Emily Hauser has a darkly humorous response to Pete Hoekstra’s sinophobic ad:
After all of this (and the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-poor people, anti-union, anti-anyone-not-white-male-straight-and-wealthy palaver as well) clearly, the Asians were next up.
I was going to call the post forming itself in my head:
“Dear Asian-Americans – Look out, I think they’re coming for you.”
I will admit, however, that I was stymied by an inability to figure out just what the slurs might be. It’s the burden, I suppose, of being the “model minority” — you face discrimination and othering and bigotry, but it comes wrapped in words that are meant to sound like compliments. “Good at math” being one example. “Tiger mom” being another.
AND THEN THEY FREAKING CAME. And good lord, how could I have been so stupid? [...]
They are Chinese, but in a really oddly Vietnam-y way, one which will remind you that not only are they Not American, they are Inscrutable, and Peasant-y, and Very Very Dangerous.
They are also oddly interchangeable, because the scuttlebutt is that the woman featured in Hoekstra’s ad (in which she says she’s Chinese in pidgin English while bicycling along a rice paddy in a conical hat) isn’t even Chinese-American. It’s just scuttlebutt at this point, but I would be willing to bet that Hoekstra’s campaign didn’t necessarily make a point of looking for an authentically Chinese-American person to use for race-baiting purposes.
Soooo, it’s been a super long walk to get here, but:
Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP. I could see it coming — I just had no idea how fast the Racism Train was running.
What’s exceedingly strange about this is that the Asian-American community has historically been friendly to Republicans. Many of the older Japanese people I’ve known never forgot that it was a Democratic president who sent them to internment camps during WWII (and a Democratic governor who carried out the legwork, at least initially). To be sure, Asian-Americans comprise a lot of legitimately different groups who don’t all think alike, of which the Japanese are only one, but during the ’70s and ’80s, these communities were drawn to the GOP over anti-Communism, social conservatism, and a culture of frugality, which (among other things) powered Sam Hayakawa’s successful Republican Senate campaign. This book goes over all of this in much more detail for those interested.
Really, though, Asian-Americans are some of the most natural Republican voters outside of their base that you could possibly imagine. It’s amazing that they’ve lost them. California has one of the highest concentrations of Asian-American voters in the country, and Meg Whitman only managed to win 39% of them in a really, really good Republican year (in context, she won about 1/5 of Black voters too, so that 39% is undoubtedly inflated by a fair amount from normal circumstances). That their political support for the GOP has eroded is probably why Republicans are feeling free to lash out as they have, but what’s worth remembering is that Republicans have typically not really tried much Asian racebaiting. It’s much harder to run a Lee Atwater sort of strategy against a generally prosperous minority group, after all, and one whose stereotypes resist being wrongly labeled as lazy, stupid bums. Honestly, the more natural bigoted approach for that would probably be some kind of ersatz anti-Semitism, which is basically I think what Hoekstra’s ad is, with the sneaky foreigner who’s also portrayed as ignorant and foolish (but mostly moneygrubbing). I think that’s the hidden resonance here. Nothing is ever new in this game, my friends.
Not that it matters much in the long term. Hoekstra is a marginal political talent who was a punchline in Congress and lost a gubernatorial primary in 2010 to a complete unknown, and I fully expect him to lose again this year. He’s one of those candidates that Republicans repeatedly try to foist on blue-state electorates that want no part of them, like three-time loser Dino Rossi (remember him?) in Washington.
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