Where are all the Asian American conservatives?

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Image by Stacy Nguyen/NWAW

By Jeffrey Osborn
Northwest Asian Weekly

The American political left is often portrayed as being minority friendly, an advocate of social programs, and staunch supporter of minority communities.

The American right, on the other hand, is normally seen as predominantly white, wealthy, and focused on equality through a government that does not have programs that it feels feel gives minorities unfair advantages.

For these reasons, it’s not surprising that year after year, polls show the vast majority of minorities supporting left-wing policies. However, there is a group of Asian minorities that overwhelmingly support the right wing in America.

Contrary to the belief of many Americans, right-wing thinking is not particularly rare in the Asian American community. The United States has been involved in numerous conflicts in Asia and remains so to this day. These conflicts include World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, support for Taiwan, the Philippine-American War, and several others. These events have led to a particularly strong militaristic view of the United States in Asia.

“Military conflict can build a supporting base towards one ideal, while creating hate towards it at the same time,” said a military chaplain of Korean heritage, who requested to be known only as Moon due to restrictions on political posturing while in military service. Moon has served as a special liaison to the Republic of Korea Army and actively participates in U.S. conservative groups while off duty.

Moon thinks, “Many of those that move to America from countries that once had conflict or support from America wouldn’t move here if they didn’t already support the actions America had in their country at one point. Countries that have had little to no conflict with America tend to go there without preordained political views.”

However, Moon also believes there is a second major factor in adopting a political viewpoint prior to moving to the United States.

“Christianity has always been viewed, often wrongly, as [a] primarily right-wing belief. Many immigrants move to America with a Christian mindset and hear people speaking of the strength of religion within the right and immediately support the right, even before they understand what the different political parties represent.”

Others in the conservative Asian community have different viewpoints, such as Eugene Liu, publisher and editor of AsianConservatives.com and a first-generation Taiwanese American.

“I don’t believe Asian communities tend to lean politically left. My opinion is that it’s more of a generational trend. Younger Asians seem to be more liberal than their parents, for example. I believe this is attributed to the fact that most higher education institutions and general academia in the U.S. are more liberal than conservative, and if the younger people are receiving their education at these places, it’s no surprise that their political views are shaped and influenced by their liberal professors and peers.”

According to a Gallup Poll conducted in 2010, Americans were closely split down the center, with 49 percent of Americans considering themselves Democrats or moderates leaning toward voting Democrat and 41 percent considering themselves Republicans or moderates leaning toward voting Republican.

Alternatively, 61 percent of Asians considered themselves Democrats or leaning that way, with only 24 percent Republicans or leaning in that direction.

In a comment that seems to support both Moon’s and Liu’s arguments, Liu admitted, “My political views were probably formed during my college years, but I was actually more of a liberal then. I started to have more conservative views after becoming a Christian later in college.”

“Many Korean immigrants I have met have formed their opinions based on word of mouth, rather than facts,” said Moon. “[Korean immigrants] often stay in mainly Korean social groups and base their political views on what they hear from those groups, whether that’s liberal or conservative viewpoints.

Complicating this fact is that many immigrants who are new to the nation don’t have a firm grasp on the English language, making it difficult for them to obtain news from American sources and instead having to rely on publications in their native language, offering them far less variety.”

In an interview with 8asians.com, Liu mentioned his intentions, “I want to educate the Asian American community about U.S. politics and how decisions from elected officials impact the lives within the community. When I hear somebody complain about an issue, whether it’s about taxes, the education system, health care, etc., I’ll ask, ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ and that usually draws a blank stare. Then I follow up, ‘You can at least vote.’ We need to learn about the power of the ballot.” (end)

Jeffrey Osborn can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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