TRUST A Republican politician to campaign on a platform of less government, then call on big government to impose certain behavior on others when it comes to his pet social issues.

Indeed, that’s about the only thing you can trust Senate majority leader Bob Dole to do these days, especially when his campaign hits choppy water. So Monday, Get Government Off Your Back Dole endorsed making English the nation’s official language.

Dole knows how to court the culture vote. His pollsters can tell him English as the Official Language is a popular theme among voters. Some 20 states, including California (voters passed such an initiative in 1986), have made English their official tongue.

”Insisting that all our citizens are fluent in English is a welcoming act of inclusion and insist we must,” Dole said Monday. What’s this ”insisting?” Is it requiring people to speak English? The casual listener would think so — but as Dole should know, that’s an empty promise and the sort of campaign rhetoric that has led many voters to hate career pols.

Dole’s remarks set fax machines at Governor Wilson’s campaign HQ whirring, sending out press releases touting Wilson’s long-time support of English Only. Wilson might want to keep that to himself. California has been an English-only state for almost eight years and, according to Steve Telliano, spokesman for Attorney General Dan Lungren, ”as far as we can tell” California today is no different than California before English became the official tongue.

As happens in other English- Only states, voter pamphlets still are available in other languages. People can study for their driver’s licenses in a foreign language. In California public schools, more than 1 million children receive some sort of bilingual education. English only, English schmonely.

And you can’t blame the courts for this. According to Telliano, no court has limited or overruled California’s English-Only law. The laws just happen to be meaningless.

Dole is right about the importance of English fluency. But don’t you wish the GOP hopefuls for once would advocate a policy that actually would really change something? Instead, they back gimmicks that are so ridiculous that few mind when they don’t change anything.

Think about it. Would this country really be better off allowing people to vote but not informing them about complex issues in their native tongue? Do voters want law enforcement to insist that victims speak English only?

English already is America’s de facto official language. And Americans have a right to speak whatever language they wish. If it worked, English Only would abrogate that right. Lately, there has been a stampede on individual rights. Public schools force dissenting students to attend self-esteem classes. San Francisco supervisors have used the hammer of local agencies to stifle speech with which they disagree. Then there’s another Dole fave, banning flag desecration.

Incentives to learn English abound; there is no need for government intrusion. Someone should tell Dole that when it takes a law to enforce a culture, that culture is already dead and no legislation can save it.



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