The Washington establishment is shocked at the discovery that Americans don't like the idea of the federal government forcing local governments to provide foreign-language ballots. That's one more indication of how out of touch our leaders are with grass-roots America.
For many months, the establishment had planned a legislative coup to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act for a whopping 25 years (even though it isn't due to expire until 2007). Passage had been confidently announced on May 2 in a bipartisan photo-op news conference on the Capitol steps.
The media were on board. The president was in sync. No need, thought the powers that be, to have hearings or public debate.
No need, even, to allow members of Congress to offer amendments to the bill. So the Rules Committee, exercising its presumed wisdom, ruled against such impertinence.
The Washington Post described the reaction as a "GOP rebellion" that surprised people with its "intensity." Americans in the hinterland are not surprised by the intensity of feeling on this subject, but they are pleasantly encouraged that Republicans in the House had the gumption to stage a rebellion.
For that, we can credit Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who got 80 House Republicans to sign his letter demanding deletion of the sections of the Voting Rights Act that require state and local governments to print ballots in foreign languages. The letter said, in part, "The multilingual ballot mandate encourages the linguistic division of our nation and contradicts the melting pot ideal that has made us the most successful multiethnic nation on earth."
On May 18, the usually pompous Senate, by 63 to 34, passed the Inhofe amendment to make English our official language and declare that no one has an affirmative right to receive government services in a language other than English. Remarkably, this happened in the midst of the Senate's consideration of the Kennedy-McCain bill to import 66 million foreigners who don't speak English.
Public opinion is clearly on the side of the English language: 27 states have adopted English-language laws. A Zogby poll reported that 79 percent of Americans favor making English our official language.
Foreign-language ballots make no sense because only U.S. citizens can vote, and foreigners can't be naturalized unless they demonstrate "the ability to read, write and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language."
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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