Why the GOP Is Going to Lose the Asian American Vote Again... And Why It Matters
Instead, what we see today, as we did four years ago, is a Republican Party consumed with anger, demonizing non-white Americans and their backgrounds - from Donald Trump's birtherism, anti-immigration tirades, and his recent micro-aggressions targeting a young Asian American man; to Ben Carson's disturbing anti-Muslim demagoguing; to Mike Huckabee's ugly anti-Korean race-baiting tweets; to Bobby Jindal's cultural assimilation rants; to Jeb Bush and other candidates' "anchor-baby" positions.
Moreover, Republicans, at all government levels, have point-blank rejected policies that reflect priorities of the diverse voting bloc of Asian Americans, including climate change, immigrant rights, a more diplomatic foreign policy, and gun safety. On other major policy debates such as healthcare, jobs, and tax policy, Republicans continue to reject widely supported positions amongst Asian Americans (and other Americans of color) that the government does in fact have a role to play in eradicating poverty and discrimination and ensuring a level playing field.
Add to this, the abject failure of Republican leaders in addressing mass gun shootings, or to call out the massacres at a Black church in South Carolina or a Sikh Gurudwara in Wisconsin for what they are: hate crimes and terrorist acts rooted in a particular racial history. What has become an increasingly common perception amongst Asian Americans and other communities of color that the GOP and its voters are not only out of touch or indifferent to their lives, but worse, actively hostile to them.
It is no surprise then that Asian Americans, despite their significant diversity of economic status, education, profession, and religion, are becoming increasingly a reliable progressive voting bloc. Americans of South Asian descent, including Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, and representing the fastest growing ethnic communities, voted for Pres Obama at rates above 90%. On divisive social issues such as same-sex marriage, a majority of Hindus and 84% of Buddhists expressed support. A recent survey found 80% of Asian Americans in support of stricter gun laws. Even on affirmative action, an issue often used to create a wedge between Asian Americans and other communities of color, 76% of Asian Americans support the practice in education and employment.
Ultimately, "Asian American issues" no longer stand separate from "Latino issues", or "Black issues"; instead they are rapidly becoming issues of concern to all communities of color, to progressives as a whole, and have quickly come to be in direct conflict with the Republican platform. Of course, much work needs to be done to hold the Democratic party accountable and truly responsive to the needs of Asian Americans and other communities of color. There is also the open question as to what extent the recent Asian American support of Democrats is a result of an Obama effect, i.e. the President's unique personal story and transformative candidacy.
Regardless, the impact of Asian American voters will be significant for decades to come. Though traditionally concentrated in big cities on the coasts, Asian American populations, like Latinos, are growing quickly in urban and suburban centers in the south. Asian Americans are undoubtedly positioned to impact elections with their money, organizing, leadership and sheer numbers. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. By 2050, there will be over 40 million Asian Americans, doubling their current electorate, while representing over 9% of the U.S. population. By then, combined with Latinos and Black Americans, Americans of color will represent a clear and decisive majority within the United States. There is power in solidarity, and with these numbers, elections then and today will be won and lost based on the turnout of these communities. Ultimately, the Obama Coalition (and the United States as a whole) is becoming larger, more diverse, and more progressive, while the Republican Party is becoming smaller, whiter, and stuck in the quicksand of its often intolerant and regressive ideologies.
At the end of the first Democratic primary debate, former Governor Martin O'Malley effectively contrasted the policy discussions within his party's debate and the ugly and gratuitous commentary amongst the Republicans. He said "On this stage you didn't hear anyone denigrate women, you didn't hear anyone make racist comments about new immigrants, you didn't hear anyone speak ill of anyone because of their religious belief...What you heard was an honest debate of what will move us forward." Well said, Governor. But truly a revealing and sad reflection of the state of the Republican party that stating such a basic disclaimer was necessary or morally imperative.
Republicans should not expect more wake up calls from Asian Americans or any other community of color. The GOP has made mighty clear that it disconnected the line. And the effects of that will be felt for a long time to come.