Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Asians don't vote Republican. It's not that complicated.

Interesting article and comments here about why the Republican Party has failed to capture the votes and imaginations of most Asian immigrants to the US.

As many have observed, many Asians come with a certain set of values that in theory would make them a shoo-in to vote conservative. Many Asian cultures, particular Indians, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, are very aspirational, with strong beliefs in the importance of achieving status or material success through education and hard work. Yet these groups are some of the most solidly Democratic. Indian-Americans are the highest-earning ethnic group in the US, yet they are 4 times more likely to identify as Democrats rather than Republicans. Of the major Asian-American groups, only Vietnamese show a significant lean towards the Republican party. This is another example of how material self-interest is not always a dominant factor in how a group votes. Vietnamese are more working-class than the aforementioned groups, as unlike the others they have a foundation in the refugee experience rather than as skilled migrants. But that refugee experience seems to shape their voting patterns in a different way; having fled the Communist Party, they are drawn to the strongly anti-Communist Republicans.

But the Republicans are not merely the party of business and the free market. They are also the party of social conservatism, and therein lies the problem.

Bryan Caplan, focusing particular on Indian-Americans, thinks it's a matter of the Republicans showing them more respect, to the point of pandering. Right-wing race blogger Steve Sailer, in the comments, thinks it's the opposite: that white America needs to respect itself more, which will make groups like Indians and Hispanics want to associate with the white majority, rather than being drawn into the identity politics that are often characteristic of the Left.

But respect need not go as far as pandering. Asian-Americans are a group that will assimilate into the mainstream quite easily, given the chance. By comparison, the Repubs have a whole heap of historical baggage coming between them and African-Americans and Hispanics. Those groups are easily attracted by identity politics because conservative white America (for whom the Republicans are the mouthpiece) has constantly alienated them, even without trying. To win those groups over (especiall African-Americans), the conservative side needs to make serious gestures over an extended period of time, like an abusive husband trying to convince a departed wife that he's changed. But the Asian community does not have that same amount of historical baggage. All the Republicans need to do to win over a sizeable chunk of Asian votes is to show that they don't think there's anything inherently wrong with not being a white Christian.

Indians, for example, are largely Hindu, with Sikhs, Christians and Muslims making up the rest. Hindus assimilate into the mainstream more easily than Sikhs and Muslims, largely because their religion as commonly practiced does not make huge distinctions between believer and non-believer. But many don't feel at home in the Republican Party, largely because the party sees them as foreign and strange, and treats them accordingly. Muslims and Sikhs even more so. It is telling that the two Indian-Americans with the highest profile in the Republican Party have both converted to Christianity and Anglicized their names - Bobby (Piyush) Jindal and Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Kaur Randhawa).

I'm not a conservative and thus I can't say I want Asian-Americans to start voting Republican. But if the Republican Party can drag itself a little further out of its medieval xenophobic headspace in which the only good candidate is a Bible-thumping one, then it will start to see rewards. And that shift would be better for everyone.


  1. Wow! Those comments by Sailer are just cringeworthy - not to mention embarrassingly self-pitying and whiny.

    People (mainstream America) are shocked by the Asian support for the Dems because most of what they believe about Asians is almost entirely made up by mainstream America without actually bothering to ask Asians themselves, or represent what Asians themselves do, say, or think.

    America thinks that Asians are GOP fodder because some white dudes somewhere along the line - probably with an actual Asian in tow to give the illusion of credibility - said with great authority, that Asians are GOP fodder and that became the "reality".

    The degree of the surprise of white America is proportional to the degree of racial stereotyping of Asians by white America - profound surprise and profound misrepresentation.

    1. I think it's understandable that many analysts would think that Asians might be a good fit with the GOP. But then, that's the problem with viewing everyone as a demographic - and hence, a stereotype - rather than multi-dimensional individuals. There are lots of reasons why a person chooses one party over another, and GOP-aligned analysts are surprised Asians don't like them because they are GOP-aligned analysts looking through a GOP lens.

      Another point I forgot to add into the article: a lot of Asians do not naturally see themselves as "People of Colour" with a common cause with blacks and Hispanics. We both know that a lot of Asians would sooner associate with the white majority than with other non-white minorities. But the more they feel they are not accepted by mainstream white America, the more they will opt for the Dems, who at least appear to understand the minority experience (whatever that is).

    2. I actually think that most people on all sides of the equation were surprised by the Asian vote - probably even Dems.

      Your second point is interesting. I think that there may be a 1st gen/2nd Gen dynamic going on there. Just like all groups, the younger generations may see themselves as belonging to a multi-ethnic community that just isn't visible - or welcome - in the GOP.

      So it is probably part of the learning curve - the 1st generation arrives with optimism and, perhaps, the belief that hard work will get them accepted. The American-born, on the other hand will probably realize that the system is set up to thwart minorities to various degrees no matter how hard you work. Hence, a greater affinity, perhaps, with other minorities.

  2. Good analysis for the most part, ES, but I have to somewhat disagree.

    You claim that, in contrast to Asians, Hispanics have historical baggage that makes them almost irreconcilable with the Republican party. However, everything you've just said about what the Republican party needs to do to attract Asian American voters (ie. less xenophobic, bible thumping, white Christian ethos, etc) has been said with regards to Hispanics.

    Hispanics would be natural Republicans if the Republicans would become more immigrant friendly and stop demonizing illegal immigrants, or so certain pundits (on both the left and mainstream right) have told us.

    Tino Sanandaji has done some excellent analysis on race and voting patterns in the U.S. While I don't agree with his Libertarian economic views, his social and racial commentary is spot-on.

    He dispels the myth that non-white immigrant groups such as Hispanics and Asians are "natural Republicans" who only flock to the Democrats because those white Repubs are mean and want to keep immigrants who look like them out.

    Fact of the matter is that, generally speaking, visible racial minorities are almost always going to fundamentally identify with the left. Think about it, if you're a member of a relatively powerless minority group, which side are you going to support? The party that supports big government, social programs, affirmative action and minority set asides, open borders/non-white immigration, and other measures that would benefit minority groups? Or are you going to support the party that, no matter how nice and "inclusive" it tries to be, favors limited government, limited benefits and social programs, more restricted immigration, no affirmative action, etc?

    To ask the questions is to answer them.

    (it's also interesting to note that, even though Asian Americans are supposedly screwed by affirmative action and a "bamboo ceiling," most Asian American leaders/activists support it)

    Sanandaji has also demonstrated that the Republicans haven't made non-whites significantly sour on them over the past few decades. In fact, the non-white voting percentages for Repubs have more or less remained the same.

    It's just that since non-whites have exploded in number, the country is naturally leaning more towards the Democratic party.

    1. I think there are a couple of important differences between Asians and Hispanics in this respect.

      Firstly, Hispanics are more likely to be working class and thus are going to be suspicious of a party which thinks of poor people as "the moocher class". Asians tend to be a bit better well-off and thus will be more open to the Republicans' economic outlook, in theory at least.

      And the Asian immigration situation is a little different to the Hispanic one.
      "...the myth that non-white immigrant groups such as Hispanics and Asians are "natural Republicans" who only flock to the Democrats because those white Repubs are mean and want to keep immigrants who look like them out."

      There is certainly some of that sentiment influencing the Hispanic vote. The Asian vote too, but it's to a considerably lesser degree. Republican anti-immigration hysteria is primarily about Hispanics and Muslims. While some Asians (particularly Asian American leadership) will see the commonalities there, a lot of Asians see themselves as a bit different, I think - many believe in the Model Minority thing.

      Thus they are an achievable target for Republicans. I don't think Asians are "natural Republicans" by any means, but they could easily vote 50/50 if in future they thought Republicans respected them more.

      I also wonder if Republicans over-estimate the importance of abortion as an issue. While Hispanics are strongly Catholic and thus should be pro-life as a theory, it doesn't seem to be something that preoccupies them. While some people are so passionately anti-abortion that it would decide who they vote for, that seems to be more the province of rural and Southern whites.

    2. Tino Sanandaji is certainly right about one thing:

      "Anglo-Americans are culturally probably the most pro-capitalist group on the planet."

      Moreso than white Australians, British and Canadians. So even though whites are the mainstream in the US, they are a global outlier in this way. The rest of us in the Anglosphere have a mild dislike of bureaucratic interference in our economic lives, but the extreme suspicion of government is a very American thing.

  3. Republican anti-immigration hysteria is primarily about Hispanics and Muslims. While some Asians (particularly Asian American leadership) will see the commonalities there, a lot of Asians see themselves as a bit different, I think - many believe in the Model Minority thing.

    I agree with part of this statement. Based on my experiences with Asian Americans, most do not identify as "people of color" who are in the same boat as blacks and Hispanics (with some exceptions). Many do believe in the Model Minority thing.

    (Asian activists/race bloggers such as Angry Asian Man, Jennifer of Mixed Race America, and Frank Wu notwithstanding)

    However, they still identify as a racial minority in their own right, and many have grievances against white people.

    (albeit to a smaller extent than blacks and Hispanics)

    Therefore, even if anti-immigrant sentiment isn't directed against them per se, my take from observing what many Asians say is that they fear a potential racial domino effect. It may be Hispanics and Muzzers one day, but they could be next.

    Thus they are an achievable target for Republicans.

    Let's say the Republicans do as you suggest, and purge all of the xenophobes, racists, and bible thumpers from their party.

    I would argue that it wouldn't make a huge difference. There are other factors that I neglected to mention earlier. Most Asian Americans are concentrated in California (particularly the S.F. Bay Area), New York, and Hawaii. Those places are primarily urban and liberal, and even if they weren't repelled by the white ethos of the Republican party, it's likely that they'll imbibe the liberal values of those places.

    I also disagree that being better off and not in the same boat as blacks/Hispanics makes a group more open to the right.

    Just look at Jews. Despite being the most affluent group in the country and wielding disproportionate power, and not having anything in common with blacks and Hispanics, they heavily identify with the left. They fundamentally support an immigrant friendly, multicultural state. They fear that a conservative, predominantly white country would be unsafe for them.

    (they don't exactly hold Israel to the same liberal standards that they do for white Americans, but that's another topic)

    As a self-identified minority group, many believe that they are naturally safer with the left.

    And I would say the same applies to Asians.

    1. "...and not having anything in common with blacks and hispanic,..."

      As part of your analysis, this statement is 100% false. Please review U.S. And European history to understand what they share in common, particularly with "blacks."

      By the way, the idea of separating "black" and "hispanic" is not accurate. Millions of "hispanics" are "black.".

      Also, the Chinese and Japanese have already suffered their racism in the U.S. There were internment camps in early 20th century.

      History is an area most people ignore to assist in understanding the present and future. So sad, but not for you ES. Just stumbled on your website and you are on point with your analysis. Continue posting. There is substance you don't find often.

  4. I also agree that Republicans focus too much on certain religious wedge issues.

  5. ES,
    You are absolutely correct when you say that Asian Americans are a natural Republican constituency. Here's my anecdotal experience. Both my husband and I are first generation Indian Americans that have lived here from a very early age. We're fiscally conservative, pro-life, anti Affirmative Action, anti illegal immigration and don't really agree with this black victimology narrative. But we're also not science deniers, believe that climate change is real and believe in sensible gun control.

    We really get no tangible, immediate benefit from voting for Democrats; yet, we've never voted Republican and here's why. (I'll preface by first saying that most white people are good, honest and decent and genuinely not racist and want to give everyone a chance). But the Republican party seems hostile to minorities when it's silent as Limbaugh refers to Michelle Obama as Moochelle or when some Repub. Congressmen make fun of her posterior. It's even sadder still when their candidate questions Obama place of birth and another, Donald Trump, questions Obama's intelligence. And, I don't even want to start on the comment sections of some right wing blogs, etc. This display of hostility towards minorities has a corrosive effect over time.

    You have to wonder why the Republican party seems to be the natural home for racists and neo-Nazis (David Duke, Strom Thurmond, et. al).

    1. This one comment is the essence - the factor that the puzzling majority-members do not grasp. The minority-members lurking insecurity.

      The lurking fear of potential *changes in acceptance* where they don't see the evident multicultural support and membership.

  6. most orientals don't vote.