Why Asian Americans Don’t Vote Republican

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Cecilia Hyunjung Mo wrote a good article over at The Washington Post, Why Asian Americans Don’t Vote Republican. Her idea is that Asian Americans still feel like foreigners in this country because they are still treated that way, even if they were born in Texas. That’s certainly part of it. And let us not forget that at least in the western United States, Chinese immigrants were the most hated group only a century ago.

But I have a different take on why Asian Americans aren’t keen on the Republican Party. While it is certainly true that Asian Americans are treated as outsiders in their own country, that’s true coming from both political parties. The problem with Asian Americans and the Republican Party is really a broader issue. Republicans have really bad policy ideas. They would not manage to have substantial support throughout the United States if it weren’t for the fact that they push the idea that whites are the “real” Americans and that all those “fake” Americans (Asians, Latinos, blacks) were taking away what was rightly theirs.

The question that the Republicans need to ask of themselves is why it is that all groups who aren’t vested in white resentment avoid them.

This allows the Republican Party to push ideas like tax cuts for the rich and privatizing Social Security. These are not even popular among Republican voters. Yet those voters still side with the Republicans. They vote for the Republicans not because of the explicit policies but because of the implicit message: we are the party that stands with you and against all those invalid Americans who are destroying what is the true nature of America. If you took away this implicit message, very few people would vote for the Republican Party — or at least the Republican Party would have to drastically change the policies that it is pushing.

Many Americans with Asian ancestors may well react against the clear white supremacist nature of the Republican Party. But I don’t think that’s the main thing. There are two things that the Republicans have to offer. First is the pro-white narrative about how they did everything for themselves and didn’t depend upon the abuse of Africans and native peoples and Chinese and Latinos and pretty much every other group you can think of. That clearly isn’t going to appeal to people who don’t see themselves as white. The second thing the Republicans have to offer is policy that further enriches the rich and goes to war whenever possible. That’s a very unpopular set of policies and people only go along with if they are blinded by the first thing the Republicans offer.

The question that the Republicans need to ask of themselves is why it is that all groups who aren’t vested in white resentment avoid them. Perhaps their biggest problem is that over the decades, they’ve created an insular culture that they really think that everyone agrees with them. (“Everyone at my country club is a Republican!”) This leads to their conspiracy theories about how ACORN stole not only the 2008 election, but also the 2012 election, long after the group even existed. Or more generally why there must be wide scale voter fraud because obviously America wanted John McCain and Mitt Romney to be president.

It’s not a secret that the Republican Party is in a bind. If it reaches out to other groups, it is going to lose its base voters. These voters, after all, don’t vote Republican because they really think that the capital gains tax or the estate tax need to be reduced. So how do they signal to Asian Americans that the Republican Party likes them while making white people feel that they are aggrieved by everyone else? I’m not saying they can’t do it. That’s the one thing that Republicans are very good at. But at this point, they don’t even seem to be interested in it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

12 thoughts on “Why Asian Americans Don’t Vote Republican

  1. The Democrats, despite the way that a lot of the individual members act, have platforms that at least try to be inclusive of everyone. And tend to exclude anyone who is blatantly racist from positions of power. So they want to include everyone and most of the sub-organizations (like say the Young Democrats of America) either have or are willing to have groups specifically for outreach to the Asian American communities with actual support.

    But it does bring up the problem I noted yesterday-the Democrats are stuck in a weird spot politically, they literally have to be all things to the 70% of the rest of the electorate that is not the Republican base even though that swings from extreme left to nearly as extreme as the extreme right. Oh well, we will keep muddling through. Or not. Today I really have a difficult time caring.

    • I hear you. But it comes and goes. The truth is that the Democratic Party is so inclusive that the fact that not everyone considers themselves a Democrat is an indication of just how screwed up a people we are.

      • Oh no, you forget to factor in the people who claim to “vote the candidate, not the party.” Or find it so uncouth to be partisan. *gets out the smelling salts and repair string for the pearls being clutched.*

        It seriously annoys me because it is usually, here anyway, code for “I want to be Republican but I don’t want to admit I am racist.”

        • Oh yeah. I’m sick to death of hearing people say that they are “independent.” But somehow they always vote Republican. They are such individuals that they can’t possibly be labeled. I just wrote something about a videographer who claims that he doesn’t like labels. This was in relation to my saying that he was probably a libertarian. But everything he says shows that he’s a libertarian. But he’s such a unique guy, he can’t be labeled — despite the fact that his opinions are so cliched I could just haul out one of about a hundred anti-libertarian articles I’ve written to counter him. Whenever I hear someone say they are an independent, I know they are a hardcore partisan or just someone who doesn’t pay attention to politics at all.

          • Oh right, I read that article a while back but did not read the comments.

            I had a friend in England who was Mr. English Version Libertarian and yet he threw a four hour fit when I pointed this out. He is not my friend any more because he got mad we don’t censor Fox News and blamed me for defending the first amendment. It was one of the funnier friendships I have had.

            And it boils down to the national addiction we have with individualism. Being part of a group is consider super bad if it is for anything but the most superficial things like say comics.

            • A lot of work has been done in sociology about dual impulses to form bonds and to assert individuality. What I find interesting in politics is that Democrats understand this. Even most Republicans understand this. But libertarians believe that it is all about individuality. And these are the same idiot atheists who claim that they are only driven by rationality. They say this, even while they go to conventions on atheism and Objectivism.

              • The conventions on atheism always puzzled me-I get why on objectivism as silly as that philosophy is. But atheism is about not believing in God and uh, well that is about it. At least that is my impression of the concept but I am a theist so what do I know?

                • It’s like any of these things: people get together with like minded people. And atheists like to drink, by and large. Many of the lectures are excellent. I first really got into the Bible by reading G A Wells. And I’ve learned a lot from Robert M Price (although I hate his amazingly ignorant — Rush Limbaugh listening — politics. But I would never go to one of the conferences.

              • Frank, you really seem to have a bee in your bonnet about atheism and libertarianism. My experience, which really seems to be confirmed by measureable reality, is that atheists are on average more left-wing than people in general.

                Though I will say that I personally have met the atheist, Objectivist individual who sees himself (almost always a ‘he’) as super-rational in contrast to the rest of us guttersnipes.

                • You are right: atheists as a group are distinctly more on the left. My complaint is about the most prominent atheists and what I see as the New Atheist movement. The reason I talk about it is that there is a careless kind of thinking that is almost identical coming from New Atheists and libertarians. And I do have a bee in my bonnet about that. I make a distinction between the New Atheists and what I think of as Old Atheists, but who I’ve now heard are called the “Atheists But…” In this particular case, however, I was specifically talking about the Objectivist crowd.

                  I also have a problem with the much more common claim by atheists that they only believe in things that they have evidence for. This simply isn’t true. It would be impossible to manage your life if that were the case. And I really wish that my fellow atheists would accept this because the science on it is quite clear. The reason science is an important tool for us is because we aren’t rational. But the level of hubris of many atheists is equivalent to that of fundamentalist Christians. That’s another bee in my bonnet!

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