I love the story that Asian Americans overwhelmingly voted for Obama. Apparently, “exit polls show that 73% of Asian Americans backed Obama, an 11-point increase since 2008.”
I keep wondering why. Asians, at least those of my parents’ generation, tend to be more conservative. My parents were fans of Reagan, and when Clinton ran the first time back in 1992, my mother threatened to disown me if I voted for him (I did anyway; she didn’t).
Then I remembered Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s wonderful piece about her Asian dad and Mitt Romney, and how although her father, who has passed away, had always been a Republican, he would have been appalled at the idea of Romney eating only the tops of muffins, which Romney said to make himself seem like a regular joe, ironically. Lee writes, “Will muffin-top-gate cause other immigrant parents to join their Democratic-leaning children?”
My parents are pretty apolitical now. I don’t think they know much about Obama and Romney’s policies. But when I told my mother that Romney only eats the tops of muffins, she immediately scowled.
“What a waste!” she said. “That guy is pretty naive.”
I think by “naive” my mother meant out of touch. He had never understood what it was like to be poor, like my parents were as children during World War II in China, and as refugees in Taiwan. My mother tells stories of how they ate meat only a few times a year, and how when there wasn’t enough to eat, her two brothers ate first while she and her sisters went hungry.
I have my own theories as to why older Asians might like Obama better. He, like them, like us, is the other. His father wasn’t born here. To the ignorant, he seems foreign. His citizenship has been questioned. He’s intelligent and slightly nerdy. He seems modest. These may be Asian stereotypes and not everything all Asians are, but they are qualities that are valued in many Asian families. I grew up surrounded by scientists and engineers. I would never not date someone because he was one of those things, which, apparently, for some women is a dealbreaker. (A smart guy with a steady job? What a fucking loser!)
My belief is that Romney is simply not relatable to older Asians. He’s too slick. He’s not like anyone they’ve encountered in real life. He’s a rich white guy who throws away half his muffins.