VOX POPULI: Why Are So Many Japanese Americans Democrats?



(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 28, 2010)


Why does it appear that so many Japanese Americans vote for the Democrat ticket? I say it appears, because I have no scientific poll to prove this. But isn’t it a fact that every Japanese American in the Congress is a Democrat? To name a few—Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Daniel Akaka, Congressman Doris Matsui. To name a few others in politics—Norman Mineta, former Transportation Secretary, in the California legislature; Mariko Yamada, Mary Hayashi, Warren Furutani. Why are so many JA’s in politics Democrats? It boggles my mind! After all, was it not a Democrat president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who put Japanese Americans into Relocation Centers during World War II by Executive Order 9006? FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who was a conservative, said it was not necessary and Robert Taft, a Republican were a few who opposed it. Congressman Taft was the only one in Congress who voted against the evacuation of JA’s and it was Republican President Ronald Reagan, who signed the Bill for JAs to be compensated for being evacuated. I think there is a myth that Democrats care about minorities and that Republicans are the party of the rich. The truth is that Democrats are for big government, entitlement programs increasing taxes, more government control over our lives, a living and breathing Constitution that implies we do not have to adhere to the Constitution, but most adapt the interpretation to modern times. Conservatives and most Republicans believe in free enterprise, smaller government, less government controls, freedom and liberty  for individuals, strict  interpretation of the Constitution, as our founding fathers envisioned it.

Japanese Americans have prospered in a free-market America. Japanese people came to America seeking the American dream. They worked hard. They farmed and grew vegetables and flowers. They educated themselves and heir children. They ran small businesses and restaurants. They didn’t ask for welfare or a handout. Unlike some of today’s immigrants, they learned English and embraced the American way of life and culture. Today, Japanese Americans are so integrated in American society, you don’t hear very much about us anymore as a community or minority group, voicing our demands and needs while other Asian communities continue to maintain their culture and communities to a greater degree.

My father, Frank Hirohata, was a Republican as long as I can remember. He was for Wendell Wilkie, Thomas Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower, but couldn’t vote until he became a citizen after World War II. Maybe he convinced my mother who was a Nisei to vote his wishes. As a third generation JA Sansei, I was 9 years old when JAs were relocated in 1943 to the Relocation Centers in the inland states. My father was sent to a separate internment camp because he was the president of the Japanese language school in Monrovia and was deemed a threat. He came to the United States in 1918 at age 16 and was put in the 4th grade until he learned English. That must have been humiliating! They had no bilingual education, obviously. He worked as a “school boy,” another word for hired help or servant. He worked on my grandmother’s farm. He went to Pasadena High School and Pasadena Junior College and then to Southwestern University Business School and became an insurance agent. He built a prosperous business and in his time, he had the leading insurance agency for the Japanese community. By hard work, education and determination, he achieved his American dream.

The Democrat Party today does not resemble the Democrat Party of the past. Democrats have always been the party of expansive government, entitlements and high taxes to pay for it. But it was done gradually. That’s why they call themselves progressives—progress a little at a time. Liberals knew that Americans, who descended from hard-working pioneers would never accept socialism and massive regulations and control over our lives. That’s why they chose the word, progressive. Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive and he unsuccessfully advocated government-run healthcare. Woodrow Wilson was a progressive and he instituted the income tax. Ironically, we found out that Democrats who like high taxes for all of us, don’t pay them themselves, as we found out, as nominee after nominee in the current administration for executive appointment were exposed for tax evasion or rushed to pay delinquent taxes before being sworn in. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a progressive and he gave us Social Security which undoubtedly helped many people, but is now on the verge of going broke. Originally 16 people were paying for one retiree, but now, it is, or soon will be, two people paying for one retiree. That is unsustainable—like most government entitlement programs.

Today, the Democrat Party and administration are shocking the nation by their radical policies—billion dollar bailouts for Wall Street, billions for a stimulus plan that has done little for jobs and mostly propped up States and their workers and wasted millions on ridiculous research projects that do little for job creation. We see the takeover of the banks, the auto industry, student loans, environmental regulations, the housing industry in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and now they want to takeover Health Care and control every aspect of our lives! We have an administration that announced from the onset that their goal was to radically change the America we knew and their goal was social justice—the redistribution of wealth. And their means of achieving this is change we now know are based on the teachings of Saul Alinsky. In the 1940’s and 1950’s communism was anathema to American society. Socialism was scorned upon as Norman Thomas ran ever 4 years in futility on the Socialist ticket. Today we have an administration that has shamelessly hired an avowed communist, Van Jones, as the green czar but who had to resign after the American people learned about his true political views. Another former staff member to the Administration, Anita Dunn, in the same breath openly praised the virtues of Mother Teresa and Chairman Mao! She has since resigned but her husband has a position in the White House. Today we see an administration that is pressing hard for the redistribution of wealth, to create a socialist utopia that will come to fruition. Just look at the nations who have adopted socialist programs, the European Union, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, the Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom, where big government and high taxes, have made them become nanny states where all their taxes are used to provide entitlements and they are going broke and have little means of defending themselves. If they get attacked, they will probably yell Uncle! Uncle Sam, that is, and they will expect the USA to rescue them as we did in World War II. Today sadly, America stands alone in the free world to stand up against the threat against the free world.

I hope I am wrong about most Japanese Americans being Democrats! Because I have no idea how many JAs are liberals or conservatives. By conservatives, I mean Ronald Reagan conservatives, who believe in freedom and liberty, as Mark Levin, renown author and talk show host, constitutional lawyer, who worked in the Ronald Reagan administration, describes so eloquently in his New York Times bestseller, “Liberty and Tyranny,” a conservative manifesto. It’s the liberty and freedom in America that has made it possible for Japanese Americans to prosper and excel in every field today. It’s freedom and liberty that attract the people of the world to come to America. Do you see hoards of people scaling fences or breaking down doors to get into any other country? And it is conservatives that are the promoters of freedom and liberty. JAs don’t need to start their own conservative group – hopefully we are beyond that strict age. As a Japanese American conservative, I say, please prove me wrong. I hope there are millions of JA’s that are active conservatives who care about this wonderful country and will stand up for the freedom and liberty that have blessed us so much. Wake up America! Wake up Japanese Americans, before our precious freedom and liberty slip away. Speak up! Educate ourselves in history, listen to talk radio, participate in tea parties, call your Congressmen and Senators, run for political office, America needs you!

Vox Populi is a forum for community opinion. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo. to submit a Vox Populi e-mail Gwen Muranaka or fax (213) 687-0737.



  1. Concerned JA Politico on

    An interesting opinion piece I must say. However, I feel like it is strongly politically charged of course, leaning toward republicans being the white light and democrats being the destruction of modern society as we know it.

    As a JA, who is registered as “declined to state” yet clearly progressive in my political ideology, I’ve noticed that the author has downright ignored the social ideology that divides the two parties. Besides bemoaning the past random correlations with acts of injustice in the past, the author doesn’t address the current social dilemmas that stratify our country. As I see it, Republicans are anti-gay, pro-life, and there’s a strong correlation with old, rich, white men in this party; all of which, I am socially opposed to. I am pro-equality, feminist, and embrace diversity.

    The author also presents an interesting, yet cliche, immigrant story of people pulling themselves up by “their own bootstraps.” Not to discount the the author’s family story, but just because your family made it, does that mean every family could? Work hard, have big dreams, and American will make it happen. Without even mentioning a tinge of racism that existed within this era.

    I’m not sure why most JAs are democratic, but I’d guess that it’s more because of the social reasons than the fiscal ones that are addressed in this opinion piece. And it’s a slippery slope debate with socialism and communism comparing them to the social services and regulation that exist within our country.

    I do know since the white knight of the Reagan era, wealth, and income inequality have skyrocketed. Do I think it’s right that the top 1% of the rich individuals in our country have 95% of the wealth? Not really. Do I think they can afford higher taxes, because they should give back to the economic and political system that made them that rich? Probably.

    And just because all of the current JA representatives are democratic doesn’t mean all JAs are, but I’d presume the majority happen to be.

    My two cents. Flame away.

  2. I applaud Ms Masuda’s well-written column examining JAs voting for Democratic tickets!

    A bit of my own background:

    In the early ’60s, our young JA family moved to Running Springs – a lily-white town in the San Bernardino Mountains between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. My Nisei parents made sure my two younger brothers and I behaved respectfully in our home and in our town. They were generous with their time and finances towards neighborhood groups (Little League, Library, Firemen, American Legion, etc.) My mom was an esteemed teacher at the local elementary school and my dad worked in the aerospace industry. We Sansei boys earned the reputation of being well-mannered high-achieving lads who never caused problems and – much to the consternation of other kids – were held up as role models by our friends’ parents. (As in, “Why can’t you be more like…”) All of this helped cement my parents’ pillars-of-the-community status.

    We were a staunch JFK-Democrat family. My dad became suspicious of bully politicians during the McCarthy era and grew to abhor Richard Nixon when he was Eisenhower’s Veep. Due to parental influence, we naturally gravitated towards all things Democrat and I voted along party lines until I completed graduate school, started a family of my own, and began paying taxes. My parents remained Democrats even as the party slowly adopted a radical platform. My dad was a staunch Democrat his whole life although he disagreed with many of the party’s planks. He died in 1997. My mom and brothers remain Democrats, but agree with ~90% of the Conservative party line (DINOs?)

    Along the way, I figured out that following Conservative values is the best recipe for both individual and societal success in the USA. Since my awakening, I’ve moved farther right and am currently quite concerned with the Obama Administration’s radical direction. The Liberal belief that ‘those people’ need extra help for as long as necessary, and the subsequent practice of providing unending welfare has resulted in a permanent (and growing) dependent class. Even Affirmative Action’s well-intentioned mantra of leveling the playing field is paternalistic and has resulted in the lowering of standards, despite the claims to the contrary. (Can anyone imagine Liberals insisting on enforcement of Affirmative Action rules for JAs in any profession?)

    My theory is that main-stream Democrats actually embrace most of the Conservative platform, but either haven’t taken a close look at their affiliations or are just too intimidated to ‘come out.’ In today’s MSM anti-Right environment, it’s actually easier to go with the Liberal (Progressive) flow. A Liberal’s vitriolic tirade against US traditions is rarely challenged, while the Conservative’s mere voiced support of the US Military or of local enforcement of Federal laws results in vile labels and epithets (Nazi, Fascist, Racist.) Nobody relishes being labeled a racist Nazi, or worse, Intolerant! Liberals have learned – and continue to practice – that playing the Racist card shuts down in-depth societal consideration and meaningful debate of any issue.

    (Just my opinion. I could be wrong.)

    Keep up the good work!

    Proud of America!

  3. Bravo on this article!

    Re: Concerned JA Politico

    “As I see it, Republicans are anti-gay, pro-life, and there’s a strong correlation with old, rich, white men in this party; all of which, I am socially opposed to. I am pro-equality, feminist, and embrace diversity.”

    You are socially opposed to old, rich white men? That makes you a sexist, ageist, communist, and racist, but at least you admit it. But it also means you reject diversity, not embrace it. Also, FYI most pro-lifers are also feminists.

  4. I am a Conservative Sansei, and I am just as concerned about the direction the country is going with the 0bama administration. Masuda-san is correct, and has reason to be concerned. The sad thing about the Japanese American population is this: for the most part, we are politically ignorant! Everything that President 0bama is doing parallels the failed policies of Jimmy Carter, and it will wreak disaster upon us as a nation. The BAKAYARO who are running the nation have already bankrupted our future generations; in fact, this administration has been bad for the private businesses. Have you seen all the failed businesses in the local communities? Also, the mainstream media deliberately hides the truth from the public; one must search the alternative media to find out what is really going on.

    As for those who say that the Republicans are anti-gay, and anti-feminist, I have news for you: They oppose radical feminists because the radical feminists kill babies before they’re born…now where is the sense of shame? As for the gays, men can’t have children by having sex with another man; nor can women by having sex with another woman! Now where is the sense of shame? Again, I must ask that question!

    By the way, every society in history has fallen when the society started promoting homosexual lifestyles as the norm! Let’s not forget that important lesson!

    It seems the Democrats of today refuse to learn from history…now I hope our fellow Japanese Americans WAKE UP before we sink into the hall of shame!

    By the way, I work in radio.

  5. An interesting piece. Perhaps you could ask Senator Inouye, Representatives Matsui, Hirono, and Assemblymember Furutani why they decided to register, run, and govern as Democrats? I’m sure their answers would be compelling.

    In the case of Nikkei Democrats in Hawai’i, the story is simple: up until very recently, the Republicans WERE the party of the rich – in their case, the planters and landowners and missionary descendants – while the Democrats cultivated support among plantation workers and dockworkers, most of whom were Asian and many of whom were Japanese Americans left out of civil society. Inouye’s generation, spurred by the 442nd, threw their support to the Democrats (who, at that time, were the only people who paid any attention to them at all.) Consequently, Inouye and his generation went to the State House (and later DC) and drew three generations of Japanese Americans into politics – and the Democratic Party.

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