A growing voting bloc is turned off by Trump’s racism
If Republicans are afraid to confront Donald Trump on ideological or moral grounds, how about doing it for crass political purposes, they should ask themselves as their only declared presidential candidate holds his first public event of 2023.
This week, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao made one of the most vehement denunciations yet of her racist former boss, who made a series of overtly racist comments to her. Chao had attempted to disregard Trump, and she had urged the media to do the same. Chao, however, decided she could no longer keep quiet and spoke up.
There’s no doubt she’s right, and other Republicans ought to follow her example. Considering the growing political power of Asian Americans in the United States, it is the rare situation in which doing what is morally right is also politically expedient.
This cruel rhetoric from Trump is distinct from his early-2020 “Kung Flu” references. At a time when many Americans were looking for relief from their anxiety, those may have been forgiven as juvenile (and offensive) attempts at humour. Calling a Taiwanese-American woman “Coco Chow” is an extreme example of the kind of name-mocking that is painfully common for many Asian Americans, as Chao points out.
This is not only unwise but also politically inept. There is some evidence, anecdotal at best, that Asian Americans have become more conservative on crime, education, and perhaps the economy over the course of the last few elections. During the 2022 gubernatorial election in New York state, Asian American voters swung dramatically to the right, helping Republicans win four additional seats in the US House of Representatives. And a Democrat who had served on the New York City Council for 36 years was defeated in the recent election by a Republican who is Asian American.
Despite the blue wave of 2018, two Republican women of Korean descent, Michelle Steel and Young Kim, were able to flip Democratic seats in Orange County, California. Steel and Kim are now part of the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives after both winning their seats in 2020 and 2022.
And Trump’s hostility borders on the pathological. And Republicans can’t brush off his antics as just belligerent pettiness because of Chao’s resignation after January 6 or because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chao’s husband, frequently criticised Trump. Why else would Trump say, “Sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?” when asked if he thought Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin’s name sounded like something from China? Does Youngkin’s potential candidature in 2024 have anything to do with the insult?
Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, whose wife and children are Korean American, publicly criticised Trump’s comment as racist. This was a rare occurrence, as Trump rarely gets called out publicly by an elected Republican.
If Trump keeps making racist comments about a woman of Asian descent who served capably in four Republican administrations (including his own), and if other Republicans say nothing to condemn him, the Democratic Party’s campaign ads in 2024 will practically write themselves. This is especially true if Trump is the nominee.