‘Halo-halo’ politics: The Democrats’ messy and delicious path to a political revolution

By Aries Dela Cruz

My favorite Filipino dessert is ‘halo-halo.’ It has some basic foundational ingredients. Ice, condensed milk, and various kinds of jellies, beans, and fruits. Sometimes it has ice cream and the ice cream flavor changes it, and it never tastes the same each time you try it. Anthony Bourdain said, “It makes no goddamn sense at all. I love it,” and deemed the dessert “oddly-beautiful.” It calls attention to itself as a messy concoction and its whole is much greater than its part. I often describe the Democratic Party in this way to Filipinos who may not be familiar with party politics in the United States.

We are a community that has long been involved in the fabric of American civic life. Filipino Americans are involved through grassroots activism, charitable endeavors, and cultural programs that enrich ourselves and the communities in which we live. This is the ‘halo-halo’ that is Filipino civil society in the United States. Politically, Filipinos tend to skew Republican. We are in fact the only Asian group other than the Vietnamese who are most likely to identify as Republicans.

The Filipino American Democratic Club of New York which I helped found is part of the Democratic Party. Our party is a big tent of many voices, working together so that we can achieve our goals of equality and citizenship. Organizations like the FADCNY work under that structure—we organize voters, inform them about political issues relevant to the Filipino American community, and connect voters to elected officials and candidates who support our priorities. The club is a needed voice at a time when Filipino American-serving non-profits are closing down due to lack of government and public support. Clubs like FADCNY are why the Democratic Party in New York is so successful; Democrats know that the only way for the party to succeed in elections is through ‘halo-halo’ politics.

The Democratic primary process is our way of gauging interest and generating enthusiasm for our message. I am personally very proud of how Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been important in engaging new and independent voters. While his supporters may be discouraged, they should know that there are people within the party like myself who are fighting to achieve many of the goals he has articulated. But in order to do this, we must organize. We must harness that enthusiasm and energy in a constructive way that lifts up the party and progressive candidates in other races.

To those who question whether the Democratic Party can change, I challenge you: Become the leadership. Become the rules committee. Make the party into your own image. Join me and other Filipino Americans all over the United aries use (3) States who are making our voices heard. The so-called party elites for both parties count on average Americans to be only upset during Election Day. But as Senator Sanders himself has said, a political revolution will not come from him nor will it come from Secretary Hillary Clinton, but rather from the people coming together to demand change. The Party is nothing more than a ‘halo-halo’ made up of groups of people like us who are working to achieve just that kind of goal, and who are united, organized, and visible for the remaining 364 days of the year.

Aries Dela Cruz is a founding member and the President of the Filipino American Democratic Club of New York. He can be reached at aries@filamdems.org.

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