Mel Martinez is Spanish for Harriet Miers?

English First goes on the warpath against the nominee for chair of the Republican National Committee. Three cheers!

By Andrew Leonard
Published December 6, 2006 10:50PM (EST)

Last night, I attended an event at my daughter's public middle school featuring various performances by the students: dance, (African, salsa, and hip-hop) jazz, steel drums, capoeira, and poetry. As a gracious gesture to the not-insignificant number of parents and students for whom Spanish was the mother-tongue, the school provided a translator for the PTA President's remarks introducing each new act.

I say gracious, because it certainly wasn't requiredby law or school district policy. But it was inclusive, and at a celebration of artistic expression of many cultures by a student body that is as ethnically mixed as any you are going to find in this country, it felt right. It felt American, in the best sense of America as a product of many different civilizations mixing it up together, as a place where a white boy with red streaks in his air can get shrieks of appreciation from black girls for the sheer dazzle of his hip hop moves. OK, I'm a Berkeley liberal and I don't try to hide it, but that was my country at its best last night, and it rocked.

The unhappy conservatives at English First, who find themselves driven to rage by Spanish-language signs in government offices and who utter the words "bilingual education" as if it was equivalent to "man-on-dog" sexual relations, would be unlikely to have the same warm feelings as I did, sitting there in my chair not understanding a word of what the translator was saying. But I'm feeling charitably inclined towards them, because I learned today that they're working as hard as they can to lock up the Hispanic vote in the United States for the Democratic Party for generations to come.

Specifically, they are mobilizing all out to stop Florida Senator Mel Martinez from being named chairman of the Republican National Committee. They've set up a Web site,, and a blog, Martinez Watch. They're getting the "base" all riled up about a guy who had the temerity, the shocking audacity to dare give the first-ever speech in Spanish on the Senate Floor, and who happens to be buddy-buddy with Mr. Amnesty Antichrist, John McCain. And they're being really, really mean by equating the Senator with failed Supreme Court nomineee Harriet Miers. Ooooh, that's gotta hurt.

Go for it, guys! Yes, illegal immigration is an incredibly complex and divisive issue that has split Democrats as well as Republicans, but when you choose to make the battle ground language (or, as they like to put it, "linguistic unity") you are engaging in dumb politics for no good reason that will hand the Southwest over to the Democratic Party on a silver platter laden down with shot-glasses filled with the finest tequila.

English is in no danger, in this country, or in any other. The best data we have shows that with each generation, the use of Spanish in the home declines precipitously. It is the tool for success in a globalized world, and everybody who wants to get ahead desires proficiency in it. Honest people can engage in legitimate debate over what are the best ways to structure education so as to promote such proficiency, but that's not what the English First movement is about. It's about people who find repugnant, in the words of English First hero, Senator James Inhofe, (yes, the same person who thinks that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people) as he introduced his amendment to declare English the official language of the United States this August, that "in all too many places these days, the local polling place resembles nothing more than a branch of the Mexican consulate or an outpost of the United Nations."

Too bad for you, Senator. Some of us like diversity.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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