PIVOT End of Year Letter

In Vietnamese culture, the end of the year is a good time to sweep out all of the bad from the current year so the next year will be better. In American culture, it is the time to compile top 10 lists. As PIVOT is very much Vietnamese and American, we end this year first with a top 10 list of bad things that happened this year and what PIVOT has done and will do to fight against them.

In addition to the 138 things that Trump did this year while we were not looking, here is the list of the 10 worst things in no particular order:

  1. Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. He promptly lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. After 298 days in office, he has lied 1,628 times. In his first 10 months, Donald Trump has lied 6 times more than Barack Obama did in 8 years. By the polls, Donald Trump is already the worst President in the history of the U.S., a finding that usually awaits history to judge.
  2. Donald Trump claimed before the election that he will be working for America and won’t have time to play golf. In 2017, he has played golf 85 times, with the cost to taxpayers of $42 million.
  3. In less than 1 year, Donald Trump already can lay claim to having one of the, if not the most, corrupt administrations in U.S. history. There is already the indictment of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Trump, Jared Kushner, and at least six Cabinet members are being investigated for various financial improprieties. HHS Secretary Tom Price has already resigned.
  4. We all know about Trump and the Republican Party’s multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but even though they failed, healthcare for Americans has been under attack in many ways. The Tax Bill ended the insurance mandate for individuals, which will lead to higher premiums and 13 million uninsured. Trump signed an Executive Order which will allow for insurance plans with inadequate coverage, which ultimately will also drive up premium. Trump shortened the open enrollment period this year, which means fewer people were able to sign up for coverage.
  5. Of course, we cannot forget the big giveaway to the rich, the Tax Bill which passed and was signed into law in December. Corporations had their tax rate lowered from 35% to 21%. Very wealthy Americans making more than $500,000 a year also received a significant tax cut. State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 which hurts mostly those living in blue states and big cities, which in turn may end up cutting services.
  6. By the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 27 people including 20 children were killed, there were over 300 mass shootings in the U.S in 2017. This includes the Las Vegas shooting with 59 dead and 441 wounded. In response, not a single gun law was passed by Congress.
  7. Unequivocally, Donald Trump has been terrible for the environment, starting with naming Scott Pruitt as the head of the EPA Chief to approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline to an Executive Order to undo the Obama Administration’s climate actions to withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.
  8. In related news, major hurricanes slammed Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Over 3 months later, half of Puerto Rico still has no power.
  9. Immigrants were under attack all year, from the Muslim travel ban, to ending DACA, to increased ICE activities and deportations. Over 28,000 immigrants have been arrested, 211,000 have been deported, and over 600,000 cases still in court.
  10. The white President of the United States called white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA “fine people” and supported for the Senate an alleged pedophile in Alabama, a man that Ivanka Trump referred to when she said “there is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

On January 27th, Donald Trump issued the Muslim travel ban. On January 28th, Vietnamese American progressive activists had the third formative meeting in Southern California, with the previous two in Virginia and Northern California. The decision to launch a national progressive organization for Vietnamese Americans was made on January 29th, and by February 21st, PIVOT-The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization, was incorporated in the State of California and filed paperwork to be a 501c4 organization. Those first few weeks were chaotic as we were both fighting against the Trump administration and choosing a name, a logo, a mission, and a Board. That we have been successful to date is a credit to all PIVOTers, but particularly for those who were “building the plane” while it was being flown, such as Secretary Alexandra Van Khanh Le, Treasurer Diep Vuong, the crack team of lawyers Ann Anh Phuong Nguyen and Quynh Tran, technical wizard Alex Hubris, membership manager Huong Nguyen-Yap, as well as the Board and the Committee Chairs.

Even before we were incorporated, Thu Quach, Board member and Chair of the Policy Committee, led the effort to show our solidarity with Japanese Americans on February 19th, the Day of Remembrance of the internment. PIVOT leaders Dr. Mai-Khanh Tran and Trung Ta appeared on Vietnamese television to discuss the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March. We took a negative position on the Gorsuch nomination for the Supreme Court. We were one of the first organizations to take on United Airlines for its abuse of Dr. David Dao, and as a result met with the CEO of the airline to relay our concerns. The Policy Committee has done rapid and relevant analyses of ACA repeal and the tax plan as well as created our Policy platform. Within a few short months, PIVOT became known as the collective national voice for progressive Vietnamese Americans, an accomplishment that was due to all PIVOTers, but with particular credit to the Social Media Committee, led by Josie Nguyen and Nick Lepham, who have maintained an active (daily!) presence on the website, Twitter and Facebook.

For many PIVOTers, it is not just business, or political, it is personal. Uyen Nguyen shared with us the harrowing story of her refugee experience, including the loss of her mother and sister. For our own Day of Remembrance, the April 30th Anniversary, Alex Hubris started the writing process that became a poignant piece of work with the contributions of many PIVOTers. And Dr. Anh Thu Bui shared her own personal journey with mental health and how it related to her being a refugee, an experience that was captured in a different form by author Thi Bui, an original PIVOTer and formerly Co-Chair of the Media Committee, in her book The Best We Could Do, now required reading at UCLA. Pulitzer-Prize winner and PIVOTer Viet Thanh Nguyen published The Refugees, a collection of short stories about the Vietnamese American experience. Dr. Mai-Khanh Tran, an original PIVOT founder and formerly Chair of the Media Committee, left PIVOT to run for Congress. Hoan Dang, formerly Co-Chair of the Voter Engagement Committee, is running for a county seat in Montgomery County, MD. Khanh Nguyen, Chair of the Finance/Fundraising Committee, was so incensed by Charlottesville that he wrote the PIVOT opinion piece on that event within hours of its conclusion.

As exemplars of the personal commitment to the political cause, we are fortunate to have an outstanding Translation Subcommittee, led by Hong-My Basrai and staffed with volunteer translators like Thang Do, Tan Le, and Quan Dinh. Reaching Vietnamese Americans who are primarily Vietnamese speakers is an important part of PIVOT’s strategy to normalize progressive ideas as an inherent part of the Vietnamese American experience. These translators who are very successful in their day jobs have rapidly translated many of our pieces, a very difficult task given the variety in styles and new concepts.

Those who started PIVOT knew that we needed to engage young Vietnamese American progressives, many of whom have long felt that Vietnamese American political organizations did not speak to or for them. We are especially proud of the PIVOTers in the Young Vietnamese Americans (YVA) Committee, led by Jessica Phan and Philip Nguyen. Kimberly Ngo, who helped to launch our Social Media efforts, wrote about how her story related to her father’s. Mai Do alerted us to the Tommy Le shooting by the police in Seattle, WA. Many YVAs were knocking on doors for the Ossoff, Bee, and Kathy campaigns. Kavi Vu and Phi Nguyen created “Wake Up Atlanta!” to promote Asian American civic engagement. The YVA Committee conducted the first survey on the civic engagement of young Vietnamese Americans.  YVA members spent time and resource to come to San Jose, CA for a retreat during which they planned their strategies for the 2018 elections.

The YVA retreat is an example of community building, an important and challenging task for a new national network with limited resources. This was preceded by the PIVOT Women’s retreat in September in Washington, and other local gatherings in San Jose, Seattle, Atlanta, Virginia, and Houston. Vietnamese Americans like to have fun, and we certainly hope for more gatherings, good food, and organizing!

As the New Year approaches, PIVOT is poised, with over 130 Sustainers and Friends across the country, to make a difference in America. It is very clear that progressives need to win in the 2018 elections in order to take back our country from racist and reactionary forces. In our short existence, under the leadership of the Candidate Support Chair Uyen Nguyen and Co-Chair Phi Nguyen, PIVOT already has some electoral experience. On March 14th, 2017, PIVOT endorsed its first candidate, Jon Ossoff in his Congressional race for GA-6. PIVOT was among the early endorsers for Kathy Tran and Bee Nguyen in their state races, and they both won! We will be conducting a general call on strategies for the election shortly, and we hope to have all of your support and contributions to take back the United States in 2018!