In today’s Washington Post, Michael Gerson, formerly a speechwriter to President Bush, criticizes conservatives for “letting fear rule” in the immigration debate:
But the real passion in this debate is not political, it is cultural — a fear that American identity is being diluted by Latino migration. Tancredo is the lowbrow expression of this fear. Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University, whom Tancredo calls an intellectual mentor, presents the highbrow version. Huntington argues that Mexican migration is a threat to American unity and to the “core” of our cultural identity. “America,” he says, “was created as a Protestant society just as and for some of the same reasons Pakistan and Israel were created as Muslim and Jewish societies in the 20th century.”
There are many problems with this argument, not least of which is that about a fifth of Hispanics in America are Protestants, mostly evangelical Pentecostals and Baptists. Almost all of Bush’s political gains among Hispanics have come from this group, which gave him 44 percent of their vote in 2000 and 56 percent in 2004. Hispanic Protestants tend to be conservative on social policy. And many conservatives, I’d be willing to bet, would feel more cultural affinity with Hispanic Baptists in their church pews than they would with Huntington’s colleagues in the Harvard faculty lounge.