Tancredo Won’t do Spanish Debate

Tancredo Won’t do Spanish Debate The Miami Herald features a column by Tom Tancredo explaining why he turned down a Spanish-language debate sponsored by Univision.

While it never occurred to me that Tancredo would attend such a debate, let alone to care whether he did, his explanation is interesting:

I declined the invitation to participate in the Spanish-language Republican presidential debate on Sunday because I do not want to endorse the further Balkanization of American political life.

[…]

Can anyone imagine Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft having a Republican primary debate in German or Italian in 1912? Of course not. Indeed, I believe Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition applies today. I do not believe it is proper to appeal to the ‘‘Hispanic vote” or the “Asian vote” or the “Black vote.” I believe we must appeal only for American votes.

Any political debate is aimed at citizens. It is about issues of concern to the entire community, not a segment of the community. It is vital that all political debates and discussions take place in the public square, not in separate enclaves. Our democracy does not need different messages broadcast to different audiences in different languages that are not heard or understood by other groups.

There’s a lot of nativist pandering in the piece, too. But its essence strikes me as exactly right. And certainly, it’s far better than the wimpy “scheduling conflicts” nonsense trotted out by those who skipped other niche debates.

Photo source: MSNBC

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    If the problem is different messages for different groups, then the source of the problem would be a politician who says different things to different groups, not the case where the same message might be translated into different languages.

  2. James Joyner says:

    If the problem is different messages for different groups, then the source of the problem would be a politician who says different things to different groups, not the case where the same message might be translated into different languages.

    Sure. But pandering to different ethnic groups in their own language does seem to carry the additional suspicion that they’re saying something different, even if they’re not. Language is an incredibly important, if not the most important, signaler of culture.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    And certainly, it’s far better than the wimpy “scheduling conflicts” nonsense trotted out by those who skipped other niche debates

    Agree there. The third tier candidates this year are at least good at being rather more honest, which goes some ways towards explaining their third tier status.

  4. Triumph says:

    But pandering to different ethnic groups in their own language does seem to carry the additional suspicion that they’re saying something different, even if they’re not. Language is an incredibly important, if not the most important, signaler of culture.

    There are 17.5% of American households where a language other than English is spoken in the home. I am not sure how it is “pandering” to have a debate in a language used by a significant chunk of the population.

    Like virtually all of the major Western democracies, the US citizenry is multi-cultural. Xenophobes like Trandeco ignore that reality at their own peril.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Like virtually all of the major Western democracies, the US citizenry is multi-cultural. Xenophobes like Trandeco ignore that reality at their own peril.

    It’s one thing to ignore a problem and another to exacerbate it, though. While I fundamentally disagree with Tancredo on the net value of Latin American immigrants to our society, I would prefer to see them assimilate into it as quickly as possible.

  6. markm says:

    “While I fundamentally disagree with Tancredo on the net value of Latin American immigrants to our society, I would prefer to see them assimilate into it as quickly as possible.”

    BINGO!.

  7. legion says:

    Can anyone imagine Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft having a Republican primary debate in German or Italian in 1912?

    Excuse me, but am I the only one to notice that Tancredo just directly compared Spanish-speaking immigrants in the US to early 20th century proto-fascists? He really does have nightmares of a brown-skinned Reich, doesn’t he? What a disgusting little man.

    And James,

    Like virtually all of the major Western democracies, the US citizenry is multi-cultural. Xenophobes like Trandeco ignore that reality at their own peril.

    It’s one thing to ignore a problem and another to exacerbate it, though.

    Ahem. I would hardly characterize the US’ multi-cultural nature as “a problem”. Most people consider that to be one of our greatest strengths, in fact.

  8. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    There are 17.5% of American households where a language other than English is spoken in the home. I am not sure how it is “pandering” to have a debate in a language used by a significant chunk of the population.

    Presumably, any debate would be targeted at voters, i.e. citizens of the US. And unless they changed the rules since my first wife was naturalized, immigrants must be able to speak English before they can become citizens and therefore elegible to vote. So I fail to see how having a debate for non-English speaking individuals could be anything but pandering.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Tancredo just directly compared Spanish-speaking immigrants in the US to early 20th century proto-fascists?

    In 1912? Hitler hadn’t even made corporal and Mussolini was a sniper in the Italian army at that point.

    I would hardly characterize the US’ multi-cultural nature as “a problem”. Most people consider that to be one of our greatest strengths, in fact.

    It’s both. A variety of perspectives, insights, and experiences redounds to our benefit. For that matter, even true bilingualism is a bonus.

    Segregation and the inability to understand one another, on the other hand, are reinforcing cleavages that are bad for society.

  10. floyd says:

    James,
    Tancredo’s objection is to illegal immigration, refusing to recognize the “value” of violating the Law.
    I guess “nativist” is supposed to be the new PC derogatory “N” word.This is on par with diagnosing a “phobia” in anybody with opposing views, by those with bankrupt arguments.
    ANY support for FAIR TRADE is isolationist.
    ANY hint of PATRIOTISM is jingoist!
    ANY support for RULE OF LAW is fascist.
    ANY expression of FAITH is bigotry.
    When all sane voices are shouted down the result is INSANE government.

  11. TLB says:

    But pandering to different ethnic groups in their own language does seem to carry the additional suspicion that they’re saying something different, even if they’re not.

    I’d suggest getting a transcript of the Dem version, featuring the vile MariaElenaSalinas. That showed an entirely different mindset from the other debates.

  12. floyd says:

    “”Can anyone imagine Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft having a Republican primary debate in German or Italian in 1912?””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Legion:
    Your hyperbole is unfounded; These are merely references to the ethnicity of large populations of immigrants at the time. A simple analogy referring to language, not character.

  13. Triumph says:

    Is it just me, or does Trandeco look eerily like the late, great Jewish character actor Norman Fell (aka Mr. Roper)?

  14. floyd says:

    Triumph;
    It’s not just you.

  15. Len says:

    Tancredo is still running?