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Vietnamese-Americans Face a Hard Choice in Presidential Election


Vietnamese-Americans are the sixth-largest immigrant group in the United States. Many of them take part in political activities and events. In recent years, there has been a split between older and younger Vietnamese-Americans.

Old or young, many Vietnamese-Americans say it is difficult to choose which presidential candidate to support.

VOA recently spoke with some of these voters in Orange County, California. The area is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the country.

Little Saigon is a part of the county where many Vietnamese-Americans live and work. Many people there are talking about the presidential election. Some of them say they will not be voting for the candidate they like. Instead, they say they will be voting for the candidate they dislike the least.

Leslie Le says he is voting for the Republican candidate.

“Between the two devil(s) I choose the lesser one. That’s Donald Trump.”

Le was a colonel in the army of South Vietnam before fleeing to the United States. Like many of those who came to the U.S. after the end of the Vietnam War, he has voted for Republicans in every election since he gained U.S. citizenship. But this year, it took him a long time to decide.

“It is very difficult this time because [there are] two bad candidates.”

He says Trump “never thinks before speaking about what he’s thinking, and he (has) changed policies a lot. He plans to build a wall between (the) United States and Mexico, and he (says he will force) the Mexican government to pay for it. It’s not reality, so what he said is just his imagination.”

Le does not like Trump, but he says the Democratic Party candidate is more dangerous.

“Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, she must be capable to tell what information is classified, related to national security and which information is OK to transmit over private server email. If she’s not capable to do that, she cannot be a president.”

Mike Nguyen says he believes in the Republican Party’s economic policies. He says he votes Republican because of the party’s policies, not because of Donald Trump. He says he wants to “give money back to the people who create jobs.”

Dzung Do is the managing editor of the Vietnamese-language newspaper Nguoi Viet. He says he understands why older Vietnamese-Americans have supported Republicans.

“During the Vietnam War, the Republicans were very aggressive where the Democrats was anti-war. So [with] that kind of thinking they think Democrat(s) was responsible for the loss of Vietnam.”

Do says some older Vietnamese do not believe a woman should lead a country.

“How about girl leader? ‘No. No way.’”

But, Do says Republican Vietnamese-Americans are reluctant to say they support Trump.

He says some older Vietnamese-Americans are changing their support to the Democratic Party.

“People live here longer, especially old people,” he says. “They get benefits from social programs. When they first came here, they thought that they might do something to change Vietnam. (But) now they see the relationship between Vietnam and the U.S. (is getting) warmer and warmer.”

Younger Vietnamese-Americans hold different views than their parents and grandparents. Many of them support Clinton, including Viet Tran.

“Anyone who has served in politics for 20, 30 years will have some skeleton(s) in the closet. I mean, the only things that’s been mentioned about her, nothing is really that outrageous, nothing that hasn’t been done before by other politicians. I mean, I think people are just more harsh on her because she’s female.”

Hetty La is also voting for the Democratic Party candidate.

“I would say Clinton is the better candidate for president.”

Hugh Tra supported Bernie Sanders -- an Independent Senator who competed in the Democratic Party’s primary elections -- until Sanders ended his candidacy.

“I will be supporting Hillary. She has adopted a lot of Bernie Sanders’ policies and implemented a lot of progressive platforms into her personal platform.”

Leslie Le says “If you don’t vote for anybody, you indirectly vote for the bad one.”

But Dzung Do believes that some Vietnamese-Americans will not mark their presidential ballot this year.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reported this story from Orange County, California. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it into VOA Special English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

reluctant – adj. feeling or showing doubt about something

skeletons in the closet – idiom things in a person’s past that they want to be hidden

outrageous – adj. very bad or wrong

harsh – adj. unpleasant, severe

adopt – v. accepted, taken on

progressive – adj. characterized by modern or new ideas

platform – n. a set of policies that a party says it will support

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