By AL YEE
MISSOULA, MT (Dec. 10, 2012) — Republicans are frustrated and confused over the November election results, because their polling had indicated that Gov. Mitt Romney would win an overwhelming victory. Romney blamed his loss on President Barack Obama’s doling out financial “gifts” to many groups that in turn voted for him.
Assessing how various groups voted, they were not surprised that 98 percent of African Americans went for the President. Because it was expected, they have no qualms about 70 percent of Latinos voting for Obama. Since Jews traditionally vote Democratic, their 70 percent was no surprise either. However, Republicans have scratched their heads over two other groups that emphatically supported Obama.
Although white voters with high school and lesser educational attainment went Republican, those with college degrees favored the President, especially those with post-graduate degrees. The second group has drawn even more comments, that is, the 73 percent of Asian-Americans who voted for Obama. Why was that surprising? The reason is that according to the Census Bureau, Asian-Americans comprise the country’s most prosperous ethnic group, a number of whom are millionaires. Their economic well-being and capitalist bent seemed to assure that a large number were Republicans who would vote accordingly. It shows that one factor or a couple cannot be predictive of people. Those who know Asian-Americans and their history wouldn’t have predicted that most of them would go for Romney and Paul Ryan. Let’s explain.
Asian-Americans, many of whom are fourth-generation Americans and a number whom are fifth-generation, like my children, know how it was in the past, when Asians were discriminated against by reason of their race. In the 19th century, when the first Asian-Americans, the Chinese, came to the U.S., they were severely abused and treated as subhuman, as were Native Americans and Blacks. Declared unconstitutional in the end, the numerous Chinese exclusion laws remain since the Civil War America’s worst racial laws.
The Japanese, who came next, were similarly treated with prejudice for being workers, like the Chinese, who were hard to compete with. The Japanese were forced into isolated internment camps during World War II, and yet their troops won more medals and awards than any other American units.
Although overt racism has declined in the U.S., it lingers in subtle ways. Asian-Americans then remain sensitive and opposed to racism and prejudice, whether directed at them or at others. When right-wing birthers accuse Obama, who is half black, of being foreign-born and thereby unqualified to be president, Asian-Americans not only see through such nonsense, they are repelled by the obvious bigotry. On national TV, Romney warmly welcomed the support of Donald Trump, who vociferously and repeatedly accused Obama of being a false American. What was Romney thinking? Why did his campaign promote contradictions that alienated key groups of voters, such as Asian-Americans and the university-educated?
Asian-Americans succeed in many professional and business pursuits, not solely for themselves as individuals but for their families and sense of achievement. Highly committed to education, they want their children to study hard and attend the best schools. They are the most highly educated ethnic group in America, both males and females. Seeking out the best schools for their kids, many will change jobs and move, even to other neighborhoods and cities, in order to put their kids in good schools. Correlative to what was said above about the support of the college-educated for the President, typical Asian-Americans are pragmatists instead of being ideologues. Therefore, opposed to conservatives, they believe in the science of climate change. They also see through conservatives’ double-talk about individual freedom and their “attack on women.” Dedicated to their families and relatives, they care dearly for elders and are very supportive of social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Affordable Care Act.
Asian-Americans are this country’s fastest-growing group that includes, in order of number: Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Japanese, Hmong, Laotians, Cambodians, Pakistanis and Thais. The first four comprise the bulk of their 14.7 million population, about 15 percent are mixed, mostly half-white. Asian-Americans are diverse, but their various cultural backgrounds induce many similar values.
Al Yee is a Korean War veteran and retired professor of psychology and educational psychology in Missoula. His latest book is “Raising and Teaching Children for Their Tomorrows.”
This article was originally printed in the Missoulian and set to us with permission to reprint.