Democratic Party

Asian Americans Are an Emerging Force in U.S. Politics

First Posted in the National Journal

In the countless commentaries focusing on the demographic factors shaping the outcome of the 2012 election, there has been virtually nothing said about the contribution of Asian-Americans to the electorate and to Barack Obama’s reelection. It will be hard to ignore this growing group of voters much longer.

Since at least 2009, the number of Asian immigrants entering the United States has exceeded that of Hispanics, and in 2012 Asian-Americans cast a higher percentage of their ballots for Obama than did Hispanics (73 percent to 71 percent). Members of this very diverse community accounted for about 3 percent of the electorate on Nov. 6. Since Asians continue to migrate to the U.S. in large numbers, and because about 30 percent of Asian-Americans in the country now are not yet citizens but are likely to become so in the future, their share of the electorate should keep growing.

The 113th Congress going into session in January will include a dozen Asian-American members, the largest number ever. Irvine, Calif., in the heart of the formerly solid Republican Orange Country, cast 52 percent of its votes for Obama, principally because Asian-Americans now make up almost 40 percent of the city’s population. 

The presence of Asian-Americans in the 2012 election was not limited to candidates or voting; they were even part of its pop culture. Throughout the campaign, videos emerged depicting the presidential candidates dancing in “Gangnam Style,” a Korean version of hip-hop. One, featuring a dancer with a striking resemblance to Obama, came to the president’s attention causing him to remark that he might be able to repeat some of the dancer’s “moves,” but only privately for the First Lady and not at an inaugural ball.

Another was designed to inspire a trip to the polls by young Asian-Americans living in the 626 area code of California’s San Gabriel Valley, heavily populated by Asian-Americans of varied national backgrounds, especially Chinese.   

A June 2012 Pew Social Trends survey, aptly titled, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” demonstrates the increasing importance of Asian-Americans in U.S. politics, suggesting that they are taking their place in an emerging Democratic coalition that could dominate American politics during the coming four decades.

Some other observations:

Asian-Americans overwhelmingly identify as Democrats. Asian-Americans identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party by an almost 2-to-1 margin (50 percent to 28 percent). Similar to Hispanics, among whom Cuban-Americans traditionally identify with the GOP while those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent most often see themselves as Democrats, there are nationality variations in party ID among Asian-Americans.

Indian-Americans (65 percent Democrats to 18 percent Republican), Japanese-Americans (54 percent to 29 percent), Chinese-Americans (49 percent to 26 percent) and Korean Americans (48 percent to 32 percent) are solidly in the Democratic camp.

Filipino-Americans (43 percent Democrats to 40 percent Republican) and Vietnamese-Americans (36 percent to 35 percent) are evenly divided in their partisan identification.

Like Americans generally, younger Asian-Americans and Asian-American women are slightly more likely to call themselves Democrats than older voters and men.

Asian-Americans tilt liberal. Asian-Americans lean more toward the liberal than the conservative side of the political spectrum. Among all Asian-Americans, 31 percent say they are liberal, 24 percent call themselves conservative, and 37 percent say they are moderate.

By contrast, in a Pew survey of the general public conducted at about the same time as its survey of Asian-Americans, 34 percent identified as conservatives, 24 percent as liberals, and 37 percent as moderates. Younger Asian-Americans are particularly likely to be liberal rather than conservative (39 percent to 17 percent).

Asian-Americans favor activist government. A majority of Asian-Americans prefer a “bigger government that provides more services” rather than a “smaller government that provides fewer services.” In this regard, they are the mirror image of the general public which favors a smaller rather than a bigger government by 52 percent to 39 percent. Asian-American women are far more positive about “big government” than men (61 percent to 49 percent).

Asian-Americans have more liberal views on social issues. The majority of Asian-Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and that homosexuality should be accepted. On both of these social issues the beliefs of Asian-Americans are virtually identical to those of the general public.

As is the case with Americans overall, young Asian-Americans are substantially more likely to hold “liberal” beliefs on social issues. However, not surprisingly, as among Americans generally, social issue attitudes are shaped to a far greater extent by religion rather than demographics.

Large majorities of non-Christian Asian-Americans (Hindus, Buddhists and those unaffiliated with a faith) support tolerance of gays and relatively open abortion policies. Most Asian-American Christians take the opposite stance.

Asian-Americans approve of President Obama and are more positive about the direction of the U.S than Americans overall. At the time the Pew survey was conducted, 43 percent of Asian-Americans said they were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S., more than twice the percentage of the general public that felt that way (21 percent). As a result, a majority of Asian-Americans (54 percent) approved of the way Obama was handling his job as president. That was 10 points higher than his approval rating among the general public.

Given their majority Democratic identification and liberal leanings on issues, the high level of Asian-American support for Obama in 2012 and 2008 (when 63 percent voted for him) is not surprising. Even more important, those identifications and attitudes suggest that Asian-Americans are likely to be a component of the Democratic coalition long after the president has left office.


Who's Coming to the Party

This article originally appeared in the National Journal

An August national survey of nearly 3300 Americans 18-85 years old conducted by research company, Frank N. Magid Associates, details the current composition of two party coalitions that are more distinctive from one another than at any time in the past 50 years, perhaps even since the Great Depression. 

In many democracies political parties represent particular interests: labor or business, specific religions, ethnicities, or regions. In America, with its continental dimensions, varied population, and a constitutional system designed to disperse governing power, political parties are historically and still remain, coalitions of various social groups. No party monopolizes the members of any one demographic and each party contains at least some representation from all segments of the population.

 Once formed, the party coalitions have staying power. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt assembled the New Deal coalition comprised of Southern whites; the Greatest Generation children of eastern and southern European immigrants; white workers; and urban blacks.  This coalition dominated US electoral politics for four decades and restructured public policy domestically, transforming public economic policy from laissez faire to governmental activism, and internationally, moving the nation’s foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism.

As new generations with new concerns emerged in the midst of the racial and lifestyle changes of the 1960s, the New Deal coalition fell apart. It was supplanted by a Republican coalition that increasingly added two former components of the Democratic coalition—the white south and working class whites—to the upper income white residents of suburbs and small towns outside of the South that had been the core of the GOP in the previous era. The new Republican coalition dominated national elections almost as long and shaped public policy almost as profoundly as had the New Deal coalition that it superseded. 

Party coalitions are formed in a nation with a constantly changing economy, political process, and demographic make-up and, consequently, are not permanent. The sharp differences between today’s two party coalitions are portrayed very clearly in the Magid data. 

 The majority of voters who identify with or lean to the Republican Party are males (54%) and members of America’s two oldest generations—Baby Boomers, those in their 50s to mid-60s, and Silents or seniors--who together comprise 53% of Republicans. The GOP coalition is almost entirely white (81%). It is disproportionately Southern (38% of all Republicans and 41% of strong Republican identifiers) and resides in above average numbers in small towns and rural areas (40%). Two-thirds of Republicans are married and three-quarters are Christian, while only 7% are unaffiliated with any faith. A third of all Republican identifiers and 42% of strong Republicans attend religious services at least weekly. And, not surprisingly, 56% of all Republicans and 68% of strong Republican identifiers are self-professed conservatives. 

The Democratic coalition is far different. A majority of Democratic identifiers are women (53%) and from the country’s two youngest generations—Millennials, voters in their 20s, and Gen-X’ers, people in their 30s and 40s, who in total make up 57% of Democrats. Forty-one percent of all Democrats and 45% of strong Democrats are non-white with about equal numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) live in the Northeast and West and a disproportionately large number live in big cities or suburbs (70%). Just half are married. Only 57% are Christian, while about one in five each are either of non-Christian denominations or unaffiliated with any faith. Just 21% of Democrats attend a religious service weekly. Slightly more (24%) never do. The Democratic coalition is, however, more diverse ideologically than the Republican: while a plurality (42%) are either self-identified liberals or progressives, nearly as many (35%) say they are politically moderate. 

 America is undergoing major demographic, economic, and societal changes that have led to this new alignment and will continue to shape the two party coalitions. Some of the change—the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the 1930s--was severe and occurred almost overnight. Other changes, among them the transformation of the nation from a white to non-white majority country, the emergence of America’s largest and most diverse generation, the Millennials, and a makeover of the U.S. economy, are taking place more slowly, but equally profoundly.

In order to hold together and expand their coalitions, both parties will need to formulate a new “civic ethos” that addresses the fundamental question of what the size and scope of government should be in this new era. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney recognize this and used their party’s conventions to articulate distinctly different visions and values that they believe should shape and guide America’s politics and government in the coming years. The party that enunciates this new civic ethos in a way which enables it to build a majority electoral and governing  coalition is likely  to dominate U.S. politics for the next four or five decades. 

The Long Road Back, Part One

Absent huge Democratic mistakes in the next few years, the Republican Party's road back could very well be a long one. They just suffered their worst Presidential defeat in 44 years, and have now suffered crushing defeats two elections in a row, a rarity in American history.   The Democrats have more ideological control of Washington than any time since the mid- 1960s. The Democrats themselves have thoroughly modernized in the past few years, building a very 21st century and potentially durable coalition, discovering the first new electoral map of this new century, employing the very latest and very potent tools to speak to and engage the American people, and have become fully focused on the big issues the American people now face. The center-left movement is also regenerating, and has created an investment and entrepreneurial capacity that has a very good chance of building a truly powerful and modern ideological movement to complement the modernizing Democrats. And of course, the Democrats are led by a thoroughly modern man, America's first true leader of this new century, Barack Obama, who so far has shown uncommon leadership potential for a man so young and so new to the national stage.  

The Republicans, on the other hand, seem unnaturally comfortable sticking to their once successful but increasingly anachronistic ways of the 20th century. Their politics has become more reactionary than conservative, as if their party's great task has become to nostalgically but angrily fight against the emerging realities of the 21st century rather than embrace them. Their coalition no longer works in the changing demography of the day, and is dangerously old; their Southern Strategy, so critical to their ascension, has become a relic of the past; their tech and media tools have not kept up with the times; their ideas have become spent and discredited; their leaders, particularly in Washington, seem content to ankle bite rather than lead. They are an aging and frayed bunch, living off the fumes of a day and politics gone by.

At this point, I really believe there is a strong argument to be made that the GOP is further from power, more discredited and more out of touch with the American people than any time since the days of FDR and Truman. The GOP's challenge isn't a moderate-conservative one, a North-South one, a black-white-brown one - it is a forward/backward one. They succeeded in dislodging the Democrats in the late 20th century. They blew their shot in this decade to build a durable majority. Their government failed at a level that has done grave and lasting damage to their brand, and their leaders seem firmly grounded in an old politics that is simply no longer credible in this new day. They are going to have to go through a total overhaul. They will have to develop a new argument that meets the emerging challenges of the new century head on; a new electoral map; a new coalition that at some point begins to accept our fast-growing, non-white population; and competency in a whole new set of media and tech tools. They will have to shed the exploitation of race that has been at the core of their domestic politics; shed their raging intolerance of people not like them; of their comfort with politics and theater over governing; of the binary simplicity of the Cold War and the limitations of free market fundamentalism; and of a whole generation of leaders from Karl Rove to Mitch McConnell to Grover Norquist, who were schooled and evangelized in this breed of politics. This task is a big and complex one, harder perhaps than anything the right has had to do since the founding of the National Review in 1955. 

And certainly one cannot expect this new modern leadership to come from the remnants of the old failed order that still controls the all too comfortable offices of the modern GOP and conservative movement. Rather, look hard at those governors on display last week in Miami for clues to the future of America's center-right. But as able as those governors are - Pawlenty, Jindal, Crist, Palin - one did not see an obvious President there, someone ready to take on Obama in 2012, and lead their Party from a deep and dark wilderness. Interesting folks, but no FDR, no Reagan, no Clinton, no Obama. Despite their claims, the GOP farm team seems awfully thin now, at least for the short term.   

For the GOP it sure looks like a long road back. 

Very Different Party Platforms on Immigration

I am disheartened to read the Republican platform, presented yesterday at their Convention. In the area of immigration, once again, the party has shown their temperment, short-sightedness, and intolerance. I am even sorrier to see that the man who was once a champion of Immigration Reform, John McCain, is either not strong enough to stand up to the radical party base, or doesn't want to. It is telling that the section on immigration in the RNC platform is under "Defending Our Nation, Supporting Our Heroes, Securing the Peace" - again implying that 1) all immigrants are undocumented, and 2) all immigrants inherently pose some sort of danger, grasping at the irrational fear that's intended to move everday Americans to hate immigrants of all colors and creeds and to support the conservative base. But I shouldn't be surprised by the offensive nature of the RNC platform, after all, just today, in trying to "appeal" to Hispanic voters, Sen. McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis said that Republicans had to offer this demographic something "other than a deportation center" - but if he's appealing to Hispanic voters, his comment is pretty offensive - equating all the undocumented with Hispanics, and all Hispanic voters with the undocumented.

By contrast, the DNC platform includes immigration under the section entitled "Renewing the American Community," and is more concerned with modernizing and correcting the underlying flawed immigration system than with demonizing immigrants; more concerned with working with the countries of origin of immigrants and dealing with the causes of immigration than with building porous walls. The RNC platform tries to argue that Americans favor a mass deportation - that is not at all the case. Polling data consistently shows that American's favor a solution to the immigration issue at a federal level in the form of smarter laws, legalization for the undocumented, and smarter enforcement, not in the form of intolerance.


"Defending Our Nation,

Supporting Our Heroes, Securing the Peace

Immigration, National Security, and the Rule of Law

Immigration policy is a national security issue, for which we have one test: Does it serve the national interest? By that standard, Republicans know America can have a strong immigration system without sacrificing the rule of law. Border security is essential to national security. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, and criminal gangs, allowing millions of unidentified persons to enter and remain in this country poses grave risks to the sovereignty of the United States and the security of its people. We simply must be able to track who is entering and leaving our country. Our determination to uphold the rule of law begins with more effective enforcement, giving our agents the tools and resources they need to protect our sovereignty, completing the border fence quickly and securing the borders, and employing complementary strategies to secure our ports of entry. Experience shows that enforcement of existing laws is effective in reducing and reversing illegal immigration. Our commitment to the rule of law means smarter enforcement at the workplace, against illegal workers and lawbreaking employers alike, along with those who practice identity theft and traffic in fraudulent documents. As long as jobs are available in the United States, economic incentives to enter illegally will persist. But we must empower employers so they can know with confidence that those they hire are permitted to work. That means that the EVerify system-which is an internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees-must be reauthorized. A phased-in requirement that employers use the E-Verify system must be enacted.

The rule of law means guaranteeing to law enforcement the tools and coordination to deport criminal aliens without delay - and correcting court decisions that have made deportation so difficult. It means enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas, rather than letting millions flout the generosity that gave them temporary entry. It means imposing maximum penalties on those who smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S., both for their lawbreaking and for their cruel exploitation. It means requiring cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and real consequences, including the denial of federal funds, for self-described sanctuary cities, which stand in open defiance of the federal and state statutes that expressly prohibit such sanctuary policies, and which endanger the lives of U.S. citizens. It does not mean driver's licenses for illegal aliens, nor does it mean that states should be allowed to flout the federal law barring them from giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, nor does it mean that illegal aliens should receive social security benefits, or other public benefits, except as povided by federal aw. We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity. The American people's rejection of enmasse legalizations is especially appropriate given the federal government's past failures to enforce the law.

Embracing Immigrant Communities

Today's immigrants are walking in the steps of most other Americans' ancestors, seeking the American dream and contributing culturally and economically to our nation. We celebrate the industry and love of liberty of hese fellow Americans. Both government and the private sector must do more to foster legally present immigrants' integration into American life to advance respect for the rule of law and a common American identity. It is a national disgrace that the first experience most new Americans have is with a dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy defined by delay and confusion; we will no longer tolerate those failures. In our multiethnic nation, everyone - immigrants and native-born alike - must embrace our core values of liberty, equality, meritocracy, and respect for human dignity and the rights of women. One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories,including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum. We are grateful to the thousands of new immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces. Their patriotism is inspiring; it should remind the institutions of civil society of the need to embrace newcomers, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities void patterns of isolation.

Welcoming Refugees
Our country continues to accept refugees from troubled lands all over the world. In some cases, these are people who stood with America in dangerous times, and they have first call on our hospitality. We oppose, however, the ranting of refugee status on the basis of lifestyle or other non-political factors."


Renewing the American Community


America has always been a nation of immigrants. Over the years, millions of people have come here in the hope that in America, you can make it if you try. Each successive wave of immigrants has contributed to our country's rich culture, economy and spirit. Like the immigrants that came before them, today's immigrants will shape their own destinies and enrich our country.

Nonetheless,our current immigration system has been broken for far too long. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not just piecemeal efforts. We just work together to pass immigration reform in a way that unites this country not in a way that divides us by playing on our worst instincts and fears. We are committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform immigration reform in the first year of the next administration. For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law. We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. They are our neighbors, and we can help them become full tax paying, law-abiding, productive members of society.

Atthe same time, we cannot continue to allow people to enter the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked. The American people are welcoming and generous people, but those who enter our country's borders illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of the law. We need to secure our borders, and support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. We need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence. We need to dismantle human smuggling organizations, combating the crime associated with this trade. We also need to do more to promote economic development in migrant-sending nations, to reduce incentives to come to the United States illegally. And we need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, especially those who pay their workers less than the minimum wage. It's a problem when we only enforce our laws against the immigrants themselves, with raids that are ineffective, tear apart families and leave people detained without adequate access to counsel. We realize that employers need a method to verify whether their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S., and will ensure that our system is accurate, fair to legal workers, safeguards people's privacy, and cannot be used to discriminate against workers.

We must also improve the legal immigration system, and make our nation's naturalization process fair and accessible to the thousands of legal permanent residents who are eager to become full Americans. We should fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy that hampers family reunification, the cornerstone of our immigration policy for years. Given the importance of both keeping families together and supporting American businesses, we will increase the number of immigration visas for family members of people living here and for immigrants who meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill, as long as appropriate labor market protections and standards are in place. We will fight discrimination against Americans who have always played by our immigration rules but are sometimes treated as if they had not.

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