Jay Chen v. Michelle Steel: The Mud Packed Race for District 45
Photo obtained from laist.com
With the 2020 census reporting a marginally smaller California population, the state has subsequently lost a district. This shift from California’s formerly 53 districts to a mere 52 has caused major redistricting all across the state. In fact, the cities of Artesia and Cerritos, formerly part of representative Linda Sanchez’s predominantly Latino 38th district, have felt the rippling effects of this change firsthand.
Now a part of the newly redrawn 45th district, which contains the predominantly Asian cities of Artesia, Cerritos, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Westminster, and La Palma in addition to portions of Huntington Beach, Hawaiian Gardens, Anaheim, and Los Alamitos, citizens of the two sister cities have been thrust into the fierce battle between its two main candidates for the house seat; Republican incumbent Michelle Steel and Democrat Jay Chen. Congresswoman Steel, representative for district 48 prior to 2020 census redistricting, has become something of a trailblazer in recent years. Not only is she one of the nation’s first Korean American women in congress, but she has done groundbreaking work for her district, which is predominantly composed of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a group that far too often goes underrepresented.
As midterm elections draw near, however, Steel has come under fire for her use of her influence over her local community to spread propaganda and misinformation about her opponent, Jay Chen. Throughout the race, “China’s Choice” and “Communist” have become synonymous with Chen’s name to many of her voters, all thanks to her ads, which have spared no expense in portraying Chen as nothing short of a figure similar to tyrants such as Mao Ze Dong. Although buzzwords like "communist" may be frightening to the district's largely Vietnamese population, many of whom came to America fearing the communist threat, this could not be further from the truth.
To Chen, an American born son of Taiwanese immigrants, veteran, and Harvard alumni, these accusations have taken a significant toll on his already tough campaign. And despite the growing prevalence of liberalism within the ddistrict'sAsian communities, the generational divide between conservatism and progressivism has made it paramount that Chen find some way to appease older voters, many of whom appreciate Steel’s more conservative stances and fear his apparently “communist” ideas.
Thus, this begs the question, should candidates utilize mudslinging and misinformation to secure their seats? Despite the fact mudslinging has been a mainstay of political history since the days when John Adams’ opponents accused him of being a transvestite to discredit him, it doesn’t necessarily make it ok. As participating citizens in a democracy, shouldn’t we look for integrity and cooperation within our candidates rather than bickering and gossip? Political positions by design should be awarded to candidates based on merit, not whoever can discredit their opponent more effectively. In my opinion, by allowing politicians to act in a manner more akin to middle school students, we only contribute to the toxic political climate and partisan divide, which continue to breed division and inaction within our government.