In an earlier posting and blog to Right On Race, I argued that after November 2, the GOP would have to start rethinking its strategies and policy positions on racial and ethnic issues, including racial preferences:
Essentially, the GOP strategy has been to adopt an apologetic and defensive posture on race; to do everything possible to avoid or finesse the hot-button issue of racial preferences; and on immigration to adopt a position that the party leaders believe will appeal to minority voters even though those positions tend to be highly unpopular with their base.
After November 2, if the current trends hold up, the party will need to do a cost-benefit analysis of these strategies, which clearly are failing to make inroads with minority voters. At the same time, those policies and tactics have forced the GOP to forfeit issues that are proven winners with most voters, and that by any rational calculation are far more threatening and dangerous to Democrats and liberals than they are to Republicans and conservatives.
The RNC convention August 30-September 2 in New York City provokes new thoughts on this matter, as well as a clearer picture of what we need to do. Specifically, it has made it clear that our problem inside the party is not to defend non-discrimination for all races as a principle. As Roger Clegg has pointed out, the GOP platform itself endorses that principle. It says:
Ensuring Equal Opportunities
“Our nation is a land of opportunity for all, and our communities must represent the ideal of equality and justice for every citizen. The Republican Party favors aggressive, proactive measures to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or other characteristics covered by our civil rights laws. We also favor recruitment and outreach policies that cast the widest possible net so that the best qualified individuals are encouraged to apply for jobs, contracts, and university admissions. We believe in the principle of affirmative access—taking steps to ensure that disadvantaged individuals of all colors and ethnic backgrounds have the opportunity to compete economically and that no child is left behind educationally. We support a reasonable approach to Title IX that seeks to expand opportunities for women without adversely affecting men’s athletics. We praise President Bush for his strong record on civil rights enforcement, and for becoming the first President ever to ban racial profiling by the federal government. Finally, because we are opposed to discrimination, we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides based on skin color, ethnicity, or gender, which perpetuate divisions and can lead people to question the accomplishments of successful minorities and women.”
“AGGRESSIVE, PROACTIVE MEASURES TO ENSURE THAT NO INDIVIDUAL IS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST” VS. LIP SERVICE
The platform plank is excellent so far as it goes, but it fails to acknowledge that the position of the Bush Administration on the issue of preferences has been equivocal. When the Administration made the decision to weigh in on the U. Michigan cases, it is said that Ted Olson, the Solicitor General, tried very hard to enshrine the no-preferences, no-discrimination principle as an absolute constitutional principle, but failed. Olson’s brief was reportedly rewritten after it had been submitted to the Oval Office. What the Administration adopted instead was the very different principle that preferences could only be used as a last resort, if all reasonable attempts to achieve the desired level of racial diversity have failed.
If anything, Bush’s recent remarks at the Journalists of Color Convention in Washington, D.C. stated that position even more starkly:
Q In one of the most closely watched cases of the 2003 term, the Supreme Court split the difference on affirmative action, allowing Bakke to stand, but rejecting the numerical formulas used by the University of Michigan undergraduate schools. I’d like to hear your own view about when, and if, race and ethnicity are admissible as factors for consideration both in college admissions and in hiring in the workplace. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I agreed with the Court in saying that we ought to reject quotas. I think quotas are discriminatory by nature. They discriminate—I think they discriminate on the bottom, and I know they discriminate on the top. And so I agreed with their assessment that a quota system was an unfair system for all. As you might remember, we also agreed with the finding that—in terms of admissions policy, race-neutral admissions policies ought to be tried. If they don’t work, to achieve an objective which is diversification, race ought to be a factor. [emphasis mine] I agree with that assessment. I think it’s very important for all institutions to strive for diversity, and I believe there are ways to do so.
Note that the questioner asked about hiring in the workplace as well as college admissions, and that Bush said in reply that it was important for all institutions to strive for diversity. It is hard not to conclude from this that the Bush Administration holds the view that the diversity principle can trump the non-discrimination principle in the workplace as well as in college admissions—a position even the Supreme Court has not taken or even indicated that it will take. It would be a catastrophe if the Court itself followed this hint and ruled accordingly in future employment discrimination cases.
In any case, the position is fundamentally wrong, no matter what its intended scope is. As a matter of principle it is bad, because it undermines a fundamental moral principle to say that pragmatic or public policy considerations can trump the principle that people should not be treated differently on the basis of race. It is bad as a tactical matter, too, because, as our opposition is never tired of telling us, race-neutral means of promoting diversity will always fall short of the racial and ethnic diversity that can be achieved through the brute-force method racial preferences. Activists on the other side will always be agitating to the get the numbers higher. If one takes the position that numbers can always trump policy and principle, the pressure to apply preferences, as well as race-neutral policies that go too far and are themselves unacceptable, will prove irresistible.
The view that the anti-preferences position is a good idea, but one that can be compromised in practice, is also fatal politically, for in the political arena it inevitably shifts the focus from the principle to the numbers. Anyone who holds this position will instinctively look for excuses, as this Administration has almost invariably done, to avoid challenging preferences. This leads to paralysis in the political realm. Combined with the clear message from Rove and from the Bush team generally, that political efforts directed to actually abolishing preferences are regarded as unhelpful and unwelcome, the qualification of the anti-preferences principle has had the effect—probably intentional—of largely eviscerating our movement. Politicians within the GOP—the only major political party in the U.S. where we have a chance of getting traction or even a hearing—have been largely neutralized.
OUR MOVEMENT’S LOSS OF POLITICAL MOMENTUM
Clearly, racial and ethnic preferences are highly unpopular with the vast majority of voters. Preferences are particularly vulnerable to attack via direct democracy, i.e., wherever voters can strike them down through a ballot initiative process. The more serious problem for us lies in advancing our agenda within the normal political process of representative government.
Some of the movement’s political vulnerabilities on this front showed up as early as 1996, during the campaign for the California Civil Rights Initiative (Prop. 209). Towards the end of the campaign, when it was clear that Prop. 209 was unstoppable, our opponents ran inflammatory ads, replete with images of David Duke and burning crosses and images of the KKK, in an attempt to smear 209 as a racist measure. There was a good deal of discussion within the Yes on 209! campaign at the time whether this ad, and others like it, would hurt us. Some were of the opinion that they would hurt; others felt the ads were so outrageous that they would create a backlash and end up helping us. My own view was that the ads would probably help us. However, I didn’t think this was the most important issue. At that point in time, Prop. 209’s victory at the polls was virtually guaranteed. What worried me was that the ferocity of the ads might create a climate that would make our efforts down the road more difficult. As a warning shot to politicians who might want to embrace 209-type initiatives or legislation doing the same thing, the ads were a warning shot. I continue to believe that the ads were successful for our opponents when measured against this yardstick. The message to politicians who might consider attacking preferences themselves clearly was: “Back off; this is too hot to handle.”
The first unmistakable sign that the GOP was being neutralized on the issue (or was letting itself be neutralized on the issue) came after Senator Bob Dole and Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) introduced the ““Equal Opportunity Act” in Congress. This legislation, which was first introduced in 1995, would have prohibited racial and gender preferences in federal programs along the lines of 209. I cannot recall whether the bill was reintroduced in the Senate after Dole lost the presidential election in 1996, but it was re-introduced in 1996 in the House by Charles Canady. We had great hopes for it, but the bill was killed in committee by a surprise attack led by George Gekas, Dick Armey and others. In my opinion, the loss of political momentum of the anti-preferences movement can almost be dated from that day.
I recall Dick Armey saying at the time by way of explanation that the preferences issue terrified him because of the growth of the Hispanic vote. Either Gekas or Armey (I forget which) opined that the matter would shortly be resolved in our favor by the courts anyway. At the time, I suspected two other individuals of having been behind the sabotage of the Canady bill. One was Newt Gingrich, as he was the Speaker of the House at the time, though some insiders later assured me that this was not the case. Another guilty party, I suspected, was Karl Rove, as even then Bush’s star was rising and he looked even then as a serious contender for the presidential nomination in 2000. Even at that early state, outreach to Hispanics in particular was a major theme of George W. Bush’s political strategy. I never learned any of the details about the sabotage of the Canady bill, but I remain convinced that Rove and Bush did play an important role in the demise of the bill behind the scenes—perhaps through Armey—though I must admit that this is conjectural..
Despite all of this, I became a strong supporter of Bush early on. That support was based on the belief that Bush was the GOP’s best chance of recapturing the White House, and therefore of our being able to preserve or improve our position in litigation that might reach the Court in the foreseeable future. I also felt that the Bush team understood the nuances of race in America (if I dare use the term “nuance” after the recently concluded RNC convention in New York City). I was particularly impressed with the distinction the Bush team drew between facially discriminatory and facially race neutral schemes, since I felt that opposing the former and supporting at least some of the latter proposals was essential to developing a politically viable public policy and political strategy on race.
This seemed compelling to me at the time, and I continue to think that it did make sense, given the questions and issues that confronted us then. Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that we are in a much worse position politically now than we were in 1996, and that the Bush team’s aversion to dealing forthrightly and aggressively with the preferences issue has had much to do with that. For all practical purposes, for four years we have been personae non gratae in the Republican Party, and this has taken a heavy toll on us.
FIGHTING SHY OF THE PREFERENCES ISSUE
Though recalling it now seems like a remembrance of things in the far distant past, it actually wasn’t so long ago that we had the strong support of the party elites as well as the base. Prop. 209 won the strong support of the RNC and the California GOP, as well as the Republican leadership of the House and Senate. I learned that Haley Barbour, the chairman of the RNC at the time, was telling people in Washington that CCRI was “good policy and good politics.” Speaker Newt Gingrich (albeit after a good deal of hesitation and coaxing) signed a direct mail fundraising letter for CCRI.
It should be possible to regain all our lost momentum on this issue, since nothing has changed since 1996 with respect to the political fundamentals. Preferences are as unpopular now as they ever were. At least 65-70% of voters—maybe more—support us on the issue. As I started saying years ago, politicians who cannot make this issue work for them when 65-70% of the electorate is on our side of the issue right out of the gate are simply incompetent.
I have spoken to prominent politicians in the GOP who have agreed with this argument in principle, but who think that racial issues are simply too difficult and too dangerous for most—or at least many—GOP politicians and office holders to negotiate. Having seen a good number of Republican politicians handle this issue incompetently, I cannot disagree with this view completely, but that is no reason to give up, because we know that many Republicans are capable of handling the issue. I think in particular of a group of GOP Congressmen who tried to strip a transportation bill of set-asides and preferences. I was astonished when I caught about 20 minutes of their performance on C-SPAN. There they were: Newt Gingrich, Tom Campbell, Chris Cox, Charles Canady and I forget who else (four or five more, as I recall). They were led by Connie Morella. All, without exception, were very effective. They seemed to know exactly what the opponents (led by Eleanor Holmes Norton) were going to say, and knew exactly how to respond. As I recall, they came within ten or twelve votes of passing their amendment. So I know that it is possible for Republicans to be effective on this issue. They have been effective in the past—or at least some of them have—and we have to make sure that these politicians and others like them get re-engaged on our issue.
It is true that there will be a lot of resistance to any resumption of assertiveness on the part of those who actually want to do something about racial preferences. Powerful interest groups and factions will organize to fight us behind the scenes, both inside and outside the GOP. What political strength our opponents have will lie principally in the widespread anxiety within the Republic Party about the rapidly changing racial and ethnic demographics and the consequent dangers of alienating black and Hispanic voters.
However, the demographic factor actually cuts two ways. It is true that the black, Hispanic, and Asian-American populations are growing faster than the Anglo population. But the minority vote is not just growing; it is also growing more complex. Consequently, the changing demographics are not a clear win for Democrats so far as the issue of racial and ethnic preferences is concerned, because minority groups are in increasing competition with each other for the benefits of those preferences. As readers of the AADAP-L list know, the media is giving more and more coverage to turf battles between blacks and Hispanics over the benefits of preferential programs. These battles are divisive for the Democrats, and fighting over what is clearly a racial and ethnic spoils system offends most voters. These problems can only get worse over time. If proponents of preferences respond by expanding the spoils system, there will be an even greater backlash from those who are victimized by such programs—and these are the majority of voters. This will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
The atmospherics have changed in our favor since 1996 in a number of other respects as well:
· Stereotyping. If anything, the objection that racial and ethnic preferences stereotype and impugn the qualifications of all those minorities who are eligible for them, whether they need them or not, is heard more often now than it was a decade ago, when CCRI/209 inaugurated the movement to abolish racial and gender preferences.
· The courts. Court action has also given the anti-preferences position more legitimacy than it had ten years ago. It is often said that judges, including U.S. Supreme Court justices, read the daily papers and do not ignore public opinion. But surely the converse is also true: the public pays at least some attention to the opinions and rulings of the courts in forming its opinion about what is mainstream and acceptable. Measured by this criterion, our position has actually improved in the last ten years.
At first, the supporters of preferences hailed the Supreme Court decisions in the U. Michigan cases as a huge, resounding victory for their side. Since then, most of the supporters of preferences seem to have recognized, by their words and actions, that the rulings in those cases circumscribe permissible preferential schemes much more strictly and narrowly than they had thought. Except for colleges in the Fifth Circuit, the legal constraints on preferential college admissions schemes are tighter now than they were before the decisions in the U. Michigan litigation.
The courts continue to scale back forced desegregation programs in K-12 that were put in place in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Because of these rulings, more and more school districts have been barred from using race-based assignment to schools as a means to achieve racial diversity.
Last but not least, it is significant that federal courts upheld the constitutionality of Prop. 209 in the Coalition for Economic Equity v. Pete Wilson litigation. In the opinions in the U. Michigan litigation the U.S. Supreme Court recommended the race-neutral diversity measures the state of California has adopted in the wake of 209 as a model that other states might want to consider and emulate. Proponents of racial preferences laud the decisions in the U. Michigan litigation, but the same decisions held that preferences must meet the test of strict scrutiny and emphasized that their use, which had to be tightly constrained, was by invitation only—an invitation that any state was at liberty to decline, as California and Washington State already have. This makes it much more difficult for opponents of 209 to claim, as they did during the 209 campaign itself, that moves to abolish preferences are “racist.” Prop. 209 and I-200 have permanently altered the American political and legal landscape to our advantage.
· The political impact of abolishing preferences. After they are passed, measures like 209 cease to be controversial and quickly become an accepted and indeed unchallengeable part of the landscape. That is because measures like 209 draw the line exactly where most voters wants the line to be drawn. If, for example, A is favored over B in university admissions on the basis of all the academic and non-academic criteria that are felt to be relevant, it is discriminatory to favor B over A just on the basis of race. Laws like 209 bar such discrimination. In fact, that is all they do. Since the prohibition such measures put in place are principled ones, they produce no lasting damage for the GOP with minority voters. Once the measures are adopted, the issue tends rather quickly to disappear from view, even for them.
Four or five years ago I spoke to a former director of minority outreach for the California GOP, who told me that in his view 209 had not inflicted any damage on the party in California among Hispanic voters, and that in fact it was almost impossible to find any Hispanics out in the communities who even remembered what 209 was. (By this I assume that he meant, not just that they didn’t know what Prop. 209 was, but that the whole issue, however identified, simply didn’t resonate with them.) This corresponds to this day with my own experience as well.
· Divisiveness. The use of actual racial preferences (i.e., discrimination) to achieve diversity is regarded by most Americans as divisive. If anything, criticism and opposition to the use of racial preferences on these grounds has grown since 1996.
Even the Democratic Party seems to be responding to the changed climate of opinion. The keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, by Barack Obama, spoke of One America. Obama said: “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.” It would, of course, be a big mistake to infer from this that Obama himself will come out in opposition of racial preferences any time soon. He is extremely liberal, and undoubtedly is a strong partisan for preferences. But it is equally true that this kind of rhetoric is much harder to square with a policy of preferences than it is with a rule that says that Americans should never under any circumstances be treated differently on the basis of their race. It is hard to believe that Obama himself, the DNC, and the Kerry campaign didn’t understand this at the time. But the principle is so powerful and the rhetoric so persuasive and moving that they were apparently willing to incur this risk. As a number of commentators have observed, the keynote speech at the Democratic convention this year—at least this part of it—would have gone over very well at the Republican convention, because Republicans have been talking in this vein for decades. This indicates a significantly changed climate that should put even more wind in our sails.
The formula for political success and for a viable policy on race in America is still embodied in measures like California’s Prop. 209. Such measures do not address all aspects of the issues of race and ethnicity. They are very narrow—but very powerful—laws, for they do nothing more than enshrine the principle that Americans should not be treated differently on the basis of race. Proponents of such measures can perfectly well say (as I do say) that it is not our purpose to try to purge race from the public arena (at least yet). Yes, we say, diversity is a legitimate goal of public policy, because, if for no other reason, there will be significant tensions in American life so long there are racial groups in the country that are grossly underrepresented in the major institutions of American life. Government, we say, cannot and need not be “blind” to race. There are many facially race-neutral means of promoting diversity that we support (though there are many that we do not). But we also claim that there are some things government cannot do. Granting preferences on the basis of race is one of them, because, as a matter of simple logic, one cannot grant a preference on the basis of race without discriminating against someone else on the basis of race. It is clear by now that our opponents are virtually defenseless against this position. The Left knows this, which is why there is a considerable disconnect between rhetoric and action on this issue in the Democratic Party (just as there is in the Republican Party). For the most part, our opponents’ efforts to defend racial preferences have been confined to defensive, rear-guard actions away from the public political arena—in courts and administrative agencies, and in the quiet stacking of committees and administrative positions behind the scenes.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE
We need to think now about ways to change the status quo, liberate ourselves from our present immobility, and move the issue forward in concrete ways after the November election. There are so many opportunities for pressing our advantage that it will be necessary at some point for our movement to prioritize. I will not attempt to do this here. I will simply throw out some of the more obvious possibilities for the purpose of stimulating discussion:
· Ballot initiatives. Besides and beyond the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), we need to promote other state and local ballot initiatives. Since local initiatives are cheaper, and more easily targeted, a larger number of them might be preferable to a smaller number of state initiatives, which are more expensive to mount. Undoubtedly, there are countless cities and towns in the U.S. that we could target. Since public colleges and universities are state-run and state-supported, local initiatives will not be able to abolish any preferences in admissions or employment in higher education, but they could be used to abolish preferences in government employment and in contracting outside of higher education. We should take advantage of local initiatives and referenda to light fires everywhere. Our opponents, like BAMN, would either have to leave them unopposed, or run themselves ragged trying to fight them in many different places.
· Sunlight is the best disinfectant for unpopular policies like preferences. We should make more extensive use of FOIA and public records act laws to subject preferential programs to public scrutiny and debate. The Center for Equal Opportunity and the National Association of Scholars have led the way on this, but much more can be done.
· Litigation. The Grutter decision in the U Michigan cases was a setback only in the sense that it failed to deliver the coup de grâce to racial preferences that we had hoped for and had reason to expect. Except for schools in the Fifth Circuit, constraints on preferential programs in university admission are tighter now than they were before those decisions. It is now reasonably clear that schools that conform to the rules laid down in those decisions will not be able to get the numbers they want, so many institutions will be tempted to violate the Supreme Court’s guidelines. Schools that do this should be sued.
Those of us who are following admissions policies here in California have good reason to believe that the University of California is violating 209, as there is almost no other way to interpret the admissions data. It would be very useful for us to win a court case against U.C. on the grounds of a de facto violation of 209. I know (because I’ve spoken to them) that there are supporters of our cause who believe that measures like 209 are largely futile because our opponents will always find a way to skirt them or violate them with impunity, and they often cite U.C. and 209 as an example. Their view is clearly refuted by the numbers, but it would still be very helpful psychologically and politically to show skeptics that measures like 209 do have teeth, and that there are legal consequences for those who violate them.
· Electronic database registry of activists. Ed Blum has urged that the movement develop a national registry and database of activists on our issue. This is a major desideratum.
· Communications. We should continue to use, develop, and expand AADAP-L and Right on Race as the central information clearinghouses and community-creating networking centers for the anti-preferences movement.
· Coordination. The Left has long had an umbrella organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which consolidates, coordinates, and does PR for the various aspects of the Left’s agenda on racial and ethnic issues, including litigation, research, and advocacy. What we are fighting is in many respects just one thing with a number of different aspects. We would benefit from having a counterpart of the LCCR for our own efforts.
· Form an alliance with immigration reform activists. We should at least consider liaising with immigration activists. I am aware that in many respects preferences and immigration are very different issues; indeed, Glynn Custred and I went to great pains from the very outset to distinguish CCRI (Prop. 209) from the earlier Prop. 187. We did not take a public position for or against 187, but we felt that we would have enough trouble explaining what 209 was and what its purposes were without capitulating to the media’s penchant for portraying 209 as the “son of 187.”
I think there are good reasons now for attempting to link the two issues to some degree in the public mind. One reason is that as long as preferential schemes remain in place, high levels of immigration for individuals from racial and ethnic groups that benefit from them exacerbate the problem. But the principal reason, in my view, is that preference foes and immigration activists find themselves in very similar positions politically. Those who advocate controlled borders and lower immigration levels, and who oppose various kinds of amnesty proposals, and those who are opposed to preferences, hold positions that are politically popular but that have a hard time getting political traction due to very well-organized and powerful interest groups, both inside and outside the GOP. In both cases, resistance from the party elites is due principally to growing fears about the changing demographics. Both movements face very similar problems overcoming that resistance. Since the politics are very similar, it might prove to be mutually advantageous for the two groups to forge a working coalition.
· Cultivate one or more political champions. There is a limit to what can be achieved through direct democracy on our issue, since ballot initiatives are not supported at the federal level and in most states. A resolution of our issue in favor of the anti-preferences position requires us to succeed in the normal political process of representative government. The lack of a prominent political champion of our issue in this arena is one of our principal weaknesses.
Immigration reform activists are to be envied in this respect. They have qualified Prop. 200 for the November 2 ballot in Arizona, and that is helping to draw national attention to their issue. (It is regrettable that MCRI did not also make it onto the November 2 ballot.) But even more importantly, immigration reform activists have found a prominent, articulate spokesmen in Congress in Tom Tancredo. Tancredo often complains that he is an outsider in Congress and inside the GOP, but everything is relative: he is much more of an insider than anyone who does not hold high elective office. As a Congressman, he is effective even when he feels marginalized and is reduced to the position of a gadfly. Anyone who doubts this should stop and consider how much stronger our own movement would be if we had even one outspoken advocate in Congress, like Charles Canady and others not so far back, speaking out and introducing anti-preferences legislation in the way Tancredo has being doing on the immigration issue.
There is undoubtedly an enormous amount of pent-up energy on our issue just waiting to be released by effective political leadership. One example is the apparent ease with which Leon Drolet recently lined up an overwhelming majority of Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Michigan State House to pass, 54-44, an amendment to the state’s Higher Education Appropriations bill. The amendment would cut state funding to universities that use preferential policies.
We won’t be taken seriously as a movement again until we are making waves inside the normal American political process of representative government. That means that we should try to identify—or groom, if necessary—one or more politicians who can provide leadership in this arena.
Significantly, speculation has already started about front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. No doubt those who are serious about running have already started to gear up and make their initial moves outside of public view. I cannot pretend to know who among these might be useful and of interest to our movement. I do not have any favorites, or any recommendations to make. But I will drop names of some individuals who could conceivably be of interest and useful to us.
· Bill Owens and Ed Jones. After the Grutter decision, Governor Bill Owens of Colorado said that he would sign into law legislation banning the use of “affirmative action” (i.e., preferences) in higher education if such a bill were passed by the state legislature. Shortly thereafter, Colorado state Senator Ed Jones (R) and state Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R) introduced the “Colorado Civil Rights Act” (SB 194), which aims to ban affirmative action programs (i.e., preferences) in public hiring, contracting, and admissions to public colleges and universities.
· Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele. In a debate in the gubernatorial race in Maryland in September of 2002, Democratic candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend accused her Republican opponent, Robert Ehrlich, of opposing race-based affirmative action. I do not know whether he is an opponent of racial preferences, and I have been unable to find out what Ehrlich’s reply was in that debate, but we should investigate Ehrlich, particularly if he is thinking of running for the presidential nomination in 2008. Ehrlich has certainly made strong and powerful statements against the divisiveness of extreme, radical multiculturalism, so we know that he is capable of taking positions that draw the wrath of the Left. Perhaps the racial preferences issue is one of them. We also need to do the same for Michael Steele, who gave an excellent speech at the Republican convention.
· Perhaps the most intriguing GOP figure to consider is Rudy Giuliani. According to a number of sources, Giuliani is leading the pack of party favorites to run in 2008; indeed, according to one poll, 50% of all Americans are already saying that they would like Giuliani to run for president in 2008. During his tenure as mayor of New York City (1993-2001), Giuliani eliminated just about every racial preference in city government he could find. He abolished 20 percent set aside programs for minorities and women, the Bureau of Citywide Equal Employment Opportunity, and the offices of African American/Caribbean Affairs, Latino Affairs, and Asian Affairs. He also terminated the use of “diversity” as a criterion for selection of city judges, and eliminated minority participation as a factor in choosing private companies to take over work that had been done by the city.
There are rumors that Giuliani is planning to run for the presidency in 2008. I do not know if he has changed his opinions about the politics of race in America since 2001. But obviously, we should find out.
REGAINING THE POLITICAL MOMENTUM
The latest polls show President Bush with a likely post-Labor Day lead in the presidential race—in some cases well beyond the margin of error. The candidate who is in the lead on Labor Day has a very high probability of winning the election in November.
If Bush were to lose the election, then of course the ensuing political infighting, both for candidates and for issues, would be even greater after November 2. However, there will be great deal of infighting even if the President is re-elected. Consequently, we anti-preference activists are likely to have a much better shot at becoming politically relevant and politically successful after November 2, no matter how the election turns out. That is the very nature of a second term. Party members tend to close ranks during the first term in order to help ensure the re-election of the incumbent when their party holds the White House, but things tend to open up during a second term.
It is clear that the policies and strategies on race of Bush and Rove have failed to deliver for the GOP. It is unlikely, therefore, that those policies and strategies have produced an irreversible paradigm shift inside the party. They have taken a huge toll with the base of the party, with no compensatory gain with minority voters to balance the negatives. More and more Republicans are going to make these points publicly after November 2, no matter what the outcome of the election is. This will be reflected in what GOP candidates in Congressional, state, and local races say and do, and what platforms they run on. Of course, loyalty to the President and securing his imprimatur for their own races will count for something, but it will inevitably be much harder for the Administration to keep us under house arrest after November 2.
Political commentator Robert Novak has already predicted that the tremendous growth of federal spending under the Bush Administration will come under fire from small government advocates after November 2. Novak reports that the discord was kept under the rug at the convention, but that the issue cannot be suppressed indefinitely. He cited one veteran conservative at the convention who was not willing to talk publicly about the issue but who promised that the issue “will be raised after the 2004 election no matter what the outcome.” That is undoubtedly true of all the contentious issues inside the party. As one Republican Party activist put it, ““The real battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins on November 3.”
Many activists in the party who are disgruntled and who are gearing up for action failed to get the party to incorporate their views in the party platform—and in my cases, like the immigration activists, to even get a hearing before the platform committee. That is not true of us, because the platform on our issue is quite all right, at least so far as it goes. What we have to do instead is ensure that after November 2 this plank in the party platform becomes something more than a meaningless piety. For us, it is not so much a matter of winning the heart and soul of the Republican Party—for that was never really in question—it is a matter of getting control of the command and control centers of the party’s brain, so that we can start making real progress again on our issue.
There isn’t a moment to lose. We are already way behind the curve.
NOTES & REFERENCES
Charting the 2008 GOP Field
Hicks, J. (1994). “Giuliani Is Halting or Scaling Back Affirmative Action Efforts.” The New York Times, August 23, pp. B1, B3.
Right wing sees betrayals
Robert Novak: Debate on small government swept under the rug
Thomas Wood, “Will the GOP be forced to rethink its positions on racial and ethnic issues after November 2?”