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June 17, 2004
AP: Vilsack VP Chances Muy Malo

The AP, analyzing the heightening suspense as John Kerry decides on his running mate, reports that Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's prospects look poor after a review of his record shows that Vilsack signed a measure making English the state's official language:

Iowa's English-only measure and dozens like it nationwide draw virtually unanimous and vehement opposition from Hispanics, an important Democratic constituency, who view them as thinly veiled racism. Hispanics, the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group, are being eagerly courted by Democrat John Kerry and President Bush. ...

The English-only bill was hotly debated for two years before it passed the Republican-controlled Legislature in February 2002. Liberal and labor groups urged Vilsack to veto it and staged vigils at his home and the Statehouse. Backers cited polls showing overwhelming support for the bill and said they were hardly surprised that he signed it.

The law makes English the state's official language and requires that all government proceedings be conducted in English. Exceptions are for teaching foreign languages in school, and dealing with other countries on trade and similar issues.

I suppose I agree with the AP's analysis, especially given how political correctness plays such a large part of how the Democrats relate to their constituencies. On the other hand, it's hard to understand the problem with a measure making English the official language of a state that is as close to the geographic center of the US as you can get. It also demonstrated Vilsack's flexibility to the center, as Iowans overwhelmingly favored the legislation, it came with extra funding for ESL classes, and was largely symbolic anyway.

Earlier this year, another Democrat wound up in hot water over the same issue. Former Maryland Governor and current Comptroller William Schaefer of Maryland vented his frustration over his inability to communicate with a clerk at McDonalds to simply order a biscuit and a cup of tea:

After encountering difficulty with a new worker with poor English skills, he quit going to the restaurant out of frustration. "I don't want to adjust to another language," he said publicly. "This is the United States. I think they should adjust to us."

Schaefer, of course, wound up condemned by all of the leftist groups that concern themselves with multi-culti PC. The problem, as Michelle Malkin notes, is that we are allowing the US to become Balkanized by language. No one wants to make the speaking of other languages illegal (at least, none amongst the sane), but when an English-speaking person can't order food at a restaurant in Maryland, then something has gone terribly wrong.

Furthermore, it's self-defeating for multi-culti purposes, because it won't force Schaefer and others to learn Spanish; it will simply teach them to stay out of areas where servers can't understand English. How does that bring people together? It only creates artificial divisions between groups of people and almost guarantees miscommunication and misunderstanding. We wind up strengthening the ghetto system rather than breaking it down.

As the descendants of immigrants on both sides of my family, and as a student of Irish, I understand the connection that language has to a culture, but that's hardly an argument for devaluing English. If we want to maintain open communication between all members of our society on an equal basis, we need to ensure that everyone can communicate in the same language, without forcing people to stop speaking their native languages at home and amongst friends. It's a lesson my ancestors knew well, and it's one we've forgotten.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2004 6:29 AM

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Power Line reports that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's support of an English-only law means his chances at being Kerry's veep are slim. This leaves Kerry with an interesting conundrum – the next most likely candidate is Dick Gephardt, but his support ... [Read More]

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