(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.
so Beck attacked Geert Wilders. if Geert were really far right wing extreme then why is Beck endorsing his position on his own show? Beck is a total hypocrite and is unstable. Beck since when has the far right supported gay rights and stood up to Shariah law to protect artists like Theo Van Gogh who was also gay? Looks like the Saudi Royalty really did buy a lot of Rupert’s ass through his dhimmi son’s Ivy League connections.
Wilders has come out strongly in condemnation of far-right European parties like Front National and Vlaams Belang, suggesting that the Dutch MP’s beliefs, while inconsistent with regard to the Qur’an and Islam, are significantly more complicated than the pundits portray them. Wilders, who calls himself an advocate of freedom, has argued that the Dutch prohibition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf is contradictory when the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, calls for violence. His provoking film, Fitna, lays out his case that Islam maintains violent elements. Wilders’ criticism of the Islamic faith should lead to civilized discussion on theology as opposed to calls for censorship and labels which attempt to stigmatize. While I disagree with the position of banning literature, especially as it may open the door for banning both religious and secular texts, Wilders undoubtedly has a right to freedom of speech.
The American media ought to be monitoring Geert Wilders’ trial in which he is accused of “the incitement to hatred and discrimination.” Mr. Wilders’ trial has more implications than many may think. Wilders is being persecuted for voicing provocative ideas that should be discussed rather than censored, a point which Fox News clearly missed on Monday evening.
Beck’s criticism of Wilders is pretty dismissible since the populist TV commentator does not appear particularly versed in European affairs. Indeed, in the video linked at his name, Beck erroneously identifies French politician Dominique de Villepin as “far right” and then mispronounces his name – in fingers down a blackboard fashion – as if he had confused the Chirac protégé with the truly fascist Jean Marie le Pen. Maybe he had. Only his producers, who have served him poorly here, know for sure. And maybe even they don’t, which is the problem. (Beck should also have another look at Jonah Goldberg’s book and at Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom before he makes such simplistic conclusions about fascism, the left and the right across the pond.)
The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.
Wilders is making a theological point here — his contention is that Islam, as set forth in the teachings of the Koran, “commands Muslims to exercise jihad. . .to establish shariah law [and]. . .to impose Islam on the entire world.” I’m no scholar of Islam, but I believe Wilders is correct. To show otherwise, one would have to explain away portions of the Koran. It is not enough just to call Wilders’ interpretation of that book “narrow.”
“if Wilders is correct, and the line between Islam and Islamism is as blurred as the Dutchman posits, then we in the West are in very deep trouble indeed.”
Wilders also makes many conservatives uncomfortable because, as Roger notes, he called for banning the Koran in Holland the way Mein Kampf is restricted in that country, to scholars in libraries — a step I oppose. Wilders has said he never really wanted a true banning and that he made his call to give publicity to this issue in his country.
If so, this was a misguided way to go about generating publicity. But it doesn’t seriously detract from Roger’s conclusion that Wilders “is a highly intelligent man on the front lines of the struggle for a secular and free Europe and should not be dismissed – or misunderstood.”