Why do immigrants identify with and vote for Democrats? An interesting thought experiment.

Despite the fact that many ethnic groups have conservative values and leanings – especially in social beliefs – immigrants to the United States skew heavily to identification with Democrats not Republicans.

There may be many reasons: better branding by Democrats as the party of the “non-establishment” or a more racially tinged identification as the party for “non-whites.” Perhaps it is because most other countries’ politics are decidedly more left than American politics (I have a European friend who describes America as a country with two political traditions; the conservatives and the even more conservatives…) In a comment on a story that addressed this phenomenon one reader produced this fascinating and (I think) insightful thought experiment:

Let’s say you were to immigrate to a new country which is essentially divided between two hostile tribes engaged in perpetual low-intensity warfare. We’ll call them Hutus and Tutsis. You have no previous allegiance or affiliation with either tribe.

Let’s also say that one tribe, Tutsis, holds a hegemony on all organs of education and opinion, virtually the entire government bureaucracy and all of popular culture. Many of the most prestigious institutions in the country consist of 95%+ Tutsis. Tutsi organizations like “Harvard University” and “The New York Times” are widely respected by even ardent Hutus.

Now of course there are Hutu organizations and no shortage of powerful Hutu people. But, unlike the reverse, there are virtually no prestigious institutions where Tutsis are excluded. I.e. some prestigious and powerful institutions, like “General Electric” or “Goldman Sachs” may be 2:1 Hutu at most. But any with a 10:1 ratio or more are virtually guaranteed to be far inferior, second-rate and low status institutions or organizations. Examples of these pariahs are “Oral Roberts University”, “Fox News” and “Amway.”

This leads to a strange asymmetry where it is certainly possible to succeed in this society while being Hutu, it almost never hurts to be Tutsi. For example just the other day there was a Tutsi ceremony called “The Academy Awards” that almost exclusively honors Tutsis. Despite this, this ceremony is observed and recognized by Hutus around the country.

A rational, self-interested immigrant to this society would of course choose align himself as a moderate, but reliably loyal Tutsi. Unless you’re a Tutsi extremist, leaning Tutsi will almost never hurt your career or standing except in all but the most malformed, backwards and irrelevant Hutu organizations.

But failure to demonstrate at least general sympathy to the Tutsi side will almost undoubtedly lock you out of many career options and generally draw attention to you in most corners of polite society.

It makes a lot of sense to me. What do you think?

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