For 24 years, Democrats have hung a three-digit albatross around the necks of California Republicans: Proposition 187.
The 1994 ballot measure that limited illegal immigrants’ access to public welfare programs — fairly or not — has been blamed for Republicans’ inability to connect with Latino voters and our party’s declining registration numbers. The folklore is as much clever branding as it is historical revisionism. After all, Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s campaign ads in the same year boasted of her leadership “to stop illegal immigration” as it depicted illegal aliens (her words) flooding across the border.
Turnabout is fair play, and Democrats could very well be committing their own 187 moment by embracing policies of discrimination against Asian Americans.
Like Latinos, Asian Americans are a demographic amalgamation that includes people of Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese descent among dozens of others. Asian Americans remain the country’s fastest growing racial or ethnic group, according to the Pew Research Center, and are on track to surpass Hispanics by 2055 as America’s largest immigrant group.
“We may be considered the successful minority,” Chunyan Li, a professor of accounting at New York’s Pace University, told the Wall Street Journal, “but we are still very small politically.”
Despite large numbers, now more than 20.4 million, Asian Americans have remained a “sleeping political giant,” due to disproportionately low voter turnout. How to explain Asian Americans’ tragically low enfranchisement? On a national level, neither political party has offered Asian Americans a reason to vote.
That’s changing as Democrats move from indifference to open hostility to Asian Americans. From New York to Los Angeles, big city progressives are declaring war on the quality of life issues cherished by Asian Americans.
In New York, more than a thousand people turned out to protest progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to impose a racial quota for the city’s elite public schools. Two-thirds of the student body at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a public magnet school considered the best in the country, are Asian American.
In fact, Asian Americans represent 62 percent of the student bodies of New York’s top public schools. Asian Americans correctly see de Blasio’s proposal as a direct assault on their communities. Any change to the unbiased and impartial admissions process will mean discrimination against Asian Americans and decreased educational opportunities for their children.
Across the country, Asian American families have resisted similar racial discrimination at California’s public university system. Progressive Democrats have repeatedly tried to reverse Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment that bars discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity in public employment, public education, or public contracting.
Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, the most recent attempt to discriminate in public university admissions, first passed the California State Senate, but was defeated by a forceful opposition campaign by Asian Americans. Los Angeles Democrats have learned from that defeat. This time around, Asian Americans aren’t even given the courtesy of a public hearing.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has teamed up with Councilman Herb Wesson to force a vagrant encampment in Koreatown within a half-mile of 14 schools. Hundreds of Korean Americans have taken to the streets to protest the city’s shameful attempt to move L.A.’s skid row to Koreatown – without public input.
“We didn’t have any hearing,” one Korean American small business owner lamented. “They just decided, and they just want us to follow their direction.”
The same could be said for Democrats’ not-so-democratic primary process. State Treasurer John Chiang’s ambitious campaign to succeed a white male Democratic governor couldn’t overcome the systemic advantage provided to the white male Democrat anointed as his successor. Not a single Democratic nominee in California’s competitive congressional races is Asian American.
Meanwhile, Orange County Republicans are offering Asian American voters an alternative that values a high quality of life. Even progressives are taking note.
“Contrary to any portrayal as racist troglodytes, the GOP here has proven a pioneer in diversifying O.C.’s politics,” points out Gustavo Arellano, a former editor and publisher at OC Weekly. “Today, Asian American Republicans dominate Orange County politics.”
This election, Asian Americans could not only prove to be the deciding factor, but realign politics for generations to come.
Shawn Steel, a former California Republican Party chair, is California’s committeeman for the Republican National Committee.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.