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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Asians and Republicans

Our more recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses voter demographics .

At The Liberal Patriot, Seth Moskowitz analyzes a small but significant GOP shift among Asian Americans:
What makes the 2022 midterms so noteworthy, then, is that they represent a break from the decades-long trend toward Democrats. And when you drill down into the numbers, it becomes clear that two issues in particular are responsible for the Asian American backslide toward Republicans: public safety and education.

Let’s start with the former. As violent crime surged in cities throughout the country in 2020 and 2021, the Democrats in charge of many of those cities largely failed to respond with an effective message or policy agenda. Rather than prosecuting criminals and getting repeat offenders off of the streets, many Democrats took a “root causes” approach that came across as quixotic and ineffective. Moreover, following George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, many people, fairly or not, began to see the Democratic Party as anti-police. For many Asian Americans who live in urban areas, the visible erosion of public safety was unacceptable—and they blamed Democrats for letting it happen.

The first sign that this could pose an electoral problem for Democrats came in early 2022 with the effort to recall San Francisco’s progressive District Attorney, Chesa Boudin. Simmering fury about Boudin’s handling of crime and his seemingly indifferent attitude towards the victims of crime, many of whom were Asian American, eventually boiled over into outrage. And while every major racial demographic favored recalling Boudin, Asian Americans were by far the most supportive, with around 67 percent supporting the recall and only 13 percent opposing.

Frustration about crime wasn’t isolated to San Francisco. Asked in a national poll ahead of the midterms how important crime was to determining their vote, 85 percent of Asian Americans said it was “extremely” or “very” important. And when asked which party handles crime better, Asian Americans broke about even between Democrats and Republicans. Compared to other issues like health care, immigration, and gun control, on which Asian Americans overwhelmingly prefer Democrats, crime is a striking outlier.

The other issue most responsible for Asian Americans’ rightward shift is education. For many Asian Americans, especially those who are immigrants or low-income, education represents the step ladder for reaching a better life for themselves or their children. In recent years, however, Democrats have begun to fold up that stepladder in the name of racial equity. Across the country—from San Francisco to Boston to New York City and beyond—public school systems have tried to restructure the admissions process for “gifted and talented” schools and programs. By replacing academic assessments with lottery systems or other subjective evaluations, these proposals would dramatically reduce the number of Asian American students admitted, sometimes by as much as 40 or 50 percent.

The response from Asian Americans? Anger, resentment, and an electoral backlash. In San Francisco, Asian Americans drove the recall of three school board members who had rammed through one such admissions change. In New York City, frustration with a new admissions process that replaced academic screenings with lottery systems for hundreds of selective public middle and high schools eventually drove Mayor Eric Adams to roll back the unpopular reform.

And while admissions changes like these are certainly animating for many Asian Americans, Democrats are pushing plenty of other education policies that are likely just as politically toxic. One example is California’s attempt to eliminate honors-level classes and prohibit schools from sorting students according to academic achievement. Another is the ongoing attempt to encourage colleges to consider race and ethnicity when deciding which students to admit, something that only 21 percent of Asian American adults support according to a recent Gallup poll. In short, Democratic attempts to meddle with education in the name of equity and social justice at the expense of equality and fairness are driving away Asian American voters.