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Analysis | Trump’s racism is alienating a growing voting bloc


As their only declared presidential candidate is holding its first public event of 2023, Republicans must ask themselves a question: If you’re too scared to confront Donald Trump on ideological or moral grounds, what about gross political ends?

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao this week made one of the strongest charges yet against her former boss’s racism — specifically a series of blatantly racist remarks directed at her. Chao had tried to ignore Trump and urged the media to do the same. But for whatever reason, Chao decided she couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

Not only is she right, but other Republicans should follow her example. It’s not often that the right thing to do is also the politically expedient thing to do — but in this case, given the growing influence of Asian Americans in American politics, it is.

Trump’s vicious rhetoric here is unlike his references to “kung flu” during the early weeks of the 2020 pandemic. Those can perhaps be excused as juvenile (and insulting) attempts at humor at a time when many Americans were seeking relief of their tension. But calling a Taiwanese-American woman “Coco Chow” – swearing is, as Chao points out, painfully common for many Asian Americans – crosses a line rarely seen in politics (at least if you don’t count Trump).

It’s also politically stupid. There is at least anecdotal evidence during the last several elections that Asian Americans are becoming more conservative on crime, education and possibly the economy. In New York State, Asian American voters not only moved significantly to the right in the 2022 gubernatorial election, they also helped Republicans win four seats in the U.S. House. And an Asian-American Republican ousted a 36-year-old Democrat incumbent on the New York City Council.

In California, two Korean-American Republican women, Michelle Steel and Young Kim, defied the 2018 blue wave, winning Democratic seats in Orange County — a former GOP stronghold that has turned blue in recent years. Steel and Kim retained their seats in 2020 and 2022 and are now members of the Republican majority in the U.S. House.

Meanwhile, Trump’s hostility is almost pathological. And Republicans can’t excuse his behavior as just bellicose pettiness due to Chao’s resignation after Jan. 6 or the many times Trump was criticized by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chao’s husband. How else can you explain Trump’s strange mockery of Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin’s name: “Sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?” Could the insult have anything to do with Youngkin’s status as a possible 2024 candidate?

On a positive note, this was a rare occurrence when Trump was actually called out publicly by an elected Republican: Former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, whose wife and children are Korean-American, called Trump’s comment racist.

If Trump continues to make racial slurs about an Asian-American woman who more than ably served in four Republican administrations (including his own) — when other Republicans say no negative — then the 2024 Democrat political ads are practically writing themselves. Especially if Trump is the nominee.

There are at least two ways Republicans can avoid sabotaging their emerging relationship with the fastest-growing minority group in the country. They can denounce Donald Trump when he goes on one of his racist tirades, which he inevitably will. And they can nominate a presidential candidate who has no racist baggage.

More from Bloomberg’s opinion:

• Trump takes his insults to a new low: Timothy L. O’Brien

• Insulting a fallen soldier is a bad look for Trump: Cass Sunstein

• In honor of Mitch McConnell’s honest talk on January 6: The Editors

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This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Robert A. George is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and member of the Editorial Board for Government and Public Policy. He previously served on the editorial boards of the New York Daily News and New York Post.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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