Life-long Republican and Asian American John Ying is convinced Republicans are not doing enough to reach an underrepresented and understated, but potentially Republican-friendly community — so he has co-founded a non-profit geared to Asian-American voters.
“We’ve got to engage, and we’ve got to engage in a very inclusive and friendly manner,” Ying told The Daily Caller in an interview. Republicans have made “almost no effort” to reach out to Asian Americans, he said, and many simply don’t feel welcome. “I’ve talked to many Asian Americans, and they’ll say, ‘Oh John I agree with you, the values are very similar. But I’m not sure the Republicans welcome us.’”
Ying, an international investment banker who served on the Republican National Committee during the 2012 election, hopes the Asian Republican Coalition, of which Ying is Chairman, will change that by providing a safe and inclusive place for Asian Americans to engage with Republicans.
“We very strongly believe there’s a very good fit between what the party traditionally has been about and what I think will drive a comprehensive Asian American community,” said Ying. Those values include a strong work ethic, a focus on family, emphasis on education, and a strong belief in entrepreneurship and personal freedom.
Republicans and Democrats have been focusing on connecting with Hispanic voters in recent years, although Asian-Americans are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., according to a 2012 Census report.
Ying and Vice-Chairman Thomas Britt, who also served on the RNC, hope ARC will be a resource to elected officials who want to better understand and communicate with the community, as well as a bridge between Asian-Americans and the larger American community. Anyone with ties or a strong interest in the intersection of Asia and America is welcome, he said. “This really should be a state of mind,” and is about “self-identification.”
ARC hopes to reframe the way Americans think about the Asian American community. ”If you look at official census data, over half of Hispanics self-identify as white, so being Hispanic is more of a state of mind,” Ying said. “Whereas traditionally I think people have viewed the Asian-American community as purely by DNA or bloodline.”
This “comprehensive” community includes people related to Asian-Americans, who visit or live in Asia, are studying an Asian language or dating an Asian-American. Ying pointed to Vice-Chairman Britt as an example. Although he was born in the U.S., Britt, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions with China, has lived in Asia for 20 years and his kids speak Mandarin. “Clearly he is part of that Asian community,” Ying said. “He has strong views on this.”
Asian-Americans only made up 3 percent of the vote in the 2012 election, compared to Hispanics making up 10 percent and blacks comprising 13 percent. And 73 percent of the Asian-American vote went to Obama in 2012, up from just 31 percent to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. Ying attributes these dismal numbers in part to Republicans lack of effort in reaching out to the group, especially relative to Democrats.
“Frankly this group is nominally right now voting more democratic, but in a very weak affiliation,” he said. “These are not die hard Democrats and traditionally in the past they used to be Republicans.” ARC has the relatively easy job of reminding them why they used to be Republicans rather than converting strong Democrats, Ying said.
ARC will have a public unveiling May 6, in Washington, D.C., at the Newseum. While the group does plan to advocate for specific policies, ARC is currently focused on establishing itself as a resource for the Republican party and on growing a grassroots network of the comprehensive Asian American community.
Ying stressed the process is ongoing and step by step, but said they’re excited at the strong reception they’ve been getting so far.