Thom Hartmann: Requiring Immigrants to Learn English 'Makes a Certain Amount of Sense'

Looks like lots of those arguments between liberal radio host Thom Hartmann and conservatives appearing on his show weren't a waste of time after all.

Hartmann was among the guests on last night's Real Time with Bill Maher and he said something rarely heard from liberals when the conversation turns to immigration.

It was during a panel discussion about the appalling wave of sexual assaults against women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve, with most of those facing criminal charges for the attacks being recent arrivals from the Middle East. Gee, who could see that one coming?

GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson pointed out that assimilation of immigrants goes poorly in Europe compared to the United States, followed by Hartmann making an observation heard far more often from conservatives than liberals --

SOLTIS ANDERSON: In the US we are better at assimilation than Europe is. Europe does not have the same kind of tradition. We're not perfect at it here, but they're not as good in Europe. And so when folks come there and they bring their culture, when they come from places where real war on women stuff is happening, there's less of the influence of the overall society there saying no, you're going to be more like us, and you're seeing that tension break out. And so you've got these far, far right leaders who now have the ability in these European elections where it's not just two parties, where they have parliamentary systems where they ...

MAHER: Well, Sweden, one of the most liberal places in the world announced this week they're sending 80,000 refugees back. They have a little buyers' remorse.

HARTMANN: They're also doing something in Sweden and I believe in Norway as well that is actually, I think, quite useful and that is, when new people come in, number one, they're taught the language and, number two, they're taught the culture. And you know I think back to all the years that I've been debating right wingers who've been like, you know, immigrants have to learn English first! And, you know, it actually makes a certain amount of sense. You want to be able to function in a society, you want to be able to buy bread at the store, you want, you know, it seems like the first step in any country including in the United States and we're starting to do this now in our public schools but we need to do it more extensively, is when people come in from another culture is to say, you know, your culture is fine but here's our culture ...

MAHER: Well, it isn't fine (alluding to Islamist "culture") and I just hope that the civics guidebook in Sweden is more persuasive than the Koran but I doubt it is.

This is Hartmann's belated and indirect way of telling those conservatives he argued with over immigration -- you were right, I was wrong.

Hard to believe that if Rush Limbaugh said the exact same thing, liberals would praise him for his insight and common sense.

Only minutes after Hartmann said what conservatives have said for years while being denigrated by liberals as haters, he quickly reverted to form. Maher, alleging that Florida is hopelessly racist, cited as evidence that nearly a third of "otherwise eligible black men" in the state are permanently disenfranchised as a result of felony convictions --

HARTMANN: I'm in favor of the Vermont solution, you know, the Bernie Sanders' Vermont solution. In Vermont, you can vote from your jail cell.

MAHER: Right!

HARTMANN: Because you are still a citizen of the United States.

Not just from jail cells in Vermont -- prison cells too, Vermont being one of only two states (the other being Maine) that allows convicted felons to vote by absentee ballot while incarcerated.

A legitimate case can be made that ex-cons, having paid their debt to society, should be allowed to vote. But the main (and rarely stated) reason that liberals advocate for this is because felons released from prison are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. If Hartmann and others on the left want to push voting rights for convicted murderers who've yet to pay that debt, by all means. But why stop there -- how about weekend furloughs just before an election so inmates can vote in person? An innovative program along the same lines was such a rousing success in Massachusetts back when Dukakis was governor.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts