86 Denv. U. L. Rev. 565 (2008-2009)
Half-Full, Half-Empty - Asian American Electoral Presence in 2008

handle is hein.journals/denlr86 and id is 571 raw text is: HALF-FULL, HALF-EMPTY? ASIAN AMERICAN
ELECTORAL PRESENCE IN 2008
KEITH AOKIt & ROBERT S. CHANGtt
We stand past the cusp of a historic election. For the first time, a
person of color has been elected to the highest office of a majority-white
nation.' For the first time in United States history, an African American
has been elected President.2
As we look back upon the events that led to this result, it gives us an
opportunity to examine the politics of race. Despite all the talk of Ob-
ama running a post-racial campaign, there was a lot of race in this race.3
Our sense, though, is that race in the race, as remains typical in the Unit-
ed States, was discussed and understood mostly in black and white
terms.4
In the midst of this, how do we talk meaningfully about political
power as it relates to racial group affiliation? And more specifically,
what does it mean to talk about Asian Americans and Asian American
political power?
In some ways, it's odd to talk about group political power. After
all, we might understand the right to vote as being held by qualified indi-
viduals, that political power resides in individuals who exercise this right
as individuals and not as members of a group.6 These individual exercis-
t   Professor of Law, UC Davis King Hall School of Law.
tt   Professor of Law and Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Seattle
University School of Law.
1.  Shelby Steele, Op-Ed., Obama's Post-Racial Promise, L.A. TaIES, Nov. 5, 2008, at A31.
2.  See id.
3.  We take the phrase from an event run before the election by UCLA's Critical Race Stu-
dies program called Race in the Race.
4.  For a development of the critique of the black/white racial paradigm in the legal literature,
see Robert S. Chang, Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post-
Structuralism, and Narrative Space, 81 CAL. L. REV. 1241, 1267 (1993); Neil Gotanda, Other Non-
Whites in American Legal History: A Review of Justice at War, 85 COLUM. L. REV. 1186, 1188
(1985) (book review); Juan F. Perea, The Black/White Binary Paradigm of Race: The Normal
Science of American Racial Thought, 85 CAL. L. REV. 1213, 1219 (1997).
5.  We include Latinas/os as part of the racial discourse despite the formal categorization by
the U.S. Census of Hispanics not as a race but as an ethnicity. See Robert S. Chang & Keith Aoki,
Centering the Immigrant in the Inter/National Imagination, 85 CAL. L. REV. 1395, 1447 (1997). On
Latinas/os and the political process, see STEVEN W. BENDER, ONE NIGHT IN AMERICA: ROBERT
KENNEDY, CESAR CHAVEZ, AND THE DREAM OF DIGNrrY (2008); Steven Bender, Sylvia R. Lazos
Vargas & Keith Aoki, Race and the California Recall: A Top Ten List of Ironies, 16 BERKELEY LA
RAZA L.J. 11, 15-18 (2005); Steven W. Bender & Keith Aoki, Seekin' the Cause: Social Justice
Movements and LatCrit Community, 81 OR. L. REV. 595, 618-24 (2002).
6.  But cf Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109, 167 (1986) (Powell, J., dissenting) (suggesting
that the experience of voting cannot be understood solely as an individual act, because [the concept
of 'representation' necessarily applies to groups: groups of voters elect representatives, individual

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