Is Self-Assertion a Free Lunch?
By Bryan Caplan
Bryan has the psychological dynamics 180 degrees
backwards. The Republicans problem with Asian and Latin voters is not
that Republicans don’t respect the newcomers enough, it’s that
Republicans don’t insist effectively upon respect for the whites who
back up the vast mass of their party. If Republicans pushed through
reforms insisting upon equal treatment by race — e.g., abolishing
affirmative action, ending the special “ethnicity” that only Hispanics
possess, and so forth — then lots of Latins and Asians would decide
that they are more or less white and thus are natural Republicans.
Instead, when Republicans act ashamed of being largely white,
newcomers rapidly figure out that they are likely losers in the coming
struggles, so they put the boot in, too.
His model, as far as I can tell, is that self-assertion is a free lunch. When you assert yourself (“insist effectively upon respect”), you simultaneously inspire admiration and get a better deal for yourself.
I can believe this works occasionally, but it’s not a plausible general story. It’s not plausible on a personal level: People who loudly demand respect often provoke resentment and resistance instead. And it’s not plausible on a group level, either. Asian Americans, for example, rarely demand more respect or better treatment from mainstream Americans. This may mean that Asians get a bad deal on affirmative action. But it also means that whites feel very comfortable around Asians, leading better job opportunities and high intermarriage rates.
Self-assertion is at best a high-risk strategy. You can try it with your boss today. Maybe you’ll get a big raise and a corner office, but you’re more likely to lose your boss’s goodwill and move to the top of his list of people to fire.
My prediction: If someone like Steve ever addresses the Republican presidential convention, it will make Republicans less popular with Democratic-leaning groups. If someone like Steve ever becomes the most prominent Republican in the country, it would make Republicans far less popular with Democratic-leaning groups. Given the negative reactions Steve often inspires, I wonder how he could think otherwise.