Beth Fukumoto, who served as the Republican leader in the Hawaii State Legislature from 2014 to 2017, said she’d seen some earnest GOP efforts to reach out to Asian American voters before Trump landed the party’s presidential nomination. Both state and national Republican leaders were piqued by the rapid growth of the AAPI electorate, Fukumoto said, and showed genuine interest in appealing to Asian voters. But that changed when Trump became the face of the party, she said.
Fukumoto left the Republican Party in 2017 and registered as a Democrat. When asked if she would rejoin the Republicans if the party were to distance itself from Trump’s rhetoric, she flatly said: “No, I’m out.”
“The party would do well to separate from Trump but I guess I would say I wouldn’t trust it,” she said. “What I saw in 2016 was that despite all of the lip service and, actually, genuine effort put into trying to be a party that could be representative of a bigger group of people, the minute it became easier to go back to just appealing to white voters, they did it.”
Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American and American studies at the University of Maryland and research fellow at AAPI Data, noted that an overwhelming majority of Asian American Republicans cited racial discrimination as a highly important factor going into last year’s elections in a 2020 survey by AAPI Data.
The disconnect was also reflected among Republican AAPI voters in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, where a full 48 percent of Asian American Republicans said Trump was a reason for anti-AAPI discrimination — only one percentage point behind the number of Republicans who said the same about Democratic lawmakers — which Wong said could further illustrate AAPI voters' tendency to separate the candidate from the party. Meanwhile, only 36 percent of Asian American Republicans found Republican lawmakers a source of discrimination, with most saying GOP lawmakers were only a “minor reason” for discrimination.