The meltee, so to speak, is Anh Cao who this past weekend became the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress. He won in Louisiana where he beat a nine-term incumbent, Democrat William Jefferson, who was indicted on felony counts in 2007 for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. The House Democratic leadership stripped Jefferson of his assignment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Cao, like immigrants from earlier times, has a story. He fled Saigon as an 8-year-old refugee jammed into a helicopter, didn't see his mother or father--an officer in the South Vietnamese army who was imprisoned by Ho Chi Minh--until 1991. But Cao went to college, finished law school and ran for Congress. Nobody thought he could win. National Republican organizations did not help him much. Jefferson had a primary fight, Hurricane Gustav delayed the general election, turnout was light and, by golly, Cao won.
Republican House leader John Boehner, who did not campaign for Cao, now says, ""Cao is the future." That's nice, but a little late. Still, something may be going on in Louisiana. The Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, is Indian American. Cao said he hopes his win will make the GOP "more inclusive." And a lot of experts agree that to prosper in the years ahead, the GOP needs to be less white.
Anyway, it's a swell American story. Good luck, Congressman Cao.
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