You remember the old fashioned saying, Brown is the new Black? In politics, I've heard variations of this: Gay is the new Black, and Hispanic is the new Black, and even Black is still the new Black.
(And some of us have even clung to the phrase 40 is the new 30, though a few years ago a friend of mine saw a young person walking by wearing a t-shirt that said 40 is not the new 30. It took a lot of self-discipline, my friend told me, not to punch the little brat in the teeth ...)
So as the Republican party tries to figure out how to make Hispanic the new Republican, it may be more useful to concentrate on winning the fastest growing ethnic group in America: Asians.
Asians are only half as likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” as whites, and less than half as likely to identify themselves as Republicans. Asians are not only a lot more liberal than whites; a higher percentage of Asians identify themselves as “liberal” or “extremely liberal” (22%) than do blacks (19%) or Latinos (17%). And depending on which poll you believe, somewhere in the vicinity of 70% of Asians voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.
Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.”
To which the argument has often been: Asians are the new Jews. But as Murray points out, that's not quite right:
Many of the Jews who immigrated to America had been socialists, trade-union activists, or otherwise committed to the Left in their native lands, and those family traditions have sometimes perpetuated themselves. The great majority of non-political Jewish immigrants came from places where they had been systematically persecuted for being Jews, and it is easy to see how Jews might have an enduring propensity to side with the underdog.
In contrast, virtually no Asian Americans came here because they were fleeing persecution for being Asian. They sometimes fled political persecution by the Communists, especially from Vietnam, but that experience tends to produce conservative immigrants, not liberal ones.
So what's the problem?
...there are reasons for Asian Americans not to like Democrats. Asians who became successful because everyone in the family worked two or three jobs (a common strategy behind Asian success) are likely to be offended by the liberal “You didn’t build that” mentality. Unlike every other minority group, Asians owe nothing to the Democrats for affirmative action. On the contrary, Asians are penalized by affirmative action, especially in the universities, where discrimination against Asian applicants (relative to their superb academic qualifications) has been documented in the technical literature.
And yet something has happened to define conservatism in the minds of Asians as deeply unattractive, despite all the reasons that should naturally lead them to vote for a party that is identified with liberty, opportunity to get ahead, and economic growth. I propose that the explanation is simple. Those are not the themes that define the Republican Party in the public mind. Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.
That's an interesting theory but of course it's impossible to prove, as Murray agrees:
I use Asian-Americans as an example of how powerfully this antipathy can alienate a naturally conservative voting bloc. Let it be clear: The causal link with social conservatism is asserted here, not proved. But the GOP had better take the hypothesis seriously.
But if he's right, then maybe it really is a matter of better branding and marketing. Because we've lost 5 out of the past 6 elections in the popular vote, and we can't really let any group slip entirely away. We don't need to win Hispanics, or Asians, or Jews, or any ethnic minority. But we do need to win our fair share.
Otherwise, they'll be saying Republican is the new Green Party -- a focused, principled, minority party.