Saturday, July 3, 2010

Test Ahead: Race vs. Religion

Charles Blow notes that the American Left is now as or more religious than the American Right with African-Americans being joined by the also relatively religious Hispanic minority.  This leads to all kind of interesting questions, including with the Republicans can lure the relatively religious minorities away from the Democrats. 

This all hinges, in part, on a classic question of ethnic politics--which identities matter more?  Race?  Religion?  Language?  I was asked this question during my comprehensive exam long ago and mostly flubbed the question.  I think I posted in this blog (couldn't find it easily) that I now would answer the question: religion > language > race, holding all else constant, as religion will always have political implications since each religious group will have its own code for what governments should and should not do. 

Having said that, all else is not constant, or perhaps it is in the sense that history and path dependence matter.  Religious African-Americans are more likely to keep in mind what the Republican Party has said and done over the past fifty years than fall for religious appeals.  Religious Hispanics are more likely to focus on the recent efforts by the Republicans to, ahem, target them politically and not in a good way. 

Still, as a social scientist, I can only go oooh.... ahhh!!!! at the fireworks display ahead--the contradictions between the imperatives and ties of religion and of race, and see variations and testing opportunities ahead.  As I said, my guess is that race trumps religion here in the current and near future of American politics.  But I could be wrong.  Either way, it is going to be interesting.

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