(NRO) In the scramble to make the GOP more diverse, a lot of people are looking at Asian Americans, who many believe are a natural constituency for the party. I would love it if Asian Americans converted en masse to the Republican party, but the challenge for Republicans is harder than many appreciate.
President Obama did spectacularly well with Asian Americans, garnering nearly three-quarters of their vote. This runs counter to a lot of conventional wisdom on both the left and the right. On average, family income is higher and poverty is lower among Asian Americans than among non-Latino whites. Entrepreneurship, family cohesion, and traditional values all run strong among Asian Americans, and reliance on government runs weak.
And yet Asian Americans — now the fastest-growing minority in America — are rapidly becoming a core constituency of the Democratic party.
I’ve joked for years with my Indian-American relatives and friends that they are the new Jews because their parents bury them in guilt and overeducate them. It turns out it doesn’t end there. Sociologist Milton Himmelfarb observed that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” Well, Indian Americans earn like Jews and vote like Jews.
And maybe for similar reasons. The comparison to Jews is instructive. Perhaps the most common explanation for the GOP’s problem with Asian Americans is the party’s pronounced embrace of Christianity, which turns off many Jews as well.
According to Pew studies, barely a third of Chinese Americans are Christian, and less than a fifth of Indian Americans are.
“Whenever a Gujarati or Sikh businessman comes to a Republican event, it begins with an appeal to Jesus Christ,” conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza recently told The New York Times Magazine. “While the Democrats are really good at making the outsider feel at home, the Republicans make little or no effort.”
My friend and colleague Ramesh Ponnuru, an Indian American and devout Catholic, says the GOP has a problem with seeming like a “club for Christians.”
That rings true to me. I’ve attended dozens of conservative events where, as the speaker, I was, in effect, the guest of honor, and yet the opening invocation made no account of the fact that the guest of honor wasn’t a Christian. I’ve never taken offense, but I can imagine how it might seem to someone who felt like he was even less a part of the club.
A few years ago, Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist, reported this finding: As racial and ethnic diversity increases, social trust and cohesion plummets. “Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer,” Putnam found. “People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle.”
The villain isn’t racism or bigotry or anything so simple. The phenomenon is much more complex. Indeed, it’s not clear why this happens, but it’s clear that it does. Economic inequality and cultural attitudes do not matter much. “Americans raised in the 1970s,” Putnam writes, “seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s.”
Part of the explanation stems from the fact that people with shared experiences and cultures draw strength from working together, whereas with strangers, language often becomes guarded, intentions questioned.
The GOP is not a Christian club, but there’s no disputing that Christianity is a major source of strength and inspiration for many Republican activists. This is nothing new and, generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with this. The abolitionist, progressive, and civil-rights movements were all significantly powered by Christian faith.
As someone who’s long argued for theological pluralism and moral consensus on the right, I think it’s nuts for the GOP not to do better with Asian Americans, particularly given how little religion has to do with the policy priorities of the day.
Twenty years ago, conservatives started referring to Judeo-Christian values in an effort to be more inclusive. The challenge now is to figure out how to talk in a way that doesn’t cause decent and dedicated Christians to pull in like a turtle, while also appealing to non-Judeo-Christians and the nonreligious. That’ll be hard, requiring more than name-dropping Confucius or Krishna.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
It’s all about financial frugality or something. As well as an obvious tweak of the RNC.
“While this decision has not been an easy one, recent events regarding Republican National Committee fundraising at Voyeur, an LA based lesbian bondage themed nightclub finally tipped the scales.
“As I have said for well over a year, it is time that our government and our tax policy begin rewarding entrepreneurship and creativity again. It is time again to inspire positive risks and out-of-the-box thinking in the interest of growing a strong economy and a strong America.
“For me, this spirit can be summed up in the RNC’s investment of donor funds at Voyeur.
“As someone who has worked extensively in both the club and film side of the Adult Entertainment Industry, I know from experience that a mere $1900 outlay at a club with the reputation of Voyeur is a clear indication of a frugal investment with a keen eye toward maximum return.
“And I firmly believe that it is precisely this type of creative and calculated investing that we, as taxpaying Americans, should expect not only from our political parties but from our government. The American taxpayer deserves consistent conservatives who reject wasteful spending and unwarranted government intervention in the private sector.
“As is the case with so many of my fellow Louisianans, I have been a registered Democrat throughout my life. But now I cannot help but recognize that over time my libertarian values regarding both money and sex and the legal use of one for the other is now best espoused by the Republican Party.”
|tonight I was told that because I was intimidated by the police after getting hit by a car with my bicycle that I deserved being bullied because all police are Republicans and that these individual knows what people think when they go into a booth to vote. does this logic make any sense? I was told I deserve to rot in jail for voting for Republican. as far as I know Republicans are the ones trying to make the government smaller so that the police don’t have to aggressively give out tickets to men with bicycles that get hit by cars. at any rate I was told I will not be helped with this, so I will be going to jail because I can’t afford to pay the ticket and for some reason business keeps on leaving a state that has high taxes, so I don”t have employment. It was nice to know you all, but obviously some people enjoy playing a joke with the paradox and catch 22. so I say goodbye. I’m sorry I had to chase that rainbow of a college education and pursuit of higher thought before I realized that it was all about insuring that government gets bigger|
funny enough the Conservatives are believing the media’s myth about their demise, but actually the Republican Party has not been this healthy in decades. Obama is doing so badly that I think we could elect a dead man in 2012. even CNN is poking the White House.