Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
A new survey from PRRI and the Brookings Institution shows that majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans favor allowing illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. But what values are inspiring this unusual political unity on a controversial issue? In my latest column for “Figuring Faith,” I explore the values that motivate different political groups to favor a path to citizenship:
It’s noteworthy that [the RNC’s recent] political reality check has motivated even some of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform to rethink not only policy but also values. For example, Tea Party standard-bearer Senator Rand Paul, in a remarkable shift, is replacing references to fences and helicopters and an emphasis on deportation with new appeals to the values of “prudence, compassion, and thrift” and at least a strong implication that these values point toward a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.
To read the full column, head to “Figuring Faith,” my Washington Post blog.