The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

98° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: GOP candidates create new language, “American”, confound nation

As if calls for deportation and border fences along Mexico and Canada weren’t already sinking Republican chances of winning over Latino voters in 2016, Republican candidates have recently begun championing a new line of rhetoric concerning the national language of the United States.

To be clear, the U.S. doesn’t have an official language. Various movements have tried over the years to grant English the honor, but so far none have been successful, and English, Spanish, Mandarin and every other language remain equally unofficial.

Carly Fiorina, candidate for president, mistakenly identified English as the official language in a recent television interview. Although this isn’t a huge deal, it still seems like something someone running for the most powerful job in the world should know.

What may become problematic for the Republican Party is that Fiorina’s gaffe was just the beginning.

Donald Trump criticized Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish at campaign rallies and Sarah Palin declared on national television that people should “speak American” in this country. It’s these comments, in addition to constant calls for deportation from Republican candidates, that lead many to believe the GOP may struggle quite a bit with Latino voters in 2016.

In a recent MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, led Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, 69-22 percent among Latino voters. Despite winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, the Republican Party has since seen a steep decline in support from Hispanics, a phenomenon that can be partly attributed to their far right positions on immigration.
What’s more problematic than the general inaccuracy surrounding U.S. language policy is the way in which candidates for president are so quick to label anything other than English as un-American. The U.S. has long toted its “Melting Pot” demographics and the diversity that separates it from other Western countries. A country supposedly rooted in a foundation of freedom would in theory fight to preserve the right of its citizens to speak their language of choice.

Whether or not the language mishap actually impacts the election remains to be seen. But what has become clear is that the Spanish debate is just the beginning to the GOP’s problems with minority outreach and their quest to secure the presidency.

In addition to alienating minority voters, Trump’s spat with Univision, Ben Carson declaring that he wouldn’t support a Muslim president and Ted Cruz still running on opposition to same sex marriage, leave the GOP counting on unprecedented amounts of white support to offset the skepticism from minority groups.

In a 2012 “autopsy” of the GOP commissioned by the Republican Party itself, repeated suggestions were made for the GOP to soften its rhetoric and appeal to more minority groups. With shifting demographics toward an increase in minorities, the Republican Party will eventually have no choice but to reform its policies.

As the election continues, the issues of immigration, police brutality and healthcare will keep reappearing, only further hurting the GOP chances with minority voters. Even if a Republican who hasn’t made such inflammatory comments, such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Lindsey Graham, wins the nomination, the Democrats should and probably will knock the GOP candidate for their party’s past rhetoric.

Comments about the national language probably wouldn’t matter as much if they weren’t shrouded in talk about deportation, amnesty or lack thereof and “Americanness.” Nationalism, jingoism and racism have been a part of American politics since this nation’s inception. Hopefully the ballot box in 2016 can send a forceful message and put these dangerous and ignorant sentiments behind us. 

Follow Jacob Winkeklman on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search