Latino Cultural Ascendency: Latinos Need Not Apologize For Their Culture To Be Accepted As Americans


By Alex Gonzalez

“Scots-Irish never accept the fact that their leaders are superior to them in any way, in terms of their human qualities.., Instead, they measure their leaders by their own code of honor, loyalty and sometimes in-your-face leadership—Sen. Jim Webb

It is no secret that The Republican Party needs a long-term strategy to build a conservative Latino bloc in the southwest.  The GOP also needs a strategy that reflects the values of Latinos and their culture of the southwest to make it more attractive, as national identities are constructed by elites and governments. Likewise, Party ideologies are also constructed by movements or groups of the people who want their party to reflect a specific region, ideology or social group.  In America, the political identity of the South is formulated around the “Jacksonean Scott-Irish” cultural tradition that stretches from the Appalachian Mountains to Eastern Texas. This cultural approach should be emulated with Latinos in the Southwest because Latinos cherish their conservative culture as much as Scott-Irish. But Latinos, too, learning from the conservative south and the “Jacksoneans Scott-Irish, need to stop being apologetic about their Latino background in order to be accepted into the GOP. Cultural  ascendency into political power does not come about by apologies.

What I mean by Latino Cultural ascendency is the what Max Webber called the protestant ascendency in which cultural and religious acknowledgement by political parties, and business communities, are the foundation for their platform. Which  is the main Reason why Scott-Irish have been successful in the South. Too, what I mean by Latino Culture is what conservative scholar Seymour Martin Lipset used as cultural cleavages to explain the genesis of political parties and systems, all of which are based on the culture they seek to represent. A political party cannot represent a groups without first acknowledging it cultural cleavages.

According to Michael Barone from the American Enterprise Institute, and Jay Cost of the WeeklyStandar, in the South, the cultural of South was created by “Jacksonean Scotch-Irish bloc” whose culture is what makes them a strong conservative bloc. And this bloc southern  Scott-Irish does not care about party ideology or taxes, but rather about which party will respect their history and culture. But Similar, there is new Latino bloc forming in the southwester corridor with strong cultural ties to the region; and this cultural traits are stronger than political talks about taxes. This cultural Latino religious traits are the same as they are in South. Thus, if Republicans have any genuine desire to someday have influence over this region, they need to embrace the new Latino southwest culture. But rather than being apologetic about their Latino background, Latino Republicans need to demonstrate pride in their culture and assimilate it into the GOP like Scott-Irish did. Southern “Jacksonenas Scott-Irish never apologized for their culture to be included in the Republican base; as such, Latinos should not deny their cultural as a prerequisite to join the Any Party.  Democrats began losing the Scots-Irish vote when they shifted to courting the black vote. That shift ended the Democrats’ hold on the South, where many Scots-Irish lived.    

In the Op-ed titled, Jacksonians don’t like Barack Obama, Michael Barone argues  the Scots-Irish zone of America dislikes Obama. Barone points out that

the West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas primaries this month to make the larger point that this region, where Bill Clinton was competitive in 1992 and 1996, has now become very heavily Republican.” The Scots-Irish zone represents parts of America settled by the Scots-Irish who came across the Atlantic in huge numbers in the years 1763-75, just before the Revolution, and settled in the Appalachian ridges from southwest Pennsylvania to Upcountry South Carolina ….. Texas and Oklahoma. Their identity as Americans came under Andrew Jackson in his call for volunteers in Tennessee for the War of 1812

And Barone is not alone in these cultural trait observations that are ingrained in the South. Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard also noticed that there is a similar story to tell all throughout the Border South – in “Greater Appalachia,” as it is known, the states that run west with the Ohio River then south with the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  There is the same basic type of voter in the region now as there was 30 years ago.  It’s just that now this voter does not vote for the Democrats anymore.  Cost argues that even though the South is poor, this group votes  Republican because “Jacksoneans Scott-Irish” see themselves as people fighting the powerful—big government and interests groups—the “humble members of society ” fighting big aristocratic governments, just as Andrew Jackson saw himself. According to Jay Cost:

Democrats could count not only on the support of Appalachia, but also on much of the poor, rural people in the Farm Belt and the Mountain West.  But now they’ve all gone Republican, strongly so, thereby depleting the Democratic base in the region.  The “humble members of society” who once powered the Democratic have changed sides. And.. the demographics of this region have been stable over the last few decades: There is the same basic type of voter in the region now as there was 30 years ago.  However,  the Democrat ideology no longer represents the “humbled and people” but rather special interest groups like unions, and elites that scold the poor fools that have been so bewitched by the GOP that they cannot even perceive their true interests.  They perceive that the Democratic party is no longer the “party of the people,” as it was with Jackson, FDR, Truman, or LBJ. Instead, it’s now home to a slew of powerful special interest groups – certain unions… big city politicos, the vast panoply of upper class liberal interest groups,,,And the people in Appalachia and the Farm Belt who no longer vote Democratic suffer insult to injury: Their defections from the party banner are explained away as being due to some form of false-consciousness; the poor fools have been so bewitched by the GOP that they cannot even perceive their true interests.

Both Barone and Cost argue that the poor South votes Republican because of their Culture.  They are of Scott-Irish and Andrew Jackson’s revolutionary ideal’s of representation for the “humble” masses over the powerful; this attitude is an identity cultural  politics, which it has nothing to do with taxes, and more with cultural values important to one specific  group of people. It is these values that are passed from generation to generation regardless of party affiliation.  As a result, the Jacksoneans  Scot-Irish bloc did not have to change their values, but rather it was the Republican Party that moved to embrace the values of Scotch-Irish.  And this is the formula that needs to be duplicated with Latinos in the South whose culture and history are  attached to one bloc of states in Southwest—a Latino Southwestern corridor.

Latinos for the first time in American History are the sole pillar of Catholic Church in the US.  Additionally, Latinos will be the majority in the Southwester Corridor from Texas to California—states with largest Electoral Votes and the wealthiest in the nation.  So it would be a rational goal for the Republican Party to build a regional identity that will embrace the culture of Latinos as the GOP has done in the South around the culture of Jacksonean Scott-Irish. For example, this week two conservatives took notice that Obama is very unpopular in southern states where Democrats used to be popular. Michal Barone called these voters “Jacksonean Scott-Irish bloc.”  Barone noticed that the Southern Scott-Irish have shifted parties many times, always going with the party that speaks to their cultural values in the South.  It is the respect that both parties pay to this group’s culture that makes the Scott-Irish stick with one party over another.

Michael Barone has often argued, in the past, that Latinos are the “new Americans,” and Republicans can benefits greatly from embracing this new ethnic voting bloc. But Republicans often chastise Latinos Republicans when they openly want to embrace their ethnic values, or historical experience. Republicans fear that too much focus on Latino identity will dilute the American identity of civic culture.  But, unfortunately, these demands of pure American identity are only cast onto to Latinos. Moreover, these demands are based on false idea that Latinos are different than other groups, but Latinos share the same common civic culture, American exceptionalism.

What does it mean Being Latino and  Being American.

In a Jeffersonean tradition, being Republican means that the federal government, or the national party, has no right to go around the country telling groups or states how to manage their affairs or culture—States Rights.   In a Hamiltonean Republican tradition, the Constitution is the Supreme law of the land. And Latino culture in the US embodies both of these values. So the RNC and DNC should have no role in demanding, or favoring, one culture over another; it is  the other way around. The Democrat and Republican party need to embody and embrace the culture of Latinos – Political Parties are based on the culture they seek to represent. A political party cannot represent a group without first acknowledging it cultural cleavages.

In America, and western tradition, especially among conservative movements, political parties have been built to represent the values – religious or historical — of the community, a group, or region. The communities build the political parties to represent their values, the party does not build the community with a superficial nationally agenda drafted by party bureaucrats without consultation of the community. That would be anti-Jeffersonian. Thus, in asserting their identity Latinos are asserting their identity as Americans and as long-time settlers of this land.

In his book the New Americans, Barone believes that we have been a nation of immigrants long before Kennedy himself stated it.  Second, the different racial/demographic groups of today already resemble a respective group earlier in American history.  Third, the real threat to problems in this country brought about “by immigrants” stem actually from the Liberal bastion-concept of multiculturalism.  And fourth, as an answer to multiculturalism, the concept of assimilation and “Americanization” that has been in place less than a hundred years ago needs to be revived—civic education. Also, anyone could become an American.  A diverse people would share a common citizenship. America would be a proudly multiethnic nation. But it also would be a nation with a “common civic culture”.

The main threats to assimilation comes not from the immigrants themselves, but from American elites who flinch at the mention of Americanization and who find European-style multiculturalism more appealing.  There are the educational elites, who support so-called bilingual education which in practice is too often neither bilingual nor education in which children are taught in bad Spanish and kept from mastering the English language, the first rung on the ladder of upward mobility.

Tx AtMBut beyond the surgically incisive attacks on the elite, the emphasis of the rest of the book is that “we have been here before,” and that it isn’t fair or right to actually compare the different demographic groups of today–Latinos and Asian — have similar cultural traits with a respective group from the nation’s past: Irish, Italians, and Jews. The book makes comparisons–Blacks to Irish—Italians to Latinos–and Jews to Asians.  In each section he compares such issues as family, religion, crime, work, the journey that brought them there, the impetus for them to leave, politics, and uniqueness. Striking similarities exist for each grouping of the trio. The success of each of first arrived pair of each group makes an airtight case for the melting pot and an intelligent argument against multicultural fads. What was once extended to the Irish and Italians, and that the integration of these groups into our national identity took many decades. Our present perspective on the mix of “nationalities” does not represent how it appeared to our ancestors any more than our present views will be held by our descendants.

The “uncanny resemblance,” as Barone puts it, between Italian immigrants and the current wave of Latino newcomers shows that the Spanish-speaking arrivals too will merge into mainstream America. Neither initially placed much value in education, but both were diligent workers and family-oriented, and both largely shunned welfare-state aid and, initially, politics. Just as Italians became interwoven into American life after being clustered in ethnic enclaves, so too do later generations of Latinos learn English and make economic advances. As with blacks, Latinos face a policy difference, especially with bilingual education, which in practice has often been Spanish-based. Its failures are now evident, and there is movement back to English-based instruction.   Italian immigrants, like today’s Latinos (especially Mexicans), came from countries where the government and culture discouraged trust in institutions; both have prized work over politics. 

Thus, according to Barone, Latinos share the same cultural values of other groups, especially Italians. But what is unique about Latinos is that they share a historical attachment to southwest, especially to areas like Texas, California, and New Mexico where Latinos see themselves as part of the culture of the region, and thus, forming cross-state cultural corridor similar to that of the Jacksonean Scott-Irish corridor in the South.

But Party bosses will like to argue that Latinos can be wooed by superficial party talk alone about taxes or government programs  while de-emphasizing their background. However, as with Scott-Irish, the ethnic identity never changes. What changes is the party positions in which the party moves its positions to reflect the values of the groups they seek to represent.  Therefore, Latinos do not need to change. It is the Republican Party in the Southwest that needs change to embody the conservative Religious, historical,  and family values of Latinos. And that is indeed how Thomas Jefferson would have wanted it under the doctrine of States Rights.

The Old Scott-Irish South                            The New Latino Southwester South

So just like “Jacksoneans” Scot-Irish” Appalachia Southerners, Latinos need not apologize for their culture, nor do they need to suppress it to prove their dedication to either party, or allegiances to this nation. There are strong cultural values in the Southwest, where Latino Americans will be the majority in 20 years, Latinos too will be sole bearers of the Catholic Church in the US.  Thus, party bosses within the GOP need to make the Republican Party a Party that reflects the cultural values of Latinos, while at the same time maintain the core conservative tenets, as it has occurred with “Jacksonean”  in the South.  Though, there is pervasive misconception  among the Republican circle that Latinos need to make their ethnic identity less “thick” to be fully embraced by the GOP, history shows that ethnic groups strengthen the  Political  Party when the party formulates the platform around the issues important to a group.  Surrendering their identity for superficial party rhetoric is not how the Republican and Democrat  Jacksonean South – “Scots-Irish zone”-  was built.   But as Barone points out,  it is because of a misconception that Latinos are not like the past wave of immigrants, and a misunderstanding about what it means to be American.

For example, often Republicans party bosses may be confused about what it means to be American and often cite Teddy Roosevelt to make the point that Latinos need to have only one civic allegiance, American exceptionalism. This would true only if the stringent demand would be applied to all groups, regional or religious, that make up the base of the GOP.  But in reality these demands for American exceptionalism are only for Latinos in the southwest.  For instance, Teddy Roosevelt  stated that”   

There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people—T. Roosevelt

But conservative scholars like Samuel Huntington and Michael Barone argue  that the real meaning of American exceptionalism, or creed, is dedication to a “religious common constitutional  civic culture,” that that respects and adheres to  the institutions  of government created under the Constitution. In fact, Samuel Huntington would have detested the anti-federal institutionalism in the South because under Huntington’s views  of American-ness, being American meant adherence to institutionalism—institutions created under the US Constitution.  Thus, in its purest conservative form, being an American is respect for Constitution. And Latinos, and Latino culture in the Southwest, has never promoted any non-adherence to a common civic culture, or disrespect for the Constitution.

Barone further points out, that the failure of bilingualism is more a result of elite “white” progressive liberals who want America to look like Europe; so bilingualism has nothing to do with being too Latino, or being of one race or another, or being less than other cultures, or where Latinos come from, but rather cultural elites who want America resemble Europe. But the main complain by cultural “Conservatives” is that Latino are not Europeans, even if their cultural, language and religion are fundamental European.

Furthermore, in its purest Jeffersonean  ideal of states’ Rights, states have the right to live according to their own culture—as long as it does not conflict with the Constitution. Consequently,  Republicans or Democrats should not demand that Latinos abandon their Southwest Latino roots as a prerequisite to be Republican or Democrats; that in itself is Unconstitutional since it is these cultural traits that are protected under the Constitution.  Consequently,  a national Party, has no right to be dictating or regulating cultural behavior among groups.  It is the party that needs to reflect the values of the people it seeks to represent; after all, will Republicans ask Jacksoneans Scott-Irish not to be too Scott-Irish in the South, Will Democrats Irish Not be “Irish” in New England, or ask Jewish-Americans not to be too Jewish?

rising-hispanic-american-cultureLatino in the Southwest have the right to demand inclusion of their culture in the GOP and Democrat party, and Latino should not apologize for their culture or minimized to be accepted as member of any party.  Latinos, as Barone argues, have similar cultural traits as any other past “stock” of “ethnic white” groups.  Additionally, Latino culture embraces all the allegiances that Roosevelt demanded: By the second generation, English become Latinos first language; they move up to middle-income bracket, and adopt middle-class values, and they pledge alliance to the American flag. Thus, Latino values in the Southwest possess American exceptionalism in its core; and Latinos should not apologize for those values.  Additionally, both parties need to embrace these values the same way it has embraced the culture of the rebel Jacksoneans Scott-Irish in the South.

Like in the South, in the southwest there is greater expression of what Jefferson intended under  States Rights; states have the right to have their own culture, and neither the federal government, nor a National Party, have right to impose national culture—or suppress one to favor others–other than a “common civic culture”. Jefferson would have agreed that  a few states in the same region have the right to bond together to protect their culture and history, so long as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Constitution. Therefore, Latinos have the right to insist that their culture be reflect within both parties, and not be apologetic for it.

Therefore, unless the Republicans fully embrace Latinos, and stop making unrealistic stringent cultural demands not made to others groups, it will surrender the Latino southwester corridor to Democrats.  Latinos love and respect their culture and their history as part of the Southwest. And just like Jacksoneans Scott-Irish, Latinos will go with a party that better embodies their values.  Jacksoneans Scott-Irish went on to vote for Jackson, FDR, Truman, or LBJ, and even Clinton. But they always voted with those who respected their values, culture and history. Many would like to say that allowing Latinos to keep their culture is a recipe for an “unassimilated Americans.”  But this is a fallacy. As Barone and Cost underline, the “humble masses” or the Jacksoneans Scott-Irish of the South will come to a Party  that will respect their culture and reflects their values, especially in matters of region, family and culture.

MeAlex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote.

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