By Sarah Posner
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents 15 million Latino evangelicals, attended the Republican National Convention last week and told me that despite the overwhelming whiteness of the convention, and the party's hostility to immigrants, he predicts that McCain-Palin will get the majority of Latino evangelical votes. (In polls, Obama has a substantial lead among Latino Catholics, a much larger and less conservative group.)
Palin, said Rodriguez, "is a win for Hispanic evangelicals. You have a woman, who happens to be evangelical, and Pentecostal, the fastest growing Hispanic faith demographic in America." And despite the GOP's stance on immigration, Rodriguez predicts that Latino evangelicals will be drawn to the ticket because of conservative wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion. So much for the culture wars being over.
Rodriguez doesn't consider himself a culture warrior, though, and he emphasized his own distance from the religious right. He is interested in expanding the evangelical political agenda to address the environment, immigration, and poverty, and disdains the notion of his organization becoming a tool of either party. Even so, Rodriguez said he thought the gay marriage ban on the ballot in Florida would draw Latino evangelicals to the polls and result in a gain for McCain-Palin. In Florida, Latino evangelicals make up 7 percent of the population, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Religious Landscape Survey.
Latino evangelicals under 30 favor Obama, said Rodriguez. "Hispanic evangelicals overall," he added, "will have to decide whether they can vote for McCain-Palin in spite of the Nativism, xenophobia, and quasi-racist elements embedded in the Republican Party."
Is that a difficult choice, really?