"We should replace Bilingual education with immersion in English, so people learn the common language of the country, so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language [Spanish] of living in a ghetto " shouted Newt Gingrich in a recent speech.
Only days later did Newt Gingrich release a “straight-to-youtube” video (oh! the spoils of generation next, right? ) titled "Mansaje de Newt Gingrich" which was more or less an attempt to apologize for his insensitive comments. In Spanish, he hails the language of Espana and clarifies his assertion that English is the language of progress in America.
The recent debacle over the words of one Newton Gingrich has exemplified the dicey situation the Republican Party has found itself in. On one hand the conservative party wants to reach out to the new kid on the voting bloc, Latinos, and broaden their vision to include the hopes and aspirations of millions of new Hispanic voters. On the other hand, the Republican Party is home to a large contingent of voters demanding border security, English first initiatives, and limited immigration. What’s the right to do?
This just shows how sinuous the debate on immigration and assimilation is for the Republican Party. The party stands to lose if it takes a definitive position on one side or another. If it sides with immigrant rights, bilingual education, and a softer immigration policy it will undoubtedly gain the support of millions of Latinos, and perhaps sow the seeds for Republicanism in the "sleeping dragon" of American electoral politics. However, the party will gain the ire of many of its most ardent supporters, many of whom feel that the Party is losing its ideological fervor.
The party is at a watershed moment where it can no longer tenuously balance its right wing and the desire to incorporate large scale Latino participation. Several key and influential Republicans have been at odds lately over the issue, and many Republicans have time and time again taken spoken on issues only to later retract their words when they realize that they are alienating the other of the two sides. Newt Gingrich’s recent “slip of the tongue” exemplifies this. He obviously holds a position which is in many ways anti-parallel to the desires of many Hispanics in America, and his usage of the word “ghetto” to describe Hispanics who speak only Spanish further details the tension that is possible. His quick and hilariously ironic apology only emphasizes how much he cares about trying to incorporate Hispanics into his political agenda.
In the end the Party has to determine what path it will take. How can one political “group” have voices like Tom Tancredo that advocate strict border control, tight immigration policies, rigid Bilingual education programs, and a decidedly protectionist position when other members like President Bush pursue an agenda that includes guest workers, bilingual education, and a moderately tight position on immigration? Some of the more liberal elements in the Republican Party view the Tom Tancredo’s of the party as excessively xenophobic and protectionist, while others believe that the recent attempt to reach out to Hispanics is a direct assault on conservative values of maintaining the social milieu and propose an argument that allowing so many people to move in weakens the American tradition. Obviously the party needs to determine a directed approach to avoid these kind of personal tirades that leave everyone feeling that the Republican Party is either a bastion of bigotry and xenophobia or a party filled with hypocritical supporters of illegal immigration. Either way the conservative position will be debased, because you cannot ignore the Hispanic vote, but you cannot ignore the vote of the millions of conservatives who hold particularly protectionist views.