What many do not seem to understand about Donald Trump’s nativist politics is that he mainstreamed the war on culture against minorities – specifically Mexican-Americans – that started in the late 1970’s. The issue is not about skin color, but rather it is about culture. The conflict being played out in the background is about Anglo-Protestants fearing the decline of their power as Latinos, namely Mexican-Americans, begin to exert their numbers upon the political scene. It is a cold war about the changing demographic of the country that pits the Hispanic culture against those that fear their culture is being marginalized politically. As you dig deep into what has been driving voter laws and the allegations of voter fraud, you begin to understand that those in power have realized that too much democracy is bad for their cultural identity. That is the elephant in the room that many are too afraid to point out. As soon as white versus minorities is added to the debate, the word racism drives the discussion back into murmurs of voting rights and border security.

The word racism is used as a tool to keep the war on culture wrapped in the murkiness of fear mongering about radical terrorism, drug cartels and undocumented immigrants that are overwhelming the system. When the conversation veers towards the war on culture, then the word racism is added to the debate to distract away from it. Looking at the conflict as a war on culture makes the debate unpalatable for the national discourse, hence racism is brought into the mix to silence discussion about culture.

The war on culture is not about skin color. But rather it is about the Hispanization of the United States. Samuel Huntington articulated this in a Foreign Affairs Magazine essay in 1993. In his essay, Huntington predicted that the next international crisis, after the fall of communism, would be world instability led by Islam. Huntington argued that ideological battles were being replaced by cultural conflicts. Wars were now going to be ethnic conflicts. Huntington argued that the world was made up of nine “civilizations”. Among them were the “Western,” “Islamic,” and the “Latin American” civilizations. The Western civilization has been historically made up of Catholic-Protestants. In 2004, Huntington added to his thesis in his book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. Huntington argued that immigration from Latin America would divide the United States into two cultures and two languages. Diversity was threatening the Anglo-Protestant culture of the United States.

The debate about the politics of Donald Trump and nativists, those who want the U.S. to focus internally, tends to be debated as an issue between Democrats and Republicans or conservatives against the left. Samuel Huntington, a Harvard professor, who postured the cultural threat, was a lifelong Democrat. Labeling debaters by ideology or political leanings keeps the war on culture conveniently hidden from the public debate. The word racism and political ideology are therefore used to keep the narrative away from correctly identifying the issue for what it is, a war on culture.

The national debates over Trump’s travel ban and building the wall can be traced directly to the ongoing war on culture. Huntington, in his 2004 book, argued that Mexican-Americans do not identify with the United States. Huntington wrote that Mexican-Americans were “contemptuous” of the American culture, i.e., the Anglo-Protestant identity. Instead of assimilating the Anglo-Protestant culture, the Mexican-Americans were asserting their own culture upon the political scene. Spanish and piñatas were becoming as American as apple pie and English, was the argument.

In 2009, Huntington expanded on his thesis by arguing that Mexicans immigrants were not assimilating into the U.S. culture. Instead they were gravitating to the Mexican-American clusters. In The Hispanic Challenge, published in Foreign Policy on October 28, 2009, Huntington argued that the Anglo-Protestant values built into the American dream were imperiled by Mexican immigrants. Huntington argued that diversity and the Spanish language were eroding the dominant culture through diversity. Huntington feared that the cultural identity of the United States was being diversified into a mixed culture made up Mexican and Anglo-Protestant values. As a result, Huntington argued that the uncontrolled influx of Hispanics needed to be abated. Mexican immigrants were swelling the ranks of the local Hispanic voters. If left unchecked, the Anglo-Protestant voter block stood to become the minority.

But if it is a war on culture, many would argue, why not a fear of Blacks imposing their culture upon the country. Blacks are also a minority that is well organized. The issue comes down to numbers. The Black community simply does not have the political numbers to threaten the Anglo-Protestant culture across the country. The Hispanic population, on the other hand, is growing exponentially, especially those originating from México. As such, their demographic is rapidly changing the face of the politics of the United States. Hence the Reconquista false-flag argument is brought up occasionally.

If it were true, others would argue, how is it that Hispanics helped to elect Donald Trump, instead of defeating him at the polls? The answer lies in the original thesis in that the war on culture is not about skin color, but rather it is about culture. This is where assimilation comes into the debate. Many Hispanics have assimilated into the Anglo-Protestant culture. Most have kept their national origin culture as part of their cultural identity, like most other immigrants to the United States, but they have emphasized English and Anglo-Protestant ideals over their original culture. They have chosen to assimilate. Others have chosen not to.

This cultural conflict between the Anglo-Protestant culture and the Mexican-Americans, who refuse to assimilate, has led to laws designed to limit the Hispanic influence over politics. However, to call it a war on culture makes it difficult to demonize the Hispanics and thus it must be wrapped around national security threats. To further destigmatize the war on culture, rather than calling for the abandonment of national origin culture, it has been wrapped around the banner of “assimilation” based on the argument that to be a United States citizen requires that the citizen speak English and embrace the American culture, or value set. Under this argument, Hispanics are acceptable when they leave behind any vestiges of their national origins, instead embracing their native culture as nothing more than cultural artifacts that is part of the newly minted citizen. The Cinco de Mayo holiday is an example of this. The holiday embraces Hispanic culture with an American twist. Thus, it is not too Mexican for the country. Their argument being that diversity is fine, if English is the language of the country and values are based on Anglo-Protestant ideals.

The Republicans have embraced Huntington’s fear as their battle cry for national unity, and conveniently, national identity. But the Republicans are far from united in applying their battle cry in actual legislation, relying instead on political rhetoric but without sealing up the borders and applying draconian immigration limits. Ronald Reagan offered amnesty and promised immigration enforcement without providing the legislation required to enforce immigration limits. George W. Bush embraced his Mexican counterpart and publicly contemplated immigration reform until the Iraq War got in the way. Bush did little to reinforce the border or curtail immigration. But the Republicans, nonetheless, publicly continue to embrace nativist rhetoric as their battle cry.

But, individual states have taken up the battle cry for protecting the power of the Anglo-Protestants by curtailing Mexican-Americans’ access to the national political scene and by attempting to slow their growth as active voters who have not assimilated through attrition. This is the reason why undocumented immigrants are publicly shamed as criminals while laws to limit their access to jobs are nothing more than unenforceable dictum on paper.

In November of 1994, California, under Republican governor Pete Wilson, enacted Proposition 187, or the so-called Save Our State legislation. Proposition 187 restricted access to public services to undocumented immigrants. It made for good political rhetoric while ignoring the reality that undocumented immigrants were already prohibited from accessing public benefits. It was the battle cry that Wilson and the Republicans want to force the nativist view into the open. By December 1994, the proposition was placed on indefinite limbo by the courts who blocked most provisions of it.

Politically, the measure was heavily opposed by the state’s Hispanics and Wilson was the last Republican to hold major office in California. Today, California is a Democrat stronghold. Some have argued that Proposition 187 turned California “blue” while others have argued that California Democrats had been rising in party politics for many years before Proposition 187.

However one looks at the shift towards the Democrats in California, one reality exists – the Hispanic, specifically the Mexican-centric population, has much to do with it.

Proposition 187 was followed by Joe Arpaio’s interpretation of the enforcement of immigration law at the local level. Arpaio, the Arizona Maricopa County sheriff, became the first sheriff to have his deputies deputized under federal law to enforce immigration law in 2007. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, the federal deputization program was ended. The deputizing of sheriff’s deputies in Arizona and the subsequent Arizona SB 1070 legislation undertook to limit the growth of the immigrant population through attrition.

Attrition became the weapon for limiting Hispanic growth because it avoided articulating the war on culture publicly. Instead, the narrative was about job losses, high taxes and crime. The Arizona law required immigrants to prove their lawful status in Arizona to local law enforcement. The law resulted in court challenges and in boycotts of Arizona by local governments and other entities. Most of these were led by Hispanics.

Joe Arpaio was defeated in November of 2016 and his tent jail is slated to be shut down by the new sheriff. Arpaio has faced many lawsuits for various abuses of authority and the Department of Justice is pursuing criminal contempt charges against him today. Arpaio, although a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, was passed over by Trump for positions within his administration. His politics became too toxic even for the Trump establishment. Arpaio paid the price as the public face of the war on culture. However, he demonstrated that attrition was an effective weapon.

The attrition model demonstrated by Arizona’s SB 1070 is the model that those waging the war on culture are using today to keep Mexican-Americans from overwhelming the Anglo-Protestants. It is the model that the nativists insist as being behind the falling numbers of immigration apprehensions. This is based on the notion that Donald Trump’s call to build the wall is part of the strategy to dissuade immigration into the country. It is a distraction from the goal of dissuading Hispanics from keeping their culture intact.

The commission created by Donald Trump to look into election fraud and his assertion that he lost the popular vote because undocumented immigrants cast votes is the latest iteration of the war on culture. The narrative asserting that non-citizens are casting illegal votes distracts away from the cultural war label by refocusing the narrative as an issue of illegal votes. Likewise, the drop in the number of undocumented immigrant apprehensions is now being used to argue that Trump’s wall, although unbuilt, is dissuading immigrant from coming to the country. It is smoke-and-mirrors.

Both are attrition and the limiting of access to ballots for Hispanics that can be traced directly back to the ongoing war on culture. Impeding access to the polls for Hispanic voters helps to keep the Anglo-Protestant powerbase intact. Forcing immigrants to stay out or leave the country minimizes the pressure on the diversity of the country. Demonizing undocumented immigrants creates pressures on the Hispanic population to speak English primarily and assimilate to the Anglo-Protestant culture to avoid being stigmatized as undocumented immigrants.

Steve Bannon, the nativist architect for Donald Trump, is using the Huntington argument as the basis for the framework of attrition that nativists are hoping will keep the Anglo-Protestant culture intact in the United States. The problem for them, though, is that it may already be too late. Hispanics were instrumental in California turning Democrat and in Arizona suffering multiple boycotts because of SB 1070. Bannon and other Trump supporters understand this and thus they distract from the fundamental reasons for the war on culture by pointing the debate towards border security to protect the country from Islamic threats, which was Huntington’s original thesis.

This is where Russia becomes a central player. Vladimir Putin argues that Islam is a threat to world security. Far right-wing European politicians, like Marine Le Pen and others, have embraced the fear of Islamic terrorism as their battle cries. It makes the war on culture into a war for civilization, as originally envisioned by Samuel Huntington. However, Europe and Russia see it is a battle for civilization because they do not have the Hispanic growth to deal with. The United States, however, is dealing with it and thus it uses the war for civilizations as the natural distraction for the attempt to bring Hispanics under control by arguing assimilation.

And therein lies the elephant that no one wants to talk about. It is a war on culture. It is not a skin color war. Accepting this then the argument for assimilation and the political rhetoric that México and Mexicans are dangerous for the United States, thus necessitating building a wall and demonizing trade between the two nations, begins to make sense.

It is time to call it for what it is – a war on culture.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “The War on Culture”

  1. This is no war on anything. Learning the language of the new home country is simply to communicate with others. Nor is anyone suggesting that people give up their heritage. It is a family responsibility to keep traditions and heritage going. Youth easily adapts to new ways and pushes the “old ways”to the side. But with age, they learn the importance of the past.

    Reconquista is nonsense, the land ownership changed many times during the early years of the southwest. Can people that had land in Mexico confiscated have that land returned to them ?

    One could counter the blog topic but that would be a response that would be very lengthy.

  2. Another attack on Trump, and how much I love Mexico and “Hispanic”culture. Not a word about the innumerable killings of reporters in Mexico and the flood of cartels. But that probably is Trump’s fault. Pres. Also, Putin in his comments, appears to be trying to preserve his nationand Russian culture, but that is probably taboo in this world. Your long dissertation didn’t really prove anything, but your frustration and how much you hate Pres. Trump.

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