The Only Tool Republicans Have Is Division

In the April/May/June 2018 edition of the Washington Monthly, Saahil Desai wrote about “The Untapped Potential of the Asian Voter.” He pointed out that, while Asians make up only 4 percent of eligible voters, “they are the fastest-growing racial group in the country and increasingly vote as a Democratic bloc.”

According to Michelle Hackman at the Wall Street Journal, some Republicans are attempting to reach out to Asian voters. But take a look at the message they have chosen to do so.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R., Calif.)…faces a tight re-election contest for her Orange County seat this year and has made affirmative action a top talking point.

She regularly attacks the consideration of race in college admissions. In September, her campaign began distributing mailers featuring a somber-faced young Asian-American woman and a quote from the congresswoman, “Discrimination in higher education is wrong.”

Corey Stewart, who is running for the senate in Virginia, is one of the biggest proponents of using attacks on affirmative action as a way to woo Asian voters.

In Virginia, Cory Stewart, a former Trump campaign official challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, has vowed to introduce legislation barring universities from weighing applicants’ race if the school receives federal funds. His campaign has been distributing mailers advertising that stance in English, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

“Some Republicans are afraid to talk about it because it’s got a racial element to it,” Mr. Stewart said. “But they shouldn’t be, because it resonates.”

In case you need a reminder about Stewart’s background, I would suggest reading what Jane Coaston wrote about him when he won the Republican primary in Virginia. He tends to pal around with white supremacists like Jason Kessler (organizer of the Charlottesville march) and has made a name for himself as a defender of the confederacy.

At another campaign event in 2017 hosted by an avowed secessionist who attended the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Stewart again defended the Confederacy, saying, “Virginians, we think for ourselves… And if the established order is wrong, we rebel. We did that in the Revolution, we did it in the Civil War, and we’re doing it today. We’re doing it today because they’re trying to rob us of everything that we hold dear: our history, our heritage, our culture.”

I’m sure Stewart’s main interest in attacking affirmative action is his concern about how it affects Asian Americans (and yes, that would be snark).

When it comes to this attempt at manipulation, we can only hope that most Asians are as adept at understanding what is going on here as Ms. Kalvoda.

Katie Kalvoda, a Vietnamese-American who voted for Ms. Walters in 2016 but is now organizing Asian-American voters for her Democratic opponent, said Ms. Walters’s affirmative-action mailer helped turn her off to the Republican congresswoman.

“She’s really using a wedge issue about affirmative action to stir up fear and dissent among Asian voters who would otherwise vote for Democrats,” Ms. Kalvoda said. “It’s straight out of the Trump playbook: to divide us.”

She is absolutely right. Rather than reaching out to Asian Americans in order to work with them, they are creating a wedge issue in an attempt to fear monger. It is reminiscent of Republican attempts to insinuate that Hispanic immigrants are a threat to African American employment. What’s obvious is that the only tool Republicans have these days is division.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.