Bernie, the Donald, and the Nones

A couple of weeks ago Mark Silk wrote about a Pew poll that found that majorities of nones supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in their respective party contests. According to the poll, 61 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning nones favor Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Thirty-five percent prefer Clinton. On the Republican side, 57 percent of nones support Trump while Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich lag well behind with 17 percent each.

The survey confirms a hunch I’ve had for a while. In my social media feeds there are apparently more Sanders than Clinton supporters. Of course, my maybe 1,000 social media contacts (some of them repeated across platforms and not all of them secular) are not likely to be representative of the nones, but those suspicions now are confirmed.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well. On paper, it is also a generation that is to the left of the general population on social/economic issues (in favor of more spending on government services and the social safety net). In this regard secular Millennials are the core of Sanders’s coalition.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well

What I wasn’t sure, though I also had a hunch, was the preferred candidate among Republican nones. My social media contacts were no good for this since I barley have any Republicans, let alone any Republican nones (these are very rare). My hunch was that the GOP-leaning nones’ preferences were maybe leaning toward Trump, and that Kasich would be ahead of Cruz. And I was way off-target in that regard.

Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

My reading of the Republican nones assumes that this is a conservative group on economic matters but more liberal on cultural matters. That assumption is likely correct and will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Trump, depending on the day, is the least religious candidate in the Republican field, a positive for those who only care about Church-State issues. What I probably underestimated is the extent of the racism, sexism, and hatred to “pc dialogue” among many in the secular community.

 It’s fair to say that, for the first time in American history, the Nones making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.

-Mark Silk, Spiritual Politics, “The Year of the Nones

I am aware that some communities such as men’s rights activists and even groups of white supremacists can be a draw for secular men. And  I think that is what drives Trump’s high numbers among the Republican nones, who are primarily young men. Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

Mark Silk interprets the Pew poll findings as part of a “year of the nones”making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.” I partly agree with that interpretation. It is true that the nones are becoming larger portions of the parties’ coalitions. But the secular movement keeps waiting for the parties to knock on their doors instead of trying a hostile takeover of party structures. What I mean is that nones are not being organized as political blocs but rather as individual voters who happen to coincide in their preferences for particular candidates. That is no way to gain any sort of clout.

While I think the none vote will be decisive, it is less clear if politicians will care until there is a coordinated effort in the secular leadership to exploit their strength in numbers. In that sense I would modify Silk’s “year of the nones” to the “year of the none” because it is the coincidence of individual nones what may become decisive in this primary season, rather than the collective undertaking of the nones to affect the ouctome of the elections.

Image Source: ABC News


Our “Cross” to bear

Some years ago my wife and I were on our way to pick up our car in the parking lot of the hotel we were staying to have dinner. As we hop in the elevator a white man who looked like he had just ran a marathon approaches us after listening us speaking in Spanish and asks us (in Spanish) to take a look at his sneakers. He wanted to show us that his sneakers were autographed by George Lopez, whom he had seen in the street after the marathon, and wanted to share his excitement with this Latino couple who surely were also fans of his. My “meh” reaction along with  my wife’s “George who?” quickly made him realize that not all Latinos are fans of or know who is George Lopez.

I thought of that story while I was reading the reactions of a potential Ted Cruz (and to a lesser extent, Marco Rubio) run as the Republican candidate for President of the United States. With no Latinos in the race for the Democratic nomination, the possibility that the first Latino candidate for President (and potential first Latino U.S. President) will be a Republican has reignited the debate of who counts as a Latino. (For a good read of various arguments check this series of tweets from the National Institute for Latino Policy)

Technically, the fact that Senator Cruz does not hide his Cuba-born father away or changed his name to “Cruise” or “Cross” or started using his white, Delaware-born mother’s name to hide his Cuban roots should make him part of the Latino family. Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father is the equivalent of our crazy uncle and that makes Ted our crazy cousin.

It is true that Ted Cruz’s policy positions stand against what most Latinos stand for. But, whether politically or culturally, it is hard to find an “ideal” way of being a Latino. This is the case of those of us who are non-religious and who have to have to withstand the assumption that being a Christian, particularly a Catholic one, is the right way of being Latino. As an atheist Latino I reject the notion that one must possess a particular set of characteristics to be able to call oneself a Latino. (In fact, my dissertation is partially an effort to reconcile the cultural and social aspects of Latino identity into coherent political ideologies).

Sen. Cruz may not represent the interests or the preferences of most Latinos, but he represents a darker side of our collective DNA. He represents the nasty authoritarianism that has produced countless dictatorships in Latin America. He represents the Latin American elites who side with the powerful and colonial powers to exploit the poor and weak. He represents a dominionist brand of Christianity that has been exported from the U.S. around the world (including Latin America), spreading hatred and a jingoistic Americanism.

All these things have been in our midst for a long time: in every dictator and every colonial stooge that has placed the interests of multinational corporations and the war machine over those of their own. Ted Cruz is the culmination of that legacy, and if he becomes the biggest Latino “first” (as a Presidential candidate or as …shudder… President) this will be our “cross” to bear. Just like all Latinos are not George Lopez groupies, not all Latinos are working-class progressives. After all, homogeneity has never been our strongest suit.

Photo: Ted Cruz speaking at Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011.(Source: Gage Skidmore [Wikimedia Commons])