The GOP and Asians

(Rick Wilking/Reuters)

I’ll concede that John Yoo and Avik Roy know a lot more about Asians than I do, and a couple of print issues ago, they set forth as good a plan as any for the GOP to earn the allegiance of the increasing numbers of Asian Americans who will be voting in coming decades. For non–NR Plus subscribers, their prescription was, briefly: Step up outreach; stress hard work, self-reliance, and economic freedom; oppose affirmative action in college admissions; and shift toward skill-based immigration instead of family reunification.

The first two of these suggestions, to be sure, are good advice, and should win the Republicans some support, though they would have to be pitched in a delicate way. Opposing racial preferences will certainly be popular among Asian Americans, but if the GOP hits this issue too hard, it could easily backfire; one can imagine middle-class white parents worried about their kids’ college chances thinking, “Wait, they want more Asians?”

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The same goes for skill-based immigration: If you give preference to skilled immigrants but don’t increase total immigration, immigrants who are already here (Asian and non-Asian) will protest that their families are being shut out, while if you do increase the total number, all the problems associated with high immigration will get worse. Yoo and Roy ask: “Would the character of a country of 325 million people really change if we admitted 2 million [permanent resident aliens] per year instead of 1 [million]?” Yes, it kind of would; not necessarily in a bad way, but it would. And you have to be very confident that these remedies will actually win over Asians to the GOP, and quickly; otherwise, admitting more immigrants just helps the Democrats, and that’s not even counting the GOP’s loss of anti-immigration voters.

Abortion is another potentially troublesome issue. It is widely practiced, legally or illegally, in most of East and South Asia, and in many places bears little stigma, particularly when used for sex selection. (Check out the ads in the last link; they’re pretty horrifying.) Immigrants from Korea and the Philippines, where Christianity has made inroads, are more likely to oppose abortion (though Korea’s supreme court has just ordered the legislature to legalize it), but the greatest influx into the U.S. is from China and India. Moving to a more prosperous and open society should reduce Asians’ reliance on abortion but is unlikely to make them favor the party that wants to ban it.

Moreover, there’s no reason to expect Asians to be any less tribal than the rest of the country in choosing their party allegiance. It’s not clear what somebody from totalitarian China or party-profuse India will make of our two-party system, but to the extent that Asian Americans tend to congregate in cities and at universities, the Democrats are where the action is.

The larger problem, though, is something I’ve posted about before. The GOP simply isn’t built for appealing to specific interest groups; that’s what the Democrats are for. Ever since Obama was elected, pundits have been devising targeted rule changes and accounting schemes to help the GOP win over the middle class, but when the party finally did so in 2016, it wasn’t with tax policy. The Republican party is about helping everyone; they’ll never win by playing the Democrats’ game under the Democrats’ rules. Unless they can find another Fizzbin-/Tegwar-/Calvinball-playing Trump figure, they should stick to their core competency: Do what’s best for the entire country and trust immigrants and their families to appreciate it like the Americans that they are.

Fred Schwarz — Fred Schwarz is a deputy managing editor of National Review.

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