The two Americas: on whose side are Asian-Americans?

It has become the conventional political narrative: America is today split, between two nations. In one, there are the liberal, secular, overeducated, cosmopolitan, pro-free-trade urban bi-coastals, the effeminate Ivy Leaguers who shop at Whole Foods, read The New York Times and who voted for Hillary Clinton last November.
In the other America, there are the conservative, traditional, high-school-educated, nationalist, protectionist rural residents of Flyover Country, the racist, boorish, theocratic folks who gravitate to authoritarian figures, hate science and watch Fox News, and who cast their ballots for Donald Trump in 2016.
A caricature perhaps; but like every caricature, it has some element of truth. According to a new study issued by the Pew Research Centerthis month, the divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values, on government, race, immigration, and the environment, which reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency, have widened dramatically in Trump’s first year as president. Pollsters seem to agree that you can predict the electoral orientations of voters by studying their political values that tend to correlate with their economic status, level of education, religious beliefs, and places of residence. Most residents of Washington, DC; Manhattan, New York; Marin county, California; and Cambridge, Massachusetts, who have advanced academic degrees and hold jobs in the knowledge industry, who are liberal and secular in their political-cultural orientation, and who support legalizing same-sex marriages, vote for Democratic candidates.
West Virginians, those rural voters and blue-collar workers with high-school educations, who attend church every week and are opposed to legalizing same-sex marriages, cannot imagine someone casting a ballot for Clinton.
Asian-Americans, and especially the younger members of that community, are now being asked to choose a side in the cold civil war between the two American nations.
And they apparently have been gravitating to the one that is more culturally liberal and racially diverse, which resides in the large urban centers of the country, where the centers of higher education and scientific research are located.
There was a time when Asian-Americans were seen as the natural political allies of the Republican Party. The party represented the principles of the free market, supported the interests of small businesses, celebrated social-conservative values, and stood at the forefront of opposition to international communism.
Indeed, if you had asked pollsters in the 1970s to forecast the electoral trends among Asian-Americans, they would have suggested that you had to consider that most of them worked in the private sector, that they were also family-oriented and subscribed to traditional values. And that their families had fled communist persecution in Asian countries. Considering all of that, it was a no-brainer. Asian-Americans would probably vote for Republican political candidates in the 1974 election.
And, indeed, during the post-1945 era the majority of Asian-American voters that included refugees from communist-ruled China, Korea and Vietnam tended to identify with the conservative and anti-communist agenda of the Republicans. They went for Ronald Reagan, a Republican president whose economic principles, social values and foreign policy seemed to be in line with theirs, as was his commitment to the notion of the US as a nation of immigrants. His successor at the White House, Republican George H W Bush, received 55% of the Asian-American vote compared with 31% for Democrat Bill Clinton.
But during the past two decades, Asian-Americans have begun drifting electorally in the Democratic direction, with 55% of them voting in 2000 for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore to 41% for Republican George W Bush, while in 2004 it was Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who won the majority (56%) of the Asian-American vote.
The gap has been widening in favor of the Democrats since then, with Barack Obama winning a growing majority of Asian-American voters in 2008 (62%) and 2012 (73%).
In fact, in 2012 the percentage of Asian-Americans going for Obama was higher than that of Latinos who voted for the Democratic presidential candidate (71%) and another traditionally Democratic leaning bloc of Jewish voters (70%).
And the trend in the Democrats’ direction continued in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning roughly two-thirds of Asian-American votes, and Trump receiving just over a quarter of their votes. First, the end of the Cold War has diminished the significance of foreign-policy issues in the electoral considerations of Asian-Americans, especially among the children of immigrants from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea. While the parents wanted to see a tough anti-communist crusader occupying the White House, their kids who were born in the United States have been more occupied with “normal” election concerns, such as the economy and education.

Dr Leon Hadar is a Washington-based journalist and global affairs analyst. He is currently a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm. He authored “Quagmire: America in the Middle East” (Cato Institute, 1992) and “Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Source: Asia Times


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