Here’s a truly odd observation from the usually-excellent Marc Ambinder. Writing about Jeremy Lin, Asian-Americans, and the Republican Party, Ambinder argues:

If Republicans were to rid themselves of their anti-immigrant wing, or if they choose not allow their primaries to be controlled by it, there is no real reason why Asian-Americans can’t become a true swing constituency. Their allegiances with the Democratic Party are tenuous. “If Asians vote for Republicans like Jews have traditionally voted for Democrats, Republicans could see many advantages,” [Asian right-wing activist Tony] Lee says. “For that to happen, Asians have to see conservatism as the best way for them to be more integrated and assimilated into the mainstream for themselves and their children, which should not be that hard a sell.” Look again at Lin’s own story: he faced discrimination as a kid playing on the courts of (even) Palo Alto, and slurs while at Harvard, but because of his superior natural abilities, rose up through the most meritocratic institution in society. There is no affirmative action based on race or last name. If you can’t play, you are not going to get on the court. That up-by-the-sneaker-laces narrative is a vital part of Lin’s appeal—and the Republican deal.

The first, and probably most important criticism is that the “up-by-the-sneaker-laces narrative” is most definitely not the “Republican deal.” Today’s GOP is committed to doing everything it can to ensure economic inequality and social immobility. It seeks to destroy all those things that enhance mobility and to even discussing the issue. Paul Ryan made a big deal about saying economic inequality was irrelevant because American has more social mobility: when confronted with the inconvenient truth that the United States is far less mobile than Europe, he has dropped the discussion altogether.

Even more strange, though, is Ambinder’s argument that Republicans could win Asian-American votes if they “rid themselves of their anti-immigrant wing, or if they choose not allow their primaries to be controlled by it.” Well, yes: and they could also win gay and lesbian votes if they rid themselves of anti-gay bigotry. They could get more Black votes if they rid themselves of racist dog-whistles like the :”Food Stamp President” or Obama’s alleged reliance on teleprompters. But like anti-gay bigotry and racial prejudice, xenophobia is a key component defining today’s GOP. As Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson have demonstrated in their recent brilliant book on the Tea Party, anti-immigrant sentiment is the most salient issue holding the Tea Party (and thus the Republican Party) together. Rick Perry’s collapse in the primary did not occur because he obviously has no business coming anywhere near the White House: it occurred because of his defense of illegal immigrants and his (absolutely accurate) assessment of his competitors as “lacking heart” on the issue.

We can have fun with this game! A midget would have a real shot at the NBA if he were seven feet tall. But it gets old in a hurry.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.