Liberal Massachusetts Supports Income Taxes, Gay Marriage—and “English”

For all those who might question whether Massachusetts voters are among the most liberal in the nation, the results of a recent statewide poll conducted by the Boston Herald on several proposed ballot initiatives constitutes interesting evidence.

For example, American notoriously regard income taxes in a very negative light, and Massachusetts’s particularly high tax rates have led home grown anti-tax activists to dub the state Taxachusetts. But an initiative placed on the November ballot by libertarians calling for the abolition of Bay State income taxes draws just over a third of the vote according to the Herald Poll. Apparently, Massachusetts likes taxes.

Similarly, there are very few politicians around the United States who would publicly endorse the controversial notion of legalizing gay marriage, and just a few years ago, huge majorities of both parties in Congress went on record against such a social change. Back in November 2000, even socially-liberal California—ground zero of the alternative-lifestyle movement—voted by nearly a 2-to-1 landslide to restrict marriage to solely a union of a man and a women. But the Herald Poll indicated that a similar initiative moving toward the Massachusetts ballot will probably be trounced by almost a similar ratio. Gay marriage seems like a fine idea in the heart of New England.

Yet while income taxes and gay marriage seem reasonably popular among voters in the liberal Commonwealth, our “English” initiative is overwhelmingly more so, with support running at 69% and opposition at just 22%, or better than a three- to-one margin. Even this figure may slightly understate the reality, since a couple of previous statewide surveys, based on somewhat clearer descriptions of what our initiative actually does showed support approaching almost 80%.

Certainly, prominent political candidates are beginning to recognize the importance of this issue, with Jim Rappaport, a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, and now Republican Gubernatorial nominee Mitt Romney having endorsed the “English” ballot measure. The odds seem quite good that within just a few months, the oldest statewide bilingual education mandate within America will have disappeared forever, while income taxes and non-traditional marriages may remain and grow.


But although our Massachusetts initiative seems likely to pass, changes in law have an impact only if they are matched by proper enforcement. And in Arizona, where a previous “English” initiative, Proposition 203, passed in November 2000, enforcement of the new policy seems far from complete.

In particular, on Tuesday the local leadership of the English for the Children of Arizona held a press conference, which I attended, where they described the serious violations of the measure that have come to their attention at numerous schools. Most disturbing were reports that pro- bilingual administrators had routinely coerced immigrant parents into applying for bilingual waivers, in some cases even allegedly threatening them with possible deportation if they did not sign the necessary forms, as the article below indicates. We should certainly hope that Arizona’s top elected and educational officials begin vigorously examining these very disturbing charges.

At this same Press Conference, top leaders of Arizona’s “English” campaign—including Maria Mendoza, Margaret Garcia Dugan, and Norma Alvarez– -strongly endorsed Tom Horne, a Republican candidate for Arizona Superintendent, who affirmed his commitment to making enforcement of Prop. 203 a top priority if elected. I attach their press release.

Finally, I should mention that my recent and rather harsh comments regarding Education Secretary Rod Paige in response to his sudden and unexpected attack on our Colorado “English” initiative have provoked considerable controversy, certainly far more than I had expected. For example, the news story from Arizona alludes to this issue.

Since I have never personally met Secretary Paige, my entire characterization of him and his role in the Bush Administration was derived from various accounts I had read in national media publications, publications of supposedly high credibility. If my recollection of these accounts turns out to be in error, then I certainly owe the Secretary—and our national media—a full apology.

However, if my informal emailed remarks did reasonably reflect the content of lengthy articles by prominent national journalists, then I would think that any apology or retraction should be more appropriately demanded of the journalists and their editors who produced those stories, rather than I myself, who merely read and—rightly or wrongly— accepted them.

Furthermore, it should be emphasized that I have long had numerous sharp ideological differences with my local “English” allies on all sorts of other policy issues. Among other things, I am a Republican and generally conservative, while many of the individuals who have worked most closely with me to dismantle bilingual education programs are Democrats, liberals, or even leftists. Thus, regardless of whether my tentative appraisal of Secretary Paige remains unchanged after I have more thoroughly investigated the media evidence, I do not doubt that many, perhaps nearly all the local supporters of our “English” campaigns might take sharp exception to my views.

Just as the Boston Herald Poll so clearly indicated, support for teaching English to children in school seems to easily cross almost all ideological boundaries.

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