By Henry Ca
Former Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao was the first Vietnamese American to service in Congress. He served as the Representative of Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional district from 2009 to 2011. Mr. Cao was a Republican Congressman who was elected in a predominantly black community that was also heavily leaning towards Democrat. In addition to being the first Vietnamese American to be elected, he was the first Republican to be elected in his district in a century. In Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, S. Leo Chiang takes a look at Joseph Cao’s brief congressional career as he journeys in the brutal atmosphere of politics and his attempt at reelection.
For some background, Joseph Cao, birth name Anh Quang Cao, was born in Vietnam, and escaped with his family when he was eight years old in 1975. Cao was a Jesuit seminarian and almost became a Roman Catholic priest, however he found that ministry was not his calling and instead went into law practice in which he helped assist Vietnamese refugees and immigrants and the Vietnamese-American community as well as starting his own law practice. What drove him to run for Congress was the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
At the end of the documentary, Mr. Cao states “Politics is quite brutal.” Cao reflects upon his four years in public office and his attempts in trying to do the right thing. In the beginning of his term, was seen as unexpected Congressman, and simply just lucky at getting his position. The Republicans supported him as he was seen as an example of moderation. The core focus of his term was his attempts to help the rebuilding of his district and New Orleans. However, Chiang tells the story of how Mr. Cao became marginalized within his party for his vote and support on the first draft of the Affordable Care Act as he was the sole Republican to vote in support of it. In trying to do what he believed was for the good of the people he represented, he was left with very few allies and little support. In the final vote for the ACA, he voted against it due to the alleged public funding for elective abortion provisions. In the end, this stood very little to help him in re-elections, as he would lose soundly by Democrat Cedric Richmond.
What this documentary showed me, is that politics can be heavy and overbearing as it tries to weed out the sense of idealism that exists in people. I see Mr. Cao as a truly good man who simply tried to do what he believed was right, and in trying to do so, was overwhelmingly beaten by the people of his party and the other party as well. For despite his friendship with Obama, he was left behind when Obama supported Cao’s opponent for election. Cao’s attempt at crossing party barriers and trying to what he believed was right is what hurt him in the end in the land of American Politics. This all saddens me as Mr. Cao was very much an idealist, and it’s my belief that if there was more politicians like Mr. Cao, then I believe this country would be all the better for it.
While Mr. Cao is no longer a Congressman, I believe there is a greater need for more Asian American representation in the government. There are of course a few representatives of Asian Americans in the government such as Judy Chu, and Mike Honda, Asian American shave to be willing to stand in the government as a means to greater equality and for the Asian American Community to have a voice and say in how this country is run.