Social Question

mattbrowne's avatar

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney: How Unamerican is it to be able to speak French?

Asked by mattbrowne (31638points) January 24th, 2012

Have the American Republicans gone completely crazy?

Uneducated = American?
Educated = Unamerican?

What’s going on here?

Being able to learn a foreign language should be seen as a quality of a candidate, right?

“Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has been skewered in a new political attack ad – for speaking French.

Correspondents say the highlighting of Mr Romney’s alleged French-language skills is an attempt to portray him as an elitist, European-style liberal wimp.”

Second question:

How common is the anti-European sentiment among Republican voters?

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34 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Two points – when I was in 4th grade (in the 1960s) we were required to take a foreign language through the FLES program (foreign Language in Elementary Schools). Choices were English and Spanish, and we had to choose one. While I am not fluent – 40 years later – I can hold my own. So there’s a whole generation of us who learned a language in school because that was the curriculum.

The whole Gingrich thing about Romney knowing French is not about languages, per se. It is really part of the culture war. The far right is against learning and intellectualism because it implies that people have intelligence. They count on educated mobs that they can hoodwink.

It’s the same dynamic that has they denying evolution, global warming, and other similar pieces of science.

mattbrowne's avatar

@elbanditoroso – Being against learning and intellectualism? Can’t they see the danger for the future of America by promoting this kind of culture? Dumb being the new cool?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@mattbrowne – I am not defending them. No way.

B ut I agree with your premise – it’s long term stupid to be anti-learning. But short term, it is a populist way of getting votes. There is a large number of educated white trash out there who will believe anything the republicans say.

wilma's avatar

I believe that there is a certain faction of Americans, from all political parties, who think that learning a language other than English would be seen as cow-towing to other nations. That English is the only language that they need or want to know.
Their reasons are usually, but not limited to being; stubborn, selfish, ignorant, foolish, and yes, “Dumb being the new cool”.
Fortunately there are many other Americans who know the value of education and of speaking and understanding multiple languages.

I think probably the news correspondents are on to something when they say the highlighting of Mr Romney’s alleged French-language skills is an attempt to portray him as “an elitist, European-style liberal wimp.”
Too bad really since there are so many things that should be being discussed and debated, and not this stupid stuff.

ragingloli's avatar

2 words: national chauvinism

tedd's avatar

@mattbrowne Republicans, or at least a sect of them, rely on light versions of nationalism and a mob mentality to win. Many of their positions, or at least many that come out during primary season, are stupid and not backed by fact. So they rely on the same methods the fascists did in the early half of the last century “oh wow look at those guys, they’re different, different is bad!”

It is an untenable long term position.

filmfann's avatar

This is the same group that tried to rename french fries as Freedom Fries.
These people are ridiculous, and have no idea.

jerv's avatar

Yes, we have gone crazy.

As for Republican voters, they are a varied lot. Some support the anti-brain thing because they don’t want to be like other nations, some because they honestly believe ignorance is bliss, and some (I suspect most) merely because it pisses off the non-Republicans.

mattbrowne's avatar

@tedd – If it’s just a sect, where is the outrage of the educated Republicans? From fruit fly research bashing to labeling foreign language skills as elitists and Unamerican… I would expect millions of conservative people launching campaigns against this kind of organized stupidness engaging every New Gingrich supporter in a debate. These lunatics are gambling with the future of America. How can a small deranged sect win a majority in SC? Who is out there to stop them?

Paradox25's avatar

Dumbing down people works as a strategy for what I call the New Authoritarian Republicans. It works because less informed voters will more than likely vote against their own best interests. The demonization of liberalism over the years wasn’t a rapid one, and it took alot of planning and strategy to accomplish this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Paradox25 – So you’re saying that the planning and implementation of this strategy was done by highly educated people who totally understand the value of fruit fly research, but tell less informed voters the exact opposite? If yes, it can’t get any more unethical than this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@jerv – Well, it pisses me off. And most Europeans who read about the anti-French language campaign in their newspapers. This was news even in our small local German newspaper. I read about it there first, then checked some independent sources like the BBC. Everyone over here seems to be disgusted by Newt Gingrich trying to imagine what would happen if he actually became President.

marinelife's avatar

It is totally weird that the Republicans are trying this tactic.

Paradox25's avatar

@mattbrowne I think that much of this anti-intellecualism displayed among many self-described ‘hardcore conservatives’ stems from the hijacking and reconstruction of political labels over the years. The third link down on my profile page explains this tactic very well, and this is connected to what you’re describing in this thread. I’m saying this and I’m definitely not what one would call a bleeding heart liberal, though I do describe myself as being liberal rather than conservative.

thorninmud's avatar

The GOP are masters at the technique of conditioning the public to react positively or negatively to catch-phrases. One of the latest phrases to emerge from their strategists’ workshop is “European-style socialism”. This will be heard over and over in the campaign season, usually with reference to the Obama administration, always spoken as if it’s being spit out in disgust.

This phrase wouldn’t find traction if it weren’t for all the recent headlines about the economic troubles in the euro-zone. This stream of negative news from Europe makes it easier to associate European-ness with failed policy.

Romney’s rivals have been trying their best to draw parallels between Romney and Obama, so they’re leveraging the “European socialism” gambit by painting Romney as having been tainted by Europe.

wundayatta's avatar

This is not new. Republicans have always been anti-intellectual. There is a conservative religious element out there that doesn’t trust intellectuals. They think that college learning goes against common sense. It is certainly anti-religious, but it is also effete in that it believes in public empathy, not private charity. It is not self-reliant. It is anti-competitive.

So the Republicans can appeal to this element by pretending not to be educated and instead appealing to “common” sense and to racism and sexism and other anti-intellectual feelings. Newt is after this religious, know-nothing element, and so he can say that Mitt is too centrist and too educated and his language ability is a clear demonstration of that.

It’s better that he speaks French as compared to Spanish. Bush spoke some Spanish and that was ok because it lets him communicate with the help. It’s a class thing in a different way.

French is effete. It is the language of intellectuals. It is socialist. It is anti-physical. It’s a perfect target. I love it! Republicans are assholes in general (not an opinion; just a fact), but conservative tea-party Republicans are know-nothing-and-proud-of-it-assholes. They are against spending on research, unless it’s to build bigger bombs. Otherwise, let the private sector do it and screw public health for sure. If God wants us to live, we’ll live. Otherwise liberal snobs can just go burn in hell.

At least, that’s what it comes down to in politics. We Americans are very sophisticated in our politics, so it’s not surprising you didn’t get the references. [rolls eyes]

WestRiverrat's avatar

My personal French language ban is a tongue in cheek response to the French attempts to outlaw English when I was in France. Like I told my French friends it should work both ways, when I am in France I speak French. When they come here I make them speak English.

Judi's avatar

@mattbrowne ; I think we’re just doomed. Americans want to be entertained. This great American experiment which had so much promise 200 years ago is going to fail because elections have turned from a hiring process to a game. Even those that actually win are so caught up in the game and are so focused on strategy that they forget to govern. With corporations like Newscorp spewing lies as if it were truth, and blogging on the intranet, truth doesn’t really matter anymore.
It seems the only thing that the right wing took from their “humanistic” public education is the concept of “relativity.” “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” Truth has become so “relative,” that it is decided based on whether or not you trust the speaker, not on the actual facts. Unless we get a major attitude adjustment and soon, we are going to go the way of Rome within the next 30 years.

bkcunningham's avatar

I haven’t seen the commercial on television.
I’m curious where it aired?

bkcunningham's avatar

I doubt it aired in Louisiana, Northern Maine, New England, portions of Pennsylvania or in Northern New York where French is spoken prevalently in many locations.

Judi's avatar

I saw it and was impressed by how he made no effort to avoid his american accent. It sounded like he was reading it and sounding it out. What makes the French language so sexy is the accent a d he completely butchered it.

bkcunningham's avatar

The commercial aired where you live @Judi? What region is that?

sinscriven's avatar

I agree with @elbanditoroso . This isn’t about Europe, but anti-intellectualism.

The right paints intellectuals as elite and snobby and unable to relate to the Average american, and themselves as populists.

Educated constituents are not good for politics, the people get all uppity and have things like opinions, and political convictions and desire for progressive change.

Judi's avatar

@bkcunningham, I think it was just a youtube link. I found a few. Here and here
Then When I was looking for those, I found this video which makes @mattbrowne ‘s point.

bkcunningham's avatar

I wonder what demographic the commercial was broadcast to, @Judi. From the date of the story posted, it was about the time of the New Hampshire debates. Was it shown in New Hampshire? That is what I’m wondering. The campaign isn’t going after Repubs who have made up their minds. I’m curious what their thinking was in making that commercial and who their target audience was.

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s totally unamerican.

If you live in the US you should be speaking Spanish.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Blondesjon Naw, if you are American you should speak Cherokee or Lakotah.

Blondesjon's avatar

only if you’re going native . . .

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, people who fuel dissent between allied nations for their own personal ambitions should be exposed and removed from politics and membership of political parties. The Republican party should throw out Newt Gingrich and set an example.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@mattbrowne Then Obama should be thrown out of the Democratic party for fueling dissent between the US and Israel.

ragingloli's avatar

except for the little fact that he did not do anything like that

mattbrowne's avatar

@WestRiverrat – There’s a difference between discrimination against the French as a nation and French as a language versus disagreeing with particular policies put in place by the present Israeli government. Anyone accusing Obama of being anti-Israel or being antisemitic is an ignorant fool or worse a willing accomplice in organized slander.

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