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The battle is finally joined in CA-39, the race where half of Ed Royce’s district has been shoved across the Puente Hills into territory where his long legacy of attacks on “multiculturalism” are likely to fall with a thud.
The first real skirmish of this war has taken place, as first skirmishes often do, in an out-of-way place: an article in the Diamond Bar Patch.
Jay Chen, the Democratic candidate campaigning for the newly drawn 39th District’s House of Representatives seat this year, claimed his Republican opponent Ed Royce attended a “hate rally” aimed at an Islamic fundraising group in Yorba Linda last year.
In a phone interview, Chen also alleged that Royce, a 20-year veteran in the House and representative from the former 40th District covering parts of north and central Orange County, made comments at that rally rejecting multiculturalism in the United States.
“We want to let voters know who he is, because that’s just not going to fly in a district that is 30 percent Latino, 30 percent Asian. We can’t have that kind of representative,” Chen said.
“He’s made comments about wanting all federal service to be English only, including balloting, so he wants voting restrictions. And that’s a clear attack on minorities and those for who English is a second language…He attended the Muslim hate rally in Yorba Linda, and he spoke out about multiculturalism.”
Are all of the factual allegations above true? Well … yes. Let’s review them:
1) Was it a “hate rally”? That’s not a formal term, so there’s room for disagreement, but take a look:
From an Al-Jazeera report (by a well-known American-born journalist):
You can see the entire hour-long event here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJyt1gC4bNo
Note that its being a “hate rally” (in effect regardless of whether by design) doesn’t mean that Ed Royce himself engaged in hate speech. Nor did Jay Chen say that he did. But if you were one of the senior elected officials at a rally where these sorts of threats and abuse took place, and if you were a county leader of the political party represented there, wouldn’t you want to set things straight, to make clear early, loudly, and often that what happened was unacceptable? Not, apparently, if you’re Ed Royce! And that is a completely fair grounds for criticism.
2) Did Royce make comments about multiculturalism? He sure did — and he hasn’t stopped. It’s been a theme of his for years — long before he took a look at the new district lines, saw that he was being moved into a districts with a significant majority of minorities, and perhaps almost swallowed his tongue.
3) The “that’s not going to fly” comment is an opinion, not an assertion of fact, so we’ll leave it alone — but … it’s not going to fly!
4) “He’s made comments about wanting all federal service to be English only, including balloting, so he wants voting restrictions.” Yep. Royce co-sponsored H.R. 997, the “English Language Unity Act of 2011,” which would made English language the official language of the United States. If this were simply like making the eagle the national bird, it would be insulting but not injurious. It’s when it’s used to keep people — citizens — from voting or being able to make use of government services that it becomes truly awful.
Like many Republicans, Royce wants to exclude people from voting if they aren’t demographically likely to vote Republican. If this strikes you as a horrible charge to make against someone — good! We agree that it’s horrible; now, over the next six months, we can explore whether it’s true.
5) “That’s a clear attack on minorities and those for who English is a second language.” Yes it is — and it’s pandering to people who want to feel great about having been wise enough to have been born into an English-speaking culture, as oppose to those foolish newborns who opted for other lands.
It’s also cowardly — and extremely stupid as a matter of public policy.
Royce is cowardly because he’s fighting against people whom he would expect would be least well-equipped to fight back against them — especially if he can keep them from voting.
Royce’s position is extremely stupid because it sacrifices one of the primary advantages that the United States has in international affairs — that our people come from everywhere and that every citizen of the country theoretically has the right to expect to be treated with equal dignity. That is an extremely powerful selling point for the U.S. in its intercourse with other nations. China can’t do that. Japan can’t do that. Nor can Russia, Germany or even France. That’s our advantage — and no honorable politician should want to give it up for political gain.
Those Taiwanese up in Rowland Heights? They are part of our country’s bond to Asia. Our treating them like equals — even if they came here too late to learn English themselves (as their children generally will in school) — is one of the things that does lead much of the rest of the world to respect and admire the U.S. Our inclusiveness — our “multiculturalism,” if you will — is part of our strength and part of our success.
And yes, this applies to other Chinese in Diamond Bar, Filipinos from Walnut to Chino Hills, Koreans in Brea and Fullerton, Spanish-speakers from La Habra to Placentia, South Asians in Cypress and La Palma — and yes, to peaceable and patriotic Muslim-Americans from all over the world as well. This is a beautiful, multicultural district of which its residents can be proud. But yes, some people — largely having come here as adults — have trouble learning a new language (much like most Americans, who are among the least multilingual people in the world.)
You can make their adjustment to the U.S. easier — or you can ignore them — or if you’re really nuts you can punish them. It’s our showing some grace that pays off for the country. The benefit we get from bonds with other nations, with our residents from all over feeling that they truly are part of the United States rather than second-class citizens, far exceeds any cost of multilingual ballots and such. It’s a gesture of respect. And it makes us stronger.
Here, by the way, is part of what Royce said at that Yorba Linda rally:
“A big part of the problem we face today is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others’ positions no matter how odious. And what do we call that? They call it multiculturalism. And it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgement we need to make to prosper as a society.”
What? Who’s teaching children that “every idea is right” and nothing should not be criticized? This is pure demagoguery: he’s just making stuff up out of thin air to scare people. Why does Ed Royce pick on “multiculturalism” — a word that he seems to use to refer to something like “situational ethics” — even though he knows that it’s a hot-button issue that will be interpreted by racists (and also by mere xenophobes) as giving them support? It’s simple: he wants their votes.
Here’s how he plans to get them. His consultant, Dave Gilliard, says “if Jay Chen wants to call that a ‘hate rally’ then it shows a very shallow understanding of global terrorism.”
That’s right — tell Muslims who are gathered (with their children) to raise money for battered women’s shelters that they are terrorists. Do it often enough and maybe — despite the legions of Muslims who have served honorably in American government and the military — maybe they’ll believe you. I’d love to know what Gilliard’s “deep” understanding of terrorism is. Since Royce is afraid to debate anyone, maybe I can debate him myself.
(Meanwhile, I think that the Republican Party’s embrace of Ted Nugent shows a very shallow understanding of terrorism — as well as of pedophilia. Perhaps Gilliard has an opinion on that?)
But here’s the hilarious part of the Patch story — the part where you can see Gilliard earning his consultant’s fee by making a straight-faced argument that requires destroying the part of the brain that generates shame.
Gilliard said that Royce is not against multiculturalism in the U.S., and that he has a track record of working with ethnic communities.
“He’s been very involved with the Vietnamese community, he’s been very involved with the Korean community, he’s been very involved in the Indian-American community,” Gilliard said. “And we don’t give up one inch of ground to Jay Chen on any of those. It’s sad and telling that he’s trying to run a racial campaign here.”
Right. He’s not against “multiculturalism” — he just thinks that multiculturalism is the idea “that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others’ positions no matter how odious.” But he’s not against it.
Ethnic communities with whom Royce has been “very involved” can decide whether his trying to lap up their votes is a measure of respect — or just a sign that he’s using them.
For me, though, the Patch article becomes classic when you get to the comments. Here’s a sampling:
i have never voted republican but i like this republican…it’s already too late..islam has already taken away our free speach…i hate islam..i should be able to say that out loud…not be killed or threatened…islamaphob:why?islam..that’s why….
A Royce voter! Mission accomplished, Dave Gilliard! By the way, it anyone is threatening to kill this writer, as opposed to thinking that he’s a brainless, anti-American jerk, I reject their position. (And unlike Royce, I’m offering that condemnation quickly and clearly.)
This next commenter is much less offensive:
Being the daughter of a Hispanic ESL parent I am qualified to state that Jay Chen is misguided in many of his conclusions. My mother, who didn’t speak English on a daily basis until her mid-twenties, believed that the most important skill a person needed to have in this country is English.
Let’s get this straight: no one is saying that learning English is undesirable — although plenty of good Americans get by without this “most important skill.” It’s that, for a variety of reasons from age to the demands of life that get in the way of throwing oneself into ESL, a lot of people can’t do it even with reasonable effort. So the question then becomes: how do we treat them? As full members of our society — or as pariahs?
Mr. Chen is using the same technique that most Imams use of call that which is bad, good and that which is good, bad when it comes to rallies about Islam. The so called religion of peace that all Muslims follow has Sha’ria Law as its legal foundation. Sha’ria allows honor killings of those that leave the religion, the killing of Muslim women that marry outside the religion, even though Muslim men can marry Christians, and the killing of gays, Jews, and Christians. Desecration of non-Muslim graves and burning of churches are also part of the peaceful religion.
Another Royce voter for Dave Gilliard! As a candidate in an overlapping district myself, I will say that I am entirely opposed to “honor killings.” (My guess is that Jay Chen would agree.) I’m also opposed to most of the capital punishment and other punitive horrors that my own Jewish religion spelled out in the books of Leviticus and Numbers — and I know that grave desecration and burning houses of worship have been common historically even in the absence of Islam. I don’t condemn all of Judaism (or Christianity) for it, though. And I have to admit that the segue that suggests that Jay Chen does accept such things is awfully strange. Hey, Dave Gilliard, does Ed Royce think that Jay Chen favors honor killings? He should have the guts to say so out loud then, right?
I’m surprised that Mr. Chen is starting off his campaign by attacking his opponent. Business as usual for a Democratic candidate? Disappointing VERY disappointing! Is this the platform you are running on — anyone but a Republican for the 39th District at any cost!!!! Is this the type of representation that our District needs? I am also surprised that Mr Chen isn’t more supportive of English only. I was under the impression that when someone is naturalized they need to show that they have an understanding of the English language.
When one’s opponent says something as wrong as Royce’s weird attack on supposed multiculturalism, what’s wrong with noting it? Evidently Dave Gilliard wishes that it would go away, but Royce should have to answer for what he says to earn votes from bigots. As for the requirements for naturalization, allowances are made for people who are older. (Citizenship also doesn’t require that one have the sort of fluency in English that would allow one to make it one’s primary mode of communications.) So this letter (which goes on and on) is based on a fundamental misconception — that if you’re a naturalized citizen, you must have learned English. Those who come here younger do so as a matter of course — but not everyone does it well enough to use it for voting.
The CA-39 race is going to be very interesting as Royce tries desperately to unsay much of what he said when he had more favorable district lines. He’s got a lot of money — but convincing voters that he’s not just trying to capitalize on bigotry might cost even more than he can raise.
[Disclosure: I’m a Democratic candidate in Senate District 29 and portions of my campaign and Jay Chen’s will be housed in the same facility. I do not, however, speak for his campaign here in any way.]