The Republican Party’s problems with Latino voters are well documented, but its poor performance with Asian-Americans should be giving the party even greater pause. By and large, Asian-Americans are affluent, well educated, and disproportionately absent from the dreaded 47 percent. Moreover, they once had a history of voting Republican. In 1992, Asian-Americans favored George H. W. Bush over Bill Clinton, and four years later they went for Bob Dole.
Much has changed. Since 2000, Asian-Americans have consistently voted Democratic. In 2008, Asian-Americans gave 62 percent of their vote to Barack Obama. Last November that number jumped to 73 percent even as the president’s margin of victory in the popular vote was cut in half as he garnered a Dukakis-like 41 percent of white voters and slid by more than 13 points among Jewish-Americans.
It is not for lack of trying that Republicans are being rebuffed by this fast-growing, though still small, demographic. Republicans in Louisiana and South Carolina nominated Indian Americans to be their party’s respective gubernatorial nominees, and after both candidates won they were nationally showcased. At the cabinet level, add Elaine Chao, who served for eight years as W’s Labor secretary and is the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
From a policy perspective, the Republicans have been more welcoming to Asians than to other immigrants. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney supported increased immigration by skilled workers (read: Asians), despite demanding “self-deportation” for nondocumented aliens (read: Latinos). Republican rising star Marco Rubio, together with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons and Republican Orrin Hatch, recently sponsored legislation to increase the number of H1-B visas granted to educated and skilled employees. Asian immigrants hold more than two in five of the H1-B high-skill visas presently issued.
The GOP’s appeal has gone beyond tokenism, yet its pitch has lacked purchase. Asian-Americans are no longer buying what the GOP is selling. Why the buyers’ remorse?
These days, the GOP strikes Asian-Americans, along with many other Americans, as hostile to science and modernity. For example, George W. Bush severely restricted the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research and cast his very first presidential veto to block enactment of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. More recently, Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia—a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and a prospective Senate candidate—declared that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang were lies that emanated from the pit of Hell. Apparently, a low-taxes-only agenda is no longer enough to woo a demographic whose median household income exceeds $90,000 by the time that they become third-generation Americans.
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