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Vietnamese Trump Voters Have Mixed Expectations for His Presidency


Around the Mahjong table on the edge of "Little Saigon" in Orange County, California, the players have been closely following the election process. Many of them can be described as reluctant Trump supporters.

“I voted for him not because I admire him, not because I accept him as a very capable candidate for presidency, but I don't like Hillary Clinton,” said Colonel “Leslie” Le Khắc Lý, former chief of staff, II Corps, Pleiku of the South Vietnamese armed forces.

According to the 2016 National Asian American Election Eve Poll, more Asian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump in the recent U.S. election. Those who voted for Trump did so for a variety of reasons.

Staff key for Trump

Aichau Caoxuan is relying on the people Trump will appoint to advise him. "His staffers and advisers will be there to help," she says as she takes a break from playing Mahjong. "Therefore, at last minute, I ended up with voting for him."

Other Vietnamese voted for Republicans because of their faith.

"I maintain Republican because I don't believe in abortion," said Long Pham, who is Catholic, like many Vietnamese Americans.

Unlike some of the reluctant Trump supporters, Mike Nguyen, who is also Catholic, believes in Trump's proposed agenda, including the selection of a conservative Supreme Court justice whom Nguyen hopes will change certain social issues.

"For example, the family, marriage," said Nguyen. "Since a long time ago, the definition is marriage between men and women. I'm not discriminating against gay people, but they have another form like (civil) union."

Improved economy

He also expects the U.S. economy to improve under Trump's leadership.

"Like any voter, I expect a lot," he said. "I would like to get some jobs back here for the American people."

On Trump's foreign policy, Colonel Le says he likes the president-elect's tough stance on China, saying it can also benefit Vietnam.

"I like the idea that Donald Trump sees China as an enemy," said Le. "Try to draw Vietnam back to the position as a United States ally, and I would like to see Donald Trump continue that policy. That's the only way you can stop Chinese ambition."

U.S. compared to battleship

No matter what Trump promised in the campaign, many Vietnamese Americans know there are limitations to what a president can do, and he may have to compromise.

"We have Congress, we have the Supreme Court. It's not like a third-world country where we have a new king and the king [can] change the whole thing," Pham said.

"I would give him at least one or two years. A hundred days would be a little bit too quick. The U.S. is more like a big battleship. When you turn it around, it takes a little bit of time."

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