The current day Republican party is not exactly known for its appeal and outreach to America’s minorities voters. In fact, the demographics problem is so severe for the GOP that experts predict that unless the party is able to transform its policy positions in order to reach out to more segments of the American population, it will no longer be a national party. This prognosis is usually framed in the context of immigration reform and outreach to Hispanic Americans. However, one minority group, Asian Americans, is growing at an even greater percentage than the Hispanic population and has recently seen a tremendous and almost unprecedented shift from supporting the Republican party to uniform Democratic support.
In 2012, Barack Obama received a staggering 73 percent of the Asian American vote, a number that exceeded the support that he received from Hispanic Americans (71 percent). This has not always been the case. Just 20 years ago, 74 percent of Asian Americans voted with the Republican candidate for president. Bill Clinton received just 36 percent of the Asian vote in 1992, and Obama himself won just 68 percent his first go around in 2008. This kind of dramatic turnaround in support is rarely seen in American politics.
Research suggests that the key factor behind the switch is the Republican party’s hostility towards Asian Americans, often treating them like foreigners even when it is clear that they were born in this country and even when they demonstrate a willingness to vote GOP.
For example, in a recent question and answer session with GOP 2016 frontrunner Donald Trump, when Joseph Choe, an Asian American college student, raised his hand to ask a question, Trump interrupted him to ask “Are you from South Korea?” Choe responded that he is actually from Colorado, a critical swing state for Trump or any other Republican that will win the primary. Trump did not apologize and in fact, Trump’s question and Choe’s response drew laughter from the mostly older white audience. Social media exploded with criticism of the real estate mogul. One Asian American user tweeted “@realDonaldTrump Asked a @Harvard student the one question Asian Americans hate being asked.” David Chan, an Asian American zoning attorney, attended the rally because he was drawn towards Trump’s background in real estate development. Afterwards, he felt ashamed and embarrassed. “I was invited to the event because I donated money to Trump’s campaign. He is a real estate developer and in my field, I trust developers to make the right decision. Afterwards, I felt like Trump insulted me. I wish I could take my donation back.”
Jeb Bush, a self proclaimed “electable” Republican 2016 contender recently referred to immigrants as “anchor babies.” When reporters asked him to clarify, Bush explained that he was actually referring to Asians, rather than Hispanic Americans. The kind of tone and rhetoric used by Trump, Bush and others is an attempt to appeal to nativist sentiment prevalent in the Republican party. Campaign rallies frequently feature supporters that openly express hostility towards any and all minorities.
The Asian American vote is relatively small to the US population, but key in several swing states and is rapidly growing in size. While the white vote has increased 13 percent since 1996, the Asian vote has increased 105 percent. The kind of dog whistle politics that Republicans used through much of the modern era has now cost them another rapidly growing demographic.