First let me break down the Acronyms. NRO stands for National Review Online. It is the online version of the conservative magazine. What am I doing reading the pages of the “enemy’s” literature? Understand thy opponent. APA stands for Asian Pacific Americans, a term often used as an umbrella group which includes Asian Pacific Islanders. What groups fall under APA? According to skeptical author John Derbyshire:
In the first place, it is instructive to look at what “API” (or the newer, more user-friendly “APA”) actually means. Asia stretches from the Suez Canal to the Bering Strait, and from the Arctic Ocean to the Coral Sea. Whatever “API” signifies, it is certainly not a race in either the biological or the social-construction sense. A Samoan has no more in common with an Iranian than he has with an Irishman; a Pakistani is further removed from a Korean on any given criterion — linguistic, cultural, religious, phenotypic, or genetic — than he is from a Norwegian. “API” is in fact a very odd category, even more absurdly artificial than “Hispanic.” The folk gathered thereunder have only this one common characteristic: They, or their recent forebears, hail from somewhere between Istanbul and Tahiti.
Now, what is the 80-20 plan? From their website:
80-20 is a national nonpartisan Political Action Committee dedicated to work for equality and justice for all Asian Americans.
We ask presidential candidates to commit themselves to equality and justice for Asian Americans by agreeing to do the following if elected president:
-Vigorously prosecute all cases of racial discrimination,
-Lift glass ceilings on the professional advancement of Asian Americans
-Appoint qualified Asian Americans to policy-making positions in the Judicial and
-Executive branches of the federal government
We ask fellow Asian Americans to join us in our declaration to WITHHOLD financial and other forms of support to any presidential PRIMARY candidates who fail to pledge his/her commitment to our request for equal justice in the workplace.
During the GENERAL presidential election, a different approach is taken. To be effective, we shall form a block-vote in favor of the presidential candidate of that political party that will have helped Asian Americans the most in achieving equal opportunity, during each Presidential term.
We believe that if we could vote 80% on behalf of our favored presidential candidate, we shall become a political force that cannot be ignored American politics.
The unstated implication in the above statement is that this group wants 80% of the APA community to vote for Kerry so as to be seen by the Republicans as a force as powerful as other ethnic voting blocs and thereby “gain equality”. How powerful? Derbyshire writes:
Here is the logic behind 80-20. Around 110 million Americans will vote in November. If my guess that 2.2 percent of these voters will be APIs is correct, that means about 2.4 million API votes. If half those votes were to go to candidate X and half to candidate Y, then X and Y would each get 1.2 million API votes. If, on the other hand, APIs were to vote as a bloc, with 80 percent voting for X and only 20 percent voting for Y, then X would get 1.92 million API votes while Y would get only 0.48 million — a difference of 1.44 million votes nationwide (60 percent of 2.4 million).
Now, any American presidential hopeful worth his salt would juggle chainsaws while standing in a pit of rattlesnakes with his hair on fire to win the favor of 1.44 million voters. This is especially true after the 2000 close photo-finish. And the outline analysis I have offered above does not even take into account regional weightings. Over half of APIs live in California, New York, or Hawaii. At the time of the 2000 census, three-quarters lived in just ten states, containing 47 percent of the U.S. population.
Needless to say, NRO commentator John Derbyshire does not like the 80-20 idea and starts making generalizations about immigrants to explain the psyche of Asian Americans, rather than attack the plan on its merits alone:
So what does the Democratic party offer APIs? To judge from the 80-20 Initiative website, the answer seems to be: victim status.
API is the new black, you see. This notion has more resonance with middle-class APIs than you might think. Both Chinese and Indian immigrants bring with them to the U.S. a profound sense of having been historically wronged: the Chinese by the “century of humiliation” (Opium Wars to WW2) at the hands of Western powers and Japan, the Indians likewise by a century under British imperialism. There is also, running through Chinese culture, a strong emotional tendency toward self-pity, illustrated by a high proportion of Chinese novels, movies, and TV shows, and noticeable even in ancient literary productions. This is fertile soil for the seeds of victimology.
There is also the appeal of socialism. We think of East and South Asian immigrants as vigorously entrepreneurial, and indeed many are. There is, however, a strong counter-current running deep in both cultures. In Confucian China and those nations influenced by Confucianism, the dream of every capable young man and the entire object of the educational system was, for two thousand years, to get a government job. (Confucius himself spent his whole life seeking state employment.) Statism was not such a force in pre-modern India, but that country only recently emerged from a half-century of Fabian socialism, and the appeal of state employment must still be strong among many Indians.
I don’t completely disagree with Derbyshire about the manner in which the 80-20 idea is pitched to the APA community. It does make use of victim status more than it needs to in my opinion. There are plenty of other valid reasons that Asians might want to break 80-20 than the ones given on the website. To subtlety equate our struggles with those of other minorities is not entirely fair. If anything, we should be breaking 80-20 on specific policy issues. However, Derbyshire for some incomprehensible reason decides to end with the following threat?? (I don’t know what else to call it).
A split of the order of 80-20, as desired by the API activists, would, I believe, be a very bad sign for the country. The U.S. electorate already has one racial bloc voting 90-10 for Democrats. If we were to acquire another such, even a pseudo-racial bloc like the APIs, voting 80-20, the thought might begin to occur to the 69 percent of Americans who are un-black, un-Hispanic, and un-API that they might try an 80-20 strategy themselves. Let’s see: 69 percent of 110 million is 75.9 million; 60 percent of that is 45.5 million. Now that is a voting bloc.
In making this last statement he is implying that whites (maybe identifying with a new victim status) would vote Republican as a bloc, thereby overpowering the rest of the “victims.” Any point he was trying to make was lost on me upon reading that, and could serve to drive me into the arms of the 80-20 initiative.