How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem / Flickr

Of the various post-election stories, the GOP’s “Latino problem” is one of the most prominent. At some point over the last three weeks, every prominent Republican leader has had something to say about the party’s poor performance with Latino voters.

Less remarked upon, but just as important, is the GOP’s abysmal showing with Asian Americans. Most exit polls show President Obama winning Asian Americans 3-to–1, a larger spread than his margin among Latinos, and second only to African Americans, who gave nearly all of their votes to the president.

As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes.

There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically, economically, and otherwise), and there many who would benefit from the core Obama agenda of health care reform, stronger social services, and investments in education and other programs. Still, even with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Asian American support for Obama is as much about inclusion as it is about policy.

Which is why this piece, from conservative scholar Charles Murray, rankles. Rather than consider Asian American political preferences on their own terms—or even acknowledge the range of experience among different Asian American groups—Murray lumps them all into a single, undistinguished mass of model minorities, and then wonders why they don’t vote for Republican candidates:

Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.”

It’s worth noting the implicit contrast here. Entrepreneurism, industriousness, family-orientation, self-reliance—these are things that Murray sees as unique to Republican constituencies. Which must also mean that these are thing that go unvalued by Democratic constituencies, namely, African Americans, Latinos, young people, and single women.

In any case, if Asian Americans “should” be voting Republican, but aren’t, what explains the difference? Murray explains:

[S]omething has happened to define conservatism in the minds of Asians as deeply unattractive, despite all the reasons that should naturally lead them to vote for a party that is identified with liberty, opportunity to get ahead, and economic growth. I propose that the explanation is simple. Those are not the themes that define the Republican Party in the public mind. Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.

Nevermind the fact that the modern GOP is actually fundamentalist, anti-gay, and anti-reproductive rights. The real story is that Asians—and everyone else—has been duped!

Again, this grossly ignores the actual experiences of Asian Americans, which include economic disenfranchisement, political isolation, and racial discrimination. Republicans have few solutions for the first two, and actively ignore the latter, to say nothing of the Republican candidates who attempt to win office by exploiting prejudice against nonwhites, including Asian Americans.

Indeed, it’s hard to miss the outright racism in Murray’s argument. From treating Asian Americans as a monolith, to implicitly denigrating the values of other minorities, and outright dismissing the preferences of Asian Americans as nothing more than the unfortunate consequence of a mass delusion.

Eighteen years ago, Charles Murray won national prominence for his widely-criticized book, The Bell Curve, which presented racist ideas about the intelligence of African Americans in more acceptable terms. Somehow, Murray has escaped the shadow of his debunked exercise in scientific racism. But every so often, he helpfully reminds you of his history. This is one of those times.


The infamous Mr. Murray says of the Republican Party that it is " a party that is identified with liberty, opportunity to get ahead, and economic growth." This is all fictive claptrap.

The Republican Party is identified with preventing people from voting by passing absurd laws, pulling voting machines from precincts which may be expected to vote against Republican candidates, placing billboards with threatening slogans on roads to voting precincts where they don't expect to win, and setting up voting observers whose plan is to keep as many Democratic Party members from voting as they can. Not part of a definition of liberty in my book.

The Republican Party stands for keeping people on top who are already on top, and preventing those below the top from rising.

And their record on economic growth is appalling - when the Republican Party is in office, incomes are stagnate at best, and drop more often than not. The stock market also rises more - a lot more - when the Democratic Party is in power. These statistics are easy to look up, and just as easy to understand.

The Republican Party is all about accumulating power into the hands of old white men who claim to be Christian - but who obviously pay no attention to the teachings of Jesus - love thine enemy, share what is your with those who have not, etc, etc.

It has nothing to do with liberty, except the liberty of powerful white men to grind a boot-heel into the face of anyone they care to abuse.

It has nothing to do with enabling hard workers to get ahead, and everything to do with smashing unions, destroying safety and environmental regulations, denying people equal pay for equal work, and holding working people down where they have the least amount of power the Republicans can arrange.

And what is worst is that Murray knows all this, but will deny it to the death.

In addition to all the other reason not to vote Republican, I don't think Asians have this knee-jerk hatred of the government that the right espouses. In olden days, for many the goal was to do well on the civil service exam to become a mandarin. And even today the governments in Asia take a larger role in their economies.

Also Asians don't have this individualistic, Randian bent that pervades the right. The notion of going Galt probably doesn't ring true among Asians.

The Republicans lost me with Pat Buchanan's 1992 speech (to the Republican National Convention), and have done nothing to win me back since.

"which presented racist ideas about the intelligence of African Americans in more acceptable terms. Somehow, Murray has escaped the shadow of his debunked exercise in scientific racism. But every so often, he helpfully reminds you of his history. This is one of those times."

You make an assertion here that you make no attempt to back up at all. The IQ discrepancy between black and white Americans has been thoroughly researched and well documented. It is universally acknowledged as real. However, there are several competing hypothesis as to why this gap exists and persists. I will not get into the differing explanations offered, though I would advise against discarding scientific research solely on the basis of not liking the results that are found. Many people do similar things, for example, with evidence pointing to man-made global warming and evolution. Despite overwhelming, undeniable evidence showing evolutions existence many still deny it. Despite the body of available evidence pointing to man-made carbon emissions as the cause of global warming, many people also deny it. People generally deny those findings because they don't like them. Here--without even considering the evidence about IQ score variation among different groups--you are quick to discard it. That is no different than those who deny global warming and evolution. It is no better than that.

It should be noted, in nearly all of the studies conducted on IQ or proxies for IQ (such as SAT, GRE, etc. scores) Asians routinely score higher than do their white peers. So it can hardly be argument the data are manipulated to show white superiority or black inferiority or anything like that. The data show what the data show, and just because you don't like what the data show, does not mean it is wrong and certainly does not mean it is proper to discard it on that basis alone. Since Asians routinely score higher on IQ tests than whites, I fail to see how one could argue this "scientific racism" serves no purpose but to denigrate blacks and elevate whites. Whites regularly score lower than Asians in virtually every large scale study.

If you choose to ignore data you don't like because it doesn't conform to what you believe is right, then you are truly no better than the climate deniers or evolution deniers.

Moreover, I should add that Asian Americans are the most discriminated against group in the entire country. It is immoral and we as a society should reject it, yet for some reason I never hear loud calls denouncing admissions and employer practices. Asians' chances of gaining admission into top universities is lower simply because they are Asian. Asians are discriminated against for no other reason than they are Asian. How is that fair? That is an abomination. The American people should stand by the Asian community and reject this racism and these discriminatory practices. People should not be discriminated against simply for being Asian. That is wrong.

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