Posted on July 26, 2018

Make America Speak English Again?

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, July 26, 2018

The Washington Examiner, citing data from the Migration Policy Institute, reports that there are 44 million immigrants living in the United States, accounting for 13.5 percent of the total population. That is the highest percentage of foreign-born since 1910, and at that time almost all were European.

Today, 22 percent of the U.S. population does not speak English at home, including almost a third of the populations of Nevada and Florida. The most common foreign language by far is Spanish, though in Florida, Haitian Creole comes in second.

One would expect that conservatives — especially those opposed to white racial identity — would want to do something about all this language diversity. In the “nation of ideas” they imagine we live in, Americans should be able to talk to each other about these wonderful ideas. Yet there has been no attempt from the Republican Congress to promote English. This is surprising, because the issue is very popular and the GOP had better campaign on something if it is to avoid a rout in the midterms.

According to a Rasmussen poll conducted in April, no fewer than 81 percent of Americans believe English should be the official language. Incredibly, this is still the lowest figure since 2006, as support for Official English has varied from 87 percent to 83 percent. For comparison’s sake, President Trump’s approval rating in his sixth quarter in office is 41.9 percent — not good, but a record high for him. In the most recent Economist/YouGov poll, only 12 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat approve of the job Congress is doing. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato now says Democrats are favored for the first time to take control of the House, and the Democrat lead in the generic ballot has been increasing in recent weeks. Why can’t Republicans recognize a winning issue when they see one?

At least some Republicans, either out of patriotism or politics, actually do. In February 2018, over the objection of Democrats, the Michigan house approved a motion that would make English the state’s official language. More than 70 congressmen have co-sponsored Steve King’s “English Language Unity Act,” which would make English the official language for the federal government and establish a uniform language requirement for naturalization. When he was in Congress, Mike Pence supported Official English. President Trump would probably sign such legislation — during the campaign, he said English was a necessary part of assimilation. The Southern Poverty Law Center grudgingly reported the swelling number of Congressman King’s co-sponsors as part of its “Anti-Immigrant Roundup.” Luckily for the SPLC, while Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have time to denounce Russia and undercut President Trump’s foreign policy, they won’t bring up a popular bill that the President would surely sign.

There’s nothing “anti-immigrant” about Official English. From an Identitarian perspective, there’s an argument that whites should not want immigrants — mostly non-white — to learn English anyway; let them remain as separate and as unassimilated as possible. The “ethnopluralist” ideal is one in which each group has a right to territorial and cultural integrity. Official English, by contrast, is an assimilationist, anti-racist idea; people from all over the world can learn a common language and become Americans. Authentic racial and cultural identity is replaced by a thin civic identity defined by law and language.

Many opponents of Official English have no interest in assimilation or even minor concessions to the historic American culture. For them, insisting that Americans speak a common language is hostility to immigrants. David LaGrand, a Democrat state representative in Michigan, blasted Official English: “If we start to be a country that shuns differences and that we do not welcome diversity, which has always been a strength, this is a dark moment for our republic.” Abdul El-Sayed, running to be the first Muslim governor of Michigan (and America), suggested that Official English, unless coupled with language training for “our immigrant communities,” will be “alienating people who look a little bit different or speak a little bit different.”

During the 2016 campaign, when candidate Donald Trump refused to buy Spanish-language ads or set up a Spanish-language website, Politico’s Shane Goldmacher said he was paying “little heed” to “America’s shifting demographics.” Of course, to admit that America’s increasingly non-white population means a decline of English is to concede Official English’s main argument: If there is no official language imposed by the state, America will almost certainly not be united by language.

Media critics of Official English often suggest America has always been multilingual. Last month, after attorney Aaron Schlossberg was blasted by the media after being caught on video complaining about people who don’t speak English, CNN’s Harmeet Kaur wrote an article called “FYI: English isn’t the official language of the United States.” “People in this country have been speaking languages other than English since before the founding of the republic,” she wrote, invoking enslaved Africans and Amerindians as examples.

John Jay famously wrote in Federalist No. 2 that “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, [and] very similar in their manners and customs.” Sanford Levinson, writing in Slate in 2015, calls this “utter fatuity” because there were “slaves” and “Native American tribes” and European-Americans who spoke languages such as German. Of course, as Mr. Levinson probably knows, blacks and “Native Americans” weren’t legally “American,” and were explicitly considered foreign as far back as the Declaration of Independence. As scholars such as Samuel Huntington have shown, early America had a dominant Anglo-Protestant ruling class that determined the core culture and the structure of the state. Jay’s recognition of the links between language, culture, race, and nation suggest that the Founding Fathers would never have countenanced a multilingual America any more than they would have a multiracial America.

It’s always dangerous to ascribe motives, but it’s hard not to be suspicious of those who say establishing an official language is unnecessary or a waste of time. Opponents seem to perceive Official English as an obstacle to their project of shoving English-speakers — that is to say, whites — further towards the margins. For example, Victoria Crouse opposed the Michigan state bill in these terms: “Instead of wasting everyone’s time with unnecessary and polarizing anti-immigrant bills, policymakers should consider ways our state can expand access to ESL services for adults who need them, and ensure that state agencies are meeting federal standards in language access in all services and programs. . . . ¡Si se puede!

Miss Crouse can’t have it both ways. Making English official is hardly “unnecessary” if Michiganders need to be taught English at government expense and can’t speak the language well enough to fill out welfare forms. As for “federal standards” mandating multilingualism, that is yet another argument for a national language. Miss Crouse’s conclusion, that Official English will “not move us toward progress” and her final cry of “¡Si se puede!” suggest that what she means by “progress” is a state in which fewer people speak English and where there is no expectation that they should.

“The supreme function of statesmanship,” said the great Enoch Powell, “is to guard against preventable evils.” Unless President Trump and congressional Republicans act soon, it’s easy to see what will happen. Spanish already has quasi-privileged status in America today. Announcers at National Public Radio, for example, pronounce Spanish names — but only Spanish names — with an authentic accent. In some parts of the country, Americans have a hard time getting jobs if they don’t speak Spanish. English speakers do not have sympathetic media and a vast network of “civil rights” organizations to fight for their interests. The specter of Puerto Rican statehood raises the possibility of Spanish getting official status even before English does. Without an official designation as an English-speaking nation, a linguistically divided future is inevitable. America has a chance to decide whether it wants to be a self-respecting nation or something more like a shopping mall in a declining neighborhood.