Nick Tan, a member of the Asian Caucus of the New York Young Republican Club, no relation, sat with a family of voters over a rotating assortment of steamed fish, Yangzhou fried rice and other dishes. Nick, who grew up in New Jersey, lives in Manhattan. “Democrats, especially Asian ones, don’t represent us,” he said. But over the past two years, he continued, “the Asian community has finally woken up and made this very right-wing shift.” Asian values are conservative at heart, he insisted. What did he think of Tan’s primary Republican challenger, LaBella, remaining in the race? “It is the voters who will control the Party,” he said, adding: “Will the Party leaders ever like us? Probably not.” But it’s “the country club Republicans who are holding back the Yings of the world,” he said, and “they will no longer be relevant. Asian Americans will be the Republican Party’s new electorate , and it will be a strong electorate. What did he think of the evening’s speeches? “I forgot my Chinese a long time ago,” he said.
Across the table sat a citizen in her thirties, Liz Yang, whose family came to New York from Guangzhou. Her mother-in-law went to Tan’s senior daycare. “Growing up, I thought Republicans were for the rich, and Democrats were. If it weren’t for these government benefits, my parents would struggle to raise us,” she said. But now many of his friends are Republicans and his view of both parties has changed. “They don’t protect the rich,” she said of the Republican Party, “they protect the wealth of those who actually earn it.” It is the Republican Party that wants to protect the middle class. Democrats want to keep us low income. She had friends who were moving out of Section 8 housing into their own homes, and she was starting to think that government assistance was “making people lazy,” she said. Besides, it was too complicated. When she was laid off, she applied for unemployment, but it seemed like a full-time job. Additionally, she was receiving health care for her father, who had suffered a stroke. “I would really like our health care system to look like the Canadian system,” she said. “Taxes are higher and it’s equal opportunity, instead of ours.” Ying Tan, like most Republicans, seems skeptical about nationalizing health care: “One should always be careful when the government manages health insurance for the elderly and retirees,” she said.
After the fundraiser, Rosanne Li stood outside the restaurant with her mother. Both were very excited about the event. The Democrats were ruining the city, they admitted. In schools, for example, children are exposed to homosexuality, Li said. Later, she tried to explain what worried her about it. “Do you know how good a relationship my mother and I have? I don’t want schools to indoctrinate children into being gay – that would break the relationship between the child and their parents. The home and family would be broken,” she said. “When I hear that some people who don’t have a good relationship with their parents, whatever the reason that prevented them from having” – she paused to think about the term, then switched to Cantonese – “ a stable family, I don’t want to have a stable family.” I don’t want indoctrination to shake this stability.
The butler of New Choi Fook poked his head through the door. “If you want to chat outside, you might as well come and have tea,” he said in Cantonese. The Lis thanked him but explained that they were going home. They turned and began their walk under an elevated subway line as a D train rumbled above. ♦