'This Is Alabama. We Speak English'

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In this advertisement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James speaks on the apparently incredible waste of government resources it takes to give driver's license examinations in twelve languages. "This is Alabama," he says. "We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it. ... Maybe it's the business man in me, but we'll save money. And it make sense." THREE SECOND PAUSE. "Does it to you?"

  

   

Mr., James explains that exams in a multitude of language may endear people to the "Rachel Maddow" crowd, but he's going to fight against political correctness. Besides, he says, it's a public safety issue because traffic signs are in English. There's a little wrinkle here: there's a reason why Alabama has its exams in many different languages, and if the governor changes the rules, the state could lose billions of dollars in federal transportation funding. Conveniently, this allows James to hint at the prospect of a debate against Barack Obama's federal government, too. The issue seems legit, if marginally so, but the ethnic coding in the ad is unmistakable, especially because it's not the type of thing that voters in Alabama would care about unless someone deigned to bring it to their attention. If the name "James" and "Alabama governor" seem familiar, well, they should: Tim is the son of Fob, a former governor.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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