Taco Trucks and the Soul of America

Is there a constituency in the U.S. for a campaign built around ardent opposition to multiculturalism?

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

When Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump, warned last week that increased immigration could lead to “taco trucks on every corner,” he was widely and understandably mocked. Commentators lined up to sing the praises of mobile Mexican food, from conservatives lauding free enterprise to liberals decrying xenophobia. Given the deliciousness of tacos, many opined, “Taco Trucks on Every Corner” would make a compelling platform for a politician; the Arizona Democratic Party changed its marquee to use the phrase.

But it was clear enough what Gutierrez meant. Plenty of Americans do see the increasing prevalence of foreign cultures in the U.S., including Hispanic culture, as an unwelcome invasion. They resent having to press 1 for English when they call customer service; or they worry that yoga encourages satanism, or that women in headscarves mean creeping sharia. Trump’s campaign appeals powerfully to these people, with his assertion that “we don’t have a country anymore” and his nostalgic vow to make America great again, presumably by returning it to a time before Taco Bell, Univision, and the George Lopez show.

Is this what Americans want? In the U.K., the surprising result of the June Brexit vote revealed a larger than anticipated grassroots revolt against the culture of diverse, immigrant-friendly cities. Is there a Brexit-like silent majority in the United States, too, of Americans so unsettled by diversity and multiculturalism that they want to banish taco trucks?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I keep thinking about a remarkable chart that I came across in July, the visualization of a Pew Research Center poll about attitudes toward diversity in the U.S. and 10 different European countries. The respondents were asked whether increasing diversity made their country a better or a worse place to live. The disparity in the results between the U.S. and the Europeans is shocking:

A large majority of Americans, nearly 3 in 5, say increasing diversity improves their nation. But all the European countries sharply disagree; in none of the other countries is this a majority view, with the pro-diversity faction ranging from a high of 36 percent in Sweden to a low of just 10 percent of Greeks.

Just as notably, very few Americans believe diversity is actually worsening the country. Only a small fraction, 7 percent, hold this view, while the remaining one-third are simply indifferent. That’s another sharp contrast with Europe, where at least one-fifth of all the countries surveyed felt diversity was making their country a worse place to live. More than half of Italians, and nearly two-thirds of Greeks, believe this.

There are differences between Americans of different political persuasions: About half of conservatives are pro-diversity, compared to three-fourths of self-described liberals. The pro-diversity attitude is also more common among Americans with post-secondary education (64 percent) than those with a high-school education or less (48 percent).

Supporters of Hillary Clinton, a subsequent Pew breakdown showed, were more likely than Trump supporters to favor increased diversity, 72 percent to 40 percet. But most Trump supporters were merely indifferent; just 16 percent of Trump voters said diversity was making America worse. Contrast that with the Europeans: In the U.K., for example, diversity is favored by a bare majority of liberals and a quarter of conservatives.

This, to me, is the real American exceptionalism. Americans aren’t perfect, especially where race is concerned. But we embrace pluralism like no other country on earth. This is the soul of America, and it’s solidly pro-taco truck.

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