Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Hispanics Aren't The Only Group Turned Off By Right-wing Racism And Xenophobia-- Asian-Americans Have Given Up On The GOP


Tuesday night had some special significance for Asian-Americans. Philadelphians didn't just elect their first Asian-American woman to the City Council, they gave public education advocate Helen Gym the highest vote of the 7 at-large victors. I expect that in a few years she will be on the national stage. And in Lewiston, Maine, progressive activist Ben Chin came in first in the 5-way race for mayor. Chin was considerably ahead of conservative Republican incumbent Robert Macdonald, 44.08% to 37.29%, but because he didn't get 50%, there will be a run-off in December. Racist right-wing signs saying "Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin" appear to have not hurt Chin's efforts towards ousting Macdonald. But this kind of knee-jerk racism from Republicans has hurt their party with Asian-American voters across the country.

As Los Angeles Congressman Ted Lieu told us today, "The close-minded, xenophobic comments by leading Republican presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Jeb Bush send the following message to all minorities, including Asian Americans: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME. The message from GOP hardliners to Latinos and Asian Americans that 'we want you to join our party but we also want to deport your children and family members,' is not a message that has resonated, or ever will, resonate. America is witnessing the last gasps of an unsustainable viewpoint. A recent PEW study showed that 80% of America's population growth in the coming decades will be from immigrants, and that by 2055 the largest share will be from Asian American immigrants. The one fact that no one can change is that with every passing day, the rest of America looks more like California."

This week, Cecelia Hyunjung Mo, writing for the New Republic looked into why Asian Americans don't vote Republican. Obama took 73% of the Asian-American vote-- which exceeded his support among traditional Democratic Party constituencies like Hispanics (71%) and women (55%)-- and that is a complete turn-around from just two decades ago when Asian-Americans were favoring Republicans. "The Democratic presidential vote share, among Asian Americans," she wrote, "has steadily increased from 36 percent in 1992, to 64 percent in the 2008 election to 73 percent in 2012... No other group has shifted so dramatically in their party identification within such a short time period. Some are calling it the “GOP’s Asian erosion.”
Asian Americans as a group have a number of attributes that would usually predict an affinity for the Republican Party.

American Enterprise Institute’s notes:
“If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define ‘natural' … And yet something has happened to define conservatism in the minds of Asians as deeply unattractive.”
As shown by Andrew Gelman and his coauthors in their book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do, income is a powerful driver of political party preferences. Generally, richer voters are more likely to vote Republican.

Asian Americans' income is, on average, higher than any other ethnic group in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, the median Asian household had a higher income (US$65,469) than the median white household ($51,863). Median black and Hispanic household incomes were $32,584 and $38,039, respectively.

So why are Asian Americans leaning left instead of right?

My research with Alexander Kuo and Neil Malhotra offers one explanation. The feeling of social exclusion stemming from their ethnic background might be pushing Asian Americans away from the Republican Party.

Asian Americans are regularly made to feel like foreigners in their own country through “innocent” racial microaggressions. Microaggressions are “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent.” An example is being asked “Where are you really from?”-- after answering the question “Where are you from?” with a location within the United States. Another is being complimented on one’s great English-speaking skills. In both cases, the underlying assumption is that Asian Americans are outsiders.

According to a 2005 study by Sapna Cheryan and Benoit Monin, Asian Americans are right to feel excluded. The study shows Asian Americans are seen as less American than other Americans.

...[R]hetoric from Republicans insinuating that nonwhite “takers” are taking away from white “makers,” as well as their strong anti-immigrant positions, has cultivated a perception that the Republican Party is less welcoming of minorities. Since the Democratic Party is seen as less exclusionary, we find that triggering feelings of social exclusion makes Asian Americans favor Democrats.

...When we examined the 2008 National Asian American Survey (NAAS), a nationally representative sample of over 5,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we found that self-reported racial discrimination, a proxy for feelings of social exclusion, was positively correlated with identification with the Democratic Party over the Republican Party.

Analyzing the NAAS data, we find that racial discrimination is not rare. Nearly 40 percent of Asian Americans suffered at least one of the following forms of racial discrimination in their lifetime:
being unfairly denied a job or fired
being unfairly denied a promotion at work
being unfairly treated by the police
being unfairly prevented from renting or buying a home
treated unfairly at a restaurant or other place of service
being a victim of a hate crime.
Understanding Asian American political behavior has important electoral ramifications. According to a 2013 U.S. Census report, while Asian Americans are only 5 percent of the US population and about 4 percent of voters, in some states they make up a considerably higher proportion of the electorate. Asian Americans make of 12 percent of likely voters in California. They are projected to become 9 percent of the overall US population by 2015.

Since 1996, the number of Asian Americans who cast votes has increased by 105 percent, in contrast to a 13 percent increase among white voters. Additionally, while the lion share of Asian American votes are going to Democratic candidates, according to Zoltan Hajnal and Taeku Lee, the majority of Asian Americans are not officially affiliated with any party. That means they’re “gettable” by either party.

So what can the GOP do to win the Asian American vote?

The short answer is, not what they are currently doing.

As long as Republicans appear unwelcoming of minorities, our findings suggest, they will struggle to get Asian Americans’ electoral support.

Recent rhetoric around immigration reform from leading Republican presidential candidates goes beyond subtle racial microaggressions. The current Republican candidates are being explicitly exclusionary. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are doubling down on anti-immigrant sentiments, stating sweeping and offensive stereotypes of immigrants.

Jeb Bush, rather than apologizing for the use of the offensive term “anchor babies,” defended the use of the term by redirecting the conversation away from Latino immigrants to Asian immigrants.

Our study suggests that the increasing salience of issues like immigration that implicitly or explicitly offend minority groups coupled with exclusionary rhetoric from prominent leaders of the Republican Party will continue to push Asian Americans to the Democratic Party.
The Blue America-backed candidate running in CA-46 (Orange County), progressive Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee born in Thailand and a California resident since infancy, told us that "[s]ometimes, people tell me that I speak English 'very good,' and I know they meant 'very well.' What defines America isn't the language we prefer to speak or from where we have come, but how we advance our democracy by ensuring that all people of our great nation have the same rights and privileges granted by our constitution."

Aside from the election Tuesday night, many Asian-Americans were probably fascinated by the long-anticipated PBS showing of a documentary from ProPublica, Terror In Little Saigon (video below). It's a horrific story about right-wing domestic terrorism directed at Vietnamese-American journalists. It is the 1980s story of 5 murdered journalists, from Houston to Garden Grove by a shadowy right-wing group preying on and extorting the Vietnamese community with impunity.

ProPublica's A.C. Thompson, an investigative journalist interviewed the families of the victims and former members of the Front. His work, published here, was the basis of Tuesday night's Frontline report.
FBI agents came to believe that the journalists’ killings, along with an array of fire-bombings and beatings, were terrorist acts ordered by an organization called the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, a prominent group led by former military commanders from South Vietnam. Agents theorized that the Front was intimidating or executing those who defied it, FBI documents show, and even sometimes those simply sympathetic to the victorious Communists in Vietnam. But the FBI never made a single arrest for the killings or terror crimes, and the case was formally closed two decades ago.

...The Front openly raised money in America to restart the Vietnam War, even launching three failed invasions from the borders of Thailand and Laos. Our reporting shows that officials at the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI knew about the Front’s military operations in Southeast Asia. But federal authorities never acted to enforce the Neutrality Act, which bars residents and citizens of this country from efforts to overthrow a foreign government... Terror in Little Saigon tells the story of a reign of intimidation and murder for which no one has been held to account.

UPDATE: Wrongful Indictments Against Asian-Americans

Reacting to some pretty horrific cases, Ted Lieu, Judy Chu and Keith Ellison sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that the Department of Justice open a full investigation into whether race, ethnicity or national origin played a part in recent instances where Asian Americans have been wrongfully arrested and indicted for alleged espionage only to have those charges later dropped. Lieu wants to know why there appears to be an ongoing pattern and practice of people of color being singled out by federal law enforcement and prosecutors.


Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home