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Another Misguided Pandering Strategy for the GOP

Marc Ambinder proposes [1] that the GOP apply its failed outreach to Hispanics to Asian-Americans (via Andrew [2]):

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 [3] racial group in America concentrated [4] in coastal states with the highest proportion of college and post-graduate degree-holders of any group [5], 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.

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8 Comments To "Another Misguided Pandering Strategy for the GOP"

#1 Comment By IanH On February 16, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

“I don’t know if Republicans can increase their support among Asian-Americans.”

There’s pretty much zero chance that they can. The lion’s share of Asians these days come from China. Regardless of what they might think about the PRC government, they don’t find the GOP’s constant China-bashing appealing (especially since it’s hypocritical, as they’ve done nothing to reduce our trade dependency with Beijing.) The only Asian demographic who have ever voted Republican are the Vietnamese, and those anti-communist memories won’t last forever.

This goes back once again to the party elites belief that so-called hard working, family values, business starting immigrants are natural Republicans.

#2 Comment By IanH On February 16, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

I feel compelled to address something else in Ambinder’s article.

“It has long been assumed that Latinos would become more Republican as subcultures assimilated into the mainstream, but that hasn’t happened.”

WHO, pray tell, assumed that? Besides the geniuses at the RNC.

#3 Comment By tbraton On February 16, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

Well, Republicans can always adopt the Michael Gerson strategy: marry an Asian or Latino. But I wonder if Gerson really knows how his wife actually votes when she goes into the polling booth.

#4 Comment By Jim Dooley On February 16, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

Asian Americans know family values when they see them and they know they begin at home and not in the strong arms of Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.
As regards to its foreign policy doctrine, this Party doesn’t seem to get that it appeals to all the wrong people. There are consequences to appealing to all the wrong people.

#5 Comment By ds On February 16, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Asian political consultants are even more irritating than Hispanic political consultants. Asian Americans, by and large, do not vote. And even if they did, they are heavily concentrated in a handful of states that aren’t in contention. They’re not particularly relevant to national politics.

Asian Americans, to the extent that they lean Democratic, do so not because of immigration matters, but because they’re urbanized, educated, and relatively secular.

Republican politicians who did well with white yuppies, like Reagan and Bush Sr. also did well with Asian voters. Republicans whose main appeal is to rural, socially conservative white voters just aren’t going to do well with Asian voters.

#6 Comment By KXB On February 16, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

In our Indian-American family, I can see certain changing political viewpoints. I’ve become disenchanted with the Republicans. I did vote for Dubya twice, but by 2006 it was clear that he was overwhelmed, and his party was clueless. But here in Illinois, our state Democratic party is a laughingstock of dysfunction. My dad was a Republican until 2008, when disgusted with what Bush had done, voted Democrat for president for the first time in his life. Oddly enough, my brother used to lean left in his youth, but has steadily gotten more conservative as he has gotten older and wealthier. He does not care about social issues, but anyone who keeps his taxes low is alright in his book, but he admitted that McCain was outclassed by Obama in the debates and the campaign trail in 2008.

What Indians and other Asian groups do admire is being good at your damn job. The Republicans have forgotten that competency matters. Plus, Obama has earned a lot of points among Indians with the number of high profile appointments of Indian Americans in his government. At the same time, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley show that smart, accomplished politicians can make their mark in the Republican party. Granted, Jindal is more accomplished than Haley. Nor does Jindal have the personality and stature for a national campaign. Haley is still a work in progress.

#7 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 16, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

If the GOP actually would bother with good GOVERNANCE, they might not have to try to win voters over with demagogic appeals.

#8 Comment By Indya On February 17, 2012 @ 12:00 am

And EngineerScotty wins the thread!