Opinion: Democrats Still Don’t Understand Asian American Voters

By Jay Caspian Kang, The New York Times |

In the last edition of this newsletter, I wrote about the dilemma that faces progressives who may have problems with changes in education policies and curriculums but don’t want to feed into a nationwide anti-critical race theory panic. Today, I want to dig a bit deeper into that issue by examining how voters and politicians have responded to the fight over education.

I also want to experiment a bit with form in this space. To date, this newsletter has mostly been delivered, more or less, as a standard article. This works, I believe, for a majority of the topics I’ve covered, but sometimes I just want to update you on some of the stuff I’ve been writing about.

A rightward shift for immigrant neighborhoods in New York City

In November of last year, I wrote a piece titled “‘People of Color’ Do Not Belong to the Democratic Party.” The argument I made was quite simple: The 2020 election had seen both Latino and Asian American populations swing toward the Republican Party. To some liberals, this might have seemed counterintuitive given Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. What I argued then, and I continue to think today, is that anyone who actually spends any amount of time in these ethnic enclaves or bothers to talk to immigrant parents could have seen this coming. A strategy of broad but, ultimately, shallow antiracism talk by the Biden campaign wasn’t going to attract voters who either care much less about racial issues than many might assume or may even see its egalitarianism as anathema to both their American dream and the pathways to success for their children.

After last year's election, I talked to Taeku Lee, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, for a podcast I co-host with two of my friends. Lee has worked in the past for AAPI DATA, an organization that collects and analyzes voting patterns in the Asian American community. There are great disparities among so-called Asian American voters, which certainly makes sense given their wide range of countries of origin, class status and geographic location. But one thing they have in common, Lee said, was that they generally have been ignored by both parties in terms of outreach.