But if Republicans were to rid themselves of their anti-immigrant wing, or if they choose not allow their primaries to be controlled by it, there is no real reason why Asian-Americans can’t become a true swing constituency.
If there is one thing lazier than describing immigration restrictionists as “anti-immigrant,” it is the assumption that Republicans would be able to win over increasingly Democratic voters by pandering to them on the most stereotypical issue imaginable. Ambinder warns against viewing Asian-Americans as a monolith (and he’s right about that), and he concludes his article by saying, “They defy typing,” but he proposes an utterly predictable solution for Republicans as if there were just one issue that stood in the way. If the GOP tried to “rid” itself of restrictionists, it would alienate people who reliably vote Republican in an effort to win over fewer voters who would occasionally vote Republican. More to the point, Ambinder seems to assume that the GOP’s only obstacle with these voters is immigration, which I am fairly sure isn’t true.
Here is where Ambinder goes awry:
The GOP’s association with American Christianity and with upward mobility are enough for Asian-Americans to give that party a look, but the Asian-American vote has become more and more Democratic as the average Asian-American voter has spent a longer amount of time inside the U.S. “On paper, Asians—culturally conservative, family values, entrepreneurship, fiscally conservative, meritocracy—seem tailor-made for Republicans,” says Tony Lee, a Korean-American conservative and editor at the publication Human Events. “But, like with Cubans, the younger generation of Asians has not voted as Republican as one may have expected or assumed.”
The reasons for this aren’t all that hard to understand. There needs to be a distinction between what conservative Republicans think their party represents to people outside the party and how non-Republicans perceive it. For example, if the GOP were actually fiscally conservative when in power, it might make sense for fiscally conservative voters to flock to them. If it were the party of entrepreneurship and upward mobility (rather than, say, the party of corporatism that is oblivious to wage stagnation and declining social mobility), that might be appealing. On the other side, the voters in question are not being as accurately represented as they could be.
If you described these voters as the most urbanized racial group in America concentrated in coastal states with the highest proportion of college and post-graduate degree-holders of any group, confusion about why they don’t vote Republican would disappear pretty quickly. There’s also no discussion in Ambinder’s article about why Asian-Americans might find the GOP’s preference for confrontational foreign policy in Asia and elsewhere to be unappealing. I don’t know if Republicans can increase their support among Asian-Americans. It may not be possible, and it may not be worth the trade-off in the votes that the party could lose in the process. They certainly won’t succeed by applying simplistic and predetermined solutions that ignore the many reasons why these voters are not currently interested in what the GOP has to offer.