaign rally at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

NEW YORK—In the kitchen of a Filipino home in Queens, laughter mingled with the scent of steaming adobo as family members talked about the US presidential election on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) with a familiar narrative: people unfriending people on Facebook over their poll choices.

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

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A thirty-minute walk away, another Filipino immigrant washed dishes in her own kitchen and talked about how for the first time since she became a US citizen in the 1990s, she wouldn’t be supporting a Republican.

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

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Both kitchens provided 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 US voters, the choice ultimately boils down to who can hurt America less.

Ugly clash of opinion

The divisiveness mirrors the ugly clash of public opinion that marred the Philippine presidential election in May, in which social media wielded its power in a heated campaign that witnessed the remarkable rise of President 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 on drugs and who uses foul language, it may seem odd that a bigot who has such low regard for women is still within an earshot of the US 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 to whom do you entrust that change? Trump, of course, has his faults but Clinton isn’t a saint either.”

Between her ties to Wall Street and the e-mail controversy that needed another FBI probe before she was cleared of wrongdoing two days before Election Day, Clinton has been viewed with a shade of wariness and distrust by several on-the-fence voters who, in seeking a break from the same old politics, romanticize the idea of a Trump presidency.

‘Liberal fatigue’

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

Trump’s message, “Make America Great Again,” resonates with a lot of undecided Filipino-American voters, a lot of whom suffer from “liberal fatigue” and look to Trump’s campaign promise as a chance to bring back America to a more conservative time.

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

And while for some, there is a sense of irony that an immigrant would back a candidate who has vowed to deport undocumented residents and build walls to keep illegal immigrants at bay, the 61-year-old school teacher said her stand was 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.”

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TAGS: Donald Trump, Filipino Americans, Hillary Clinton, US elections
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