There has been some chatter about why Asian American voters overwhelmingly favored Obama over Romney. Paul Krugman has the data here. In short, Black, Latino, Jewish and Asian households are more Democratic than one would predict from their income, and conversely, Southern Whites are more Republican. In that sense, one needs to spend as much time explaining why poor Southern Whites vote against their economic interests as do wealthy “urban” voters.
Regarding Asian Americans, it’s generally acknowledged that they tend to be more conservative than the average voter. Take the Korean-American community. What characteristics define this group? Let’s see… disproportionately Christian (especially of the evangelical variety), regular church-goers (ever gone near a Korean-American church in Los Angeles on a Sunday? Jam packed…), business-oriented and entrepreneurial, suspicious of government, almost a reflexive hatred of taxes, extremely uptight about sexual issues… Remind you of any political party you know?
(This Pew Research Center article suggests Korean-Americans are conservative even by Asian American standards).
Thus Asian American voters have always been in a bit of a quandary come November 5th. Do you vote for a party that is more likely to look out for your interests, but with whom you fundamentally disagree with on practically every issue? Or do you vote for a party that hates you and wants nothing to do with you, but with whom you agree with philosophically?
The answer – at least in 2012 – has been the former rather than the latter. Why? Well, the obvious answer is race. The Republican party has become the party of angry white men – and, as much as the prime mover in the party, the Tea Party arm, tries to portray itself as motivated by economics,it is in fact animated by race. This is no party for Asians. A corollary to this is the issue of immigration, an issue that is as much Asian as it is Hispanic.
But I would like to offer two additional reasons why Obama got the Asian vote.
The first is Birtherism. If you don’t understand why Asians would react negatively in an immediate and visceral way to accusations of being a foreigner simply on the basis of a funny-sounding name and the color of one’s skin, well, you obviously don’t know anything about being Asian American.
The second reason is that Obama, clearly, likes Asians. He’s comfortable with them. This is self-evident, and is it so difficult to understand? His sister his half-Asian, his step-father was southeast Asian. These are not token relationships. They are bonds that are real and profound and long-lasting.
Toni Morrison once famously claimed Bill Clinton as “our first black President.”
After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
Well, how about a skinny, geeky guy who likes taekwondo, is addicted to his Blackberry, nagged his sister to study harder, and hails from Hawaii?
I gotta say it…
Our first Asian President.