In the scramble to make the GOP more diverse, a lot of people are looking at Asian Americans, whom many believe are a natural constituency for the party. I would love it if Asian Americans converted en masse to the Republican Party, but the challenge for Republicans is harder than many appreciate.
President Obama did spectacularly well with Asian Americans, garnering nearly three-quarters of their vote. This runs counter to a lot of conventional wisdom on both the left and the right. On average, Asian American family income is higher and poverty is lower than it is for non-Latino whites. Entrepreneurship, family cohesion and traditional values all run strong among Asian Americans, and reliance on government runs weak.
And yet, Asian Americans -- now the fastest-growing minority in America -- are rapidly becoming a core constituency of the Democratic Party.
I've joked for years with my Indian American relatives and friends that they are the new Jews because their parents bury them in guilt and overeducate them. It turns out it doesn't end there. Sociologist Milton Himmelfarb observed that "Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans." Well, Indian Americans earn like Jews and ... vote like Jews.
And maybe for similar reasons. The comparison to Jews is instructive. Perhaps the most common explanation for the GOP's problem with Asian Americans is the party's pronounced embrace of Christianity, which turns off many Jews as well.
According to Pew studies, barely a third of Chinese Americans are Christian and less than a fifth of Indian Americans are.
"Whenever a Gujarati or Sikh businessman comes to a Republican event, it begins with an appeal to Jesus Christ," conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza recently told the New York Times magazine. "While the Democrats are really good at making the outsider feel at home, the Republicans make little or no effort."
My friend and colleague Ramesh Ponnuru, an Indian American and devout Catholic, says the GOP has a problem with seeming like a "club for Christians."
That rings true to me. I've attended dozens of conservative events where, as the speaker, I was, in effect, the guest of honor, and yet the opening invocation made no account of the fact that the guest of honor wasn't a Christian. I've never taken offense, but I can imagine how it might seem to someone who felt like he was even less part of the club.
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