The Democratic Party has always been the party of immigrants. Even as everything else about the party has changed, as it has turned from a party of Southern whites to the exact opposite, immigrants continue to vote Democratic. In the 1850s the immigrants were Irish-Americans. Today they are Mexican-Americans.
Of course, not all immigrants support the Democratic Party. Many immigrants, such as Cuban-Americans and Vietnamese-Americans, vote strongly Republican. There is a very simple explanation for why this is so, an explanation that requires merely one word:
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger provides a story that resonates with many Republican-voting immigrants:
When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria.
I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw Communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector…I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot…
I finally arrived here in 1968…The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon-Humphrey presidential race on TV…I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left.
But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military.
Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air.
I said to my friend, I said, “What party is he?”
My friend said, “He’s a Republican.”
I said, “Then I am a Republican.”
This is a common experience with immigrants from communist countries. Many Republican-voting immigrants are refugees of communism. In the Democratic Party’s economic program they hear echoes of the communist countries which they fled. They therefore turn to the Republican Party.
Which brings us to the biggest Communist country of them all: the People’s Republic of China.
There are a lot of Chinese-Americans in the United States. Many of them constitute immigrants who suffered tremendously under communism, through the Great Leap Forward and then the Cultural Revolution.
Yet Chinese-Americans are also a highly, highly Democratic constituency. One exit poll put 73% of Chinese-Americans as voting Democratic. Why does the Schwarzenegger experience not resonate with Chinese immigrants?
One reason might be that most Chinese immigrants are not communist refugees. Many anti-communist immigrants were persecuted as a specific class or individually by communist governments. They then fled to the United States. On the other hand, a lot of Chinese immigrants came to the United States as students, workers, or via family connections. Many of them represent people who benefited from the system in China. This is especially true for those who came as students or workers.
There is also the fact that China’s Communist Party is by far the most successful of all the communist parties out there. This dilutes the potential opposition against it. For instance, the Chinese community would probably not support an American embargo on China aimed at toppling the communist government there. This is quite different from the Cuban emigrant community.
Yet there is still an element of strangeness about the Chinese community’s utter lack of anti-Communist sentiment. Does not the Democratic Party’s mantra of helping the working class recall the Maoist slogan of a proletariat paradise? Does not its support of abortion bring to mind China’s controversial one-child policy?
Apparently not, judging from the way the Chinese community votes.