GOP debate moves seamlessly from birthright citizenship to English as official language

In our latest installment of the Republican Party finding every which way to alienate Latino voters, Donald Trump has followed up our national discussion about whether birthright citizenship as established by the 14th Amendment is in fact constitutional by sparking a debate over whether it’s okay to speak Spanish on the campaign trail.

It all started when Trump responded to Jeb Bush’s claim that “El hombre no es conservador” (The man is not conservative), by saying “I like Jeb. He’s a nice man. But he should really set an example by speaking English while in the United States.”

At which point, he presumably provided Jeb’s campaign with a list of the burn centers close to Bush’s Miami headquarters.

Jeb, who’s been taking a lot of heat lately for taking a lot of heat from Trump without hitting back in a serious way, decided that this particular insult was worth responding to, offering a remarkably thoughtful response:

Donald Trump is trying to insult his way to the presidency. It’s not gonna work. People want an uplifting, hopeful message. People come to this country to pursue their dreams. Sometimes they start without speaking English. But they learn English. And they add vitality to our country.

To say you can only speak English is kind of ridiculous, if you think about it….This is a diverse country. We should celebrate that diversity and embrace a set of shared values. Mr. Trump doesn’t believe in those shared values. He wants to tear us down. He doesn’t believe in tolerance. He doesn’t believe in the things that have created the greatness of this country.

That’s a reasonable, measured statement, which means it’s earned Bush precisely zero points with Republican voters. One need look no further than the rest of the Republican field to see who’s won this round, with Carly Fiorina commenting on the exchange today by saying she believes English is the official language of the United States (it isn’t).

As the rest of the candidates weigh in, I’m not getting my hopes up that too many of them side with Bush.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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