The heartbeat of the American government, we pride ourselves as the forefront of the democratic process, the voices that matter most, and the numbers that determine our future. The diverse political spectrum that exists was created by the lived experiences of millions across the nation. For Asian Americans today, oftentimes, the general rhetoric of familial expectations and cultural behavior has led to the voter base becoming largely apathetic to America’s knack for political engagement. For first-generation families, many have subjected themselves to the model minority myth to study hard, stay out of trouble, and be successful. The ideologies of Asian Americans spread far and wide as a result, and it’s particularly interesting to pinpoint the beliefs of various subgroups.
On one end, the economic principles of the Republican party strongly appeal to an older immigrant voter base, who enshrine the ideals of “work hard, more reward” into their beliefs because though they faced the trials and tribulations coming to America, they were still able to find much success in their lifetimes. As a result, older Asian voters feel as though the economic prosperity of others means a threat to the age-old principle of hard work, where anyone can overcome their socioeconomic situations so long as they desire to do so. In reality, it obviously doesn’t work this way – many Asian immigrants typically come to America already equipped with higher education and with a stable financial base. While it is possible for them to come to America and find prosperity, the realities of systemic racism and a lack of resources in various lower socioeconomic areas make it impossible. In the eyes of many, the trail of logic seems simple enough: lower taxes equals more retention of wealth. More retention of wealth is a direct reflection of your success and prosperity. As such, most of the time because of parental influence, younger Asian American voters also follow along with these conservative ideals if they don’t do prior research or attempt to develop their own personal beliefs.
On the other end, Asian Americans tend to be swayed more towards the social underpinnings of the Democratic party. Conversations surrounding racial equity and justice are stimulated by recognizing that concepts such as the model minority myth and systemic racism force many Asian Americans to maintain a perpetual immigrant status and enshrine their beliefs in anti-blackness. With Asian Americans also holding the second largest group of undocumented immigrants, the need for necessary reform to the path to citizenship has become very apparent in the eyes of many. On top of this, the broader shift towards social progressivism has also swayed Asian Americans towards the left, as it’s become more apparent that intersectionality is particularly important in pushing forth policy action to protect the rights of loved ones. However, this can’t be said for every Asian American, as when religion often plays a large factor in a family’s lifestyle, they will tend to lean more socially conservative, on par with their religious practices. The honing in on specifically what the Bible practices is more in line with the Republican party today. Combine this with a traditional upbringing within Asian culture, separate from the “individualism” America pushes forth as their defining quality, and you will see that many find “law and order” to be the tenets of their political affiliations. In reality, much of these beliefs are largely in-line with many Asian Americans who care deeply about the economic implications of both political parties. To some, the plight of Black Americans is seen as a threat to the prosperity they’ve earned as a result of their hard work. The taxes they see going to the government aren’t regarded as well-spent; rather, they see it as a waste of money that discourages the underprivileged from “pulling themselves up by the bootstraps” and achieving the “American Dream” as they did.
So, which one is more important to Asian American voters – the social or economic standpoints?
In these past few years, Democrats have lost a substantial amount of support from Asian Americans while the GOP has been slowly gaining traction. For Vietnamese and Chinese Americans specifically, the GOP rhetoric in baselessly denouncing prominent Democratic leaders like AOC and Bernie Sanders as communists have caused this group to form a deep-rooted loyalty for the Republican party. For many, especially those who are immigrants that fled their home country once controlled by communist rule, showing a myriad of support for the illusion of communism within the Democratic party was considered an endangerment to the freedom and liberty they’ve been granted after immigration. Combine the anti-communist sentiment with the economic principles of the GOP, and the Republican party has gained themselves a loyal support group. The blatant misinformation and explicit racist sentiment in calling COVID-19 the “Kong Flu” and “China virus” isn’t enough to deter these voters from their pride in the GOP. With echo chambers formed by notable social media platforms like WeChat and the preference towards news networks like Fox, many Asian Americans see themselves represented by Republicanism, away from the dangers of false communism and the best way to protect the freedom and prosperity they had worked so hard for.
However, even with a decline in Democratic support, Asian Americans have always remained a consistent voter base for Democrats. The history of anti-Asian sentiment, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese Internment Camps, to American imperialism of Southeast Asia, is an inescapable reality of American prominence. Even separate from the historical roots, the status quo is an accurate characterization of the deep-seeded issues of our political system. Though anti-Asian rhetoric concerning the coronavirus wasn’t enough for some more conservative-leaning Asian Americans, it was enough for many to vote Democratically this year. Another line of support for Democrats has come from the ongoing support for Black Lives Matter. For a government that hasn’t properly addressed the systemic and structural racism in society and the centuries of oppression and subjugation, Asian Americans vote for beacons of change and resistance against the traditions of an old America, one that only served the interest of white society. In those regards, the social perspective of Asian American politics is one that can take priority over the economic standpoints at certain points in American current events.
The political beliefs and affiliations of our parents, family, and friends don’t have to define who we are or what we believe. Rather than following along with what seems like the safest option, it’s far more important to do what’s best for you. Research. Take the time to truly understand where you fall on the political spectrum and why you do. The narratives passed on by those we trust the most don’t have to be your own. One day, the vote will be yours. Make it count.