I had the good fortune to meet and study with Tom Krannawitter in the summer of 2005 at the Claremont Institue's Lincoln Fellowship program.
Here is a recent editorial that Tom wrote for Investors Business Daily which I want to post here. I couldn't agree more with what he says:
Winning Strategy For Republicans: Getting Rid Of Racial Preferences
BY THOMAS KRANNAWITTER
While many Republicans are still reeling from November's election, one important conservative victory has received less attention than it deserves: Michigan's vote to end racial preferences and discrimination. Republicans should pay attention because ending racist "affirmative action" policies could be part of a winning strategy in the future.
I lived in California in 1996 when the California Civil Rights Initiative was approved by 54% of voters in that November's election. The measure prohibited the state from discriminating against and granting preferential treatment to anyone on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin in public employment, public education and public contracting.
That same year, incumbent President Bill Clinton was being challenged by Republican Bob Dole. Dole consciously distanced himself from the CCRI throughout most of his campaign, at one point praising Colin Powell — who Dole hoped would join him on the Republican ticket — for a speech in which Powell defended racial preferences and denounced the CCRI. Dole lost California by a massive margin as President Clinton won re-election.
But the numbers from California's 1996 general election tell an interesting story that is too little known in Republican circles: 3,828,380 Californians voted for Dole — 5,119,835 voted for Clinton. But 5,268,462 voted for the CCRI. Not only did the CCRI receive nearly 1.5 million more votes than Dole, but more Californians voted to end racial preferences and discrimination than voted for Democrat Clinton.
Ward Connerly, who chaired the CCRI campaign, next took the fight for equality under the law to Washington state, where the Washington State Civil Rights Act handily won by 58% in the 1998 midterm general election.
Fast-forward to Nov. 7, 2006. I now reside in Michigan, where the incumbent governor, Democrat Jennifer Granholm, crushed Republican challenger Dick DeVos — no surprise on a day when many Republicans were defeated. But on that same day, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, modeled on California's 1996 Civil Rights Initiative, cruised to an easy victory with 58% of Michiganders approving it.
DeVos ran on a platform of job creation and economic growth in a state suffering the bleakest economy in the country. Yet he could muster only 1.3 million votes, while more than 1.8 million Michiganders voted for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Half a million more people voted to end race-based "affirmative action" than voted for him.
Refusing To Speak Up
And where was DeVos on the critical question of government-sponsored racism? He opposed the MCRI, but never explained why. DeVos said the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative "raises some serious issues for public discussion," but he refused to be part of the discussion he said was so important.
Republicans should be able to score electoral points by campaigning to end racial preferences and discrimination, so why do they stubbornly refuse to fight for equal protection of equal rights? The answer, at least in part, is provided by Shelby Steele in his recent book, "White Guilt."
"When white supremacy was delegitimized" during the civil rights era of the 1960s, argues Steele, "whites did not simply lose the authority to practice racism . . . whites also lost a degree of their authority to stand proudly for the values and ideas that had made the West a great civilization."
After the '60s, the new race-conscious liberalism insisted that any defense of Western and especially American principles and institutions was a defense of racism. Liberal elites' strategy to regain the moral and political authority that was lost, Steele reminds us, has been twofold:
First, conscientious Americans must dissociate themselves from the racism of America's past, which includes dissociating oneself from the supposedly racist Constitution of the founders — providing additional arguments, incidentally, in favor of a liberal "living constitution." Demonstrating liberal racial consciousness and liberal morality requires Americans not only to condemn racism, but also to condemn America itself.
Second, liberals should take responsibility for the problems caused by racism. The most visible way to be responsible, in the liberal sense, is to support affirmative action programs that offer racial preferences and take responsibility away from blacks and other racial minorities.
By supporting racial preferences, liberals inoculate themselves against accusations of racism — how could anyone be racist who supports affirmative action? Contrary, from the liberal view, anyone who attacks racial preferences is not taking responsibility for racism. They are part of the problem, not the solution.
This is the widely known but seldom admitted reason so many Republicans refuse to defend colorblind policies and campaign against race-based preferences and discrimination: They are scared they might be accused of being racist and they are not confident they can defend themselves against such accusations. So, many do what Dick DeVos did. They remain silent and suffer at the polls for it.
Elections Tell The Story
As recent elections demonstrate, however, ordinary Americans — even those in blue states like California, Washington and Michigan — do not like policies of race-based preferences and discrimination. Republicans ought to recall that equal protection of equal rights is the American ideal, enshrined forever in the proposition that all men are created equal. And it is right. Racism is wrong precisely because equality is right.
Republicans should also recall that the principle of equality is at home in the Republican Party. It was the reason the party was founded in 1854 and it was central to the politics of the greatest Republican and greatest civil rights advocate in American history: Abraham Lincoln.
Rather than avoid the subject, Republicans should defend colorblind justice and lead the charge to end racial preferences and discrimination. If they do, they might start winning elections the way initiatives for colorblind policies do.
Dr. Krannawitter teaches political science at Hillsdale College and is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.