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immigration

Salt Lake Tribune

Two hot-button social issues seem to be moving to some sort of political resolution rather quickly. Their stories tell us something about the nature of attitudes Americans hold on such topics and also about the nature of American politics. One issue is gay marriage. It appears that, whether de jure or de facto, most gays will be able to marry or to “marry” relatively soon. This outcome seems to be driven in great measure by strong shifts in public opinion. According to the General Social Survey, the percentage of American adults agreeing that “homosexual couples should have the right to marry” rose from 11percent in 1988 to 49 percent in 2012, a strikingly rapid shift in public opinion.  Although young people and more liberal Americans are leading the cultural shift, this rush to accept gay couples is evident virtually across the board. (A recent Pew study shows the same.) Politicians are now tripping over one another to declare that they have “evolved” on this issue.

The other issue concerns undocumented immigrants. Most Washington observers are saying, as of this moment, that some reform is likely to come to fruition this spring. This political development, however, does not seem to be riding on a rushing wave of popular support.

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In the first game of the 1911 World Series, all of the 18 starters were born in the USA. Just about every one of them carried a last name suggesting that his male ancestors came from the British Isles  – except perhaps Merkle and Herzog of the N.Y. Giants. (One could be misled. The Giants’ John Meyers was a California Cahuilla Indian.) In contrast, 7 of the 18 starters in the first game of the 2011 World Series were foreign-born; four, including the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, came from the Dominican Republic. Moreover, the native-born starters of 2011 included a few with such non-Anglo names as Berkman, Kinsler, and Punto.

This is my annual America-is-baseball and baseball-is-America blog post (which can also be seen as the ritual welcoming of spring). It’s about the globalization of the all-American pastime, which has increasingly become many foreigners’ pastime, as well. Globalization – which has sent jobs from here to overseas and workers from abroad to here – has reached baseball.

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In the Part 1 of this post, I asked whether Americans were increasingly dividing along the “culture wars” battlefront – an impression one would certainly get from media coverage of politics over the last decade or two. The research shows that, while the political class has become more polarized in the last generation, average Americans have not. On the so-called values issues, with the possible exception of abortion, Americans cluster around the middle, not in two opposed camps, and that middle has moved a bit to the left.

Source: Pepperdine Univ.

If the “culture wars” description of a fragmenting America is not accurate, does that mean that there are no growing divisions? Not necessarily. Here, I consider three deeper cleavages among Americans: by immigration status, by race, and by class (especially, by education).

(I draw largely on this 2009 article and chapter 9 of Century of Difference.)

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It’s an “Only in America” anecdote with a greater lesson: The May 9 Sunday New York Times Magazine carries a profile of San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, an up-and-coming Latino politician who does not speak Spanish:

Early in his administration, Castro assigned his chief of staff, Robbie Greenblum – a Jewish lawyer from the border town of Laredo whose own Spanish is impeccable – to discreetly find him a tutor. Rosie Castro’s son is now being taught Spanish by a woman named Marta Bronstein. Greenblum met her in shul.

Author Zev Chafetz points out, “A lack of Spanish fluency isn’t unusual in San Antonio, especially among Castro’s generation.”

Indeed, among all the controversy about immigration over the southern border, the fact is that the Hispanic population is adopting English more rapidly than the European immigrant population did a century ago.

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