Thank God for those who ‘flip-flopped’ on race

By Ward Connerly | August 6, 2008

ward connerlyOne thing I have learned after over 13 years of fighting to bring my nation closer to its promise of equal treatment for every American regardless of race, sex, color or ethnicity is that politicians can triangulate more about this issue – and get away with it – than almost any other issue in the public policy arena.

A few days ago, Senator John McCain gave his support to our effort in Arizona to prohibit preferences through a constitutional amendment. In explaining his reason for doing so, McCain said, “I have always opposed quotas.” Instantly, Senator Barack Obama pounced on McCain’s endorsement.

Speaking at a convention of “journalists of color” Obama said, “I am disappointed that John McCain flipped and changed his position. I think in the past he had been opposed to these kinds of Ward Connerly referenda or initiatives as divisive. And I think he's right. You know, the truth of the matter is, these are not designed to solve a big problem, but they're all too often designed to drive a wedge between people.”

Having now been thrust into a presidential campaign by Obama, it is appropriate for me to offer my thoughts.

Over the past ten years, no American president, Congress, legislature or governor has acted to eliminate preferences and to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act which commands equal treatment “without regard to race, color, national origin or sex” by our government. In addition, the Supreme Court has handed down conflicting opinions about the matter. That is why I have led the national effort to ask the people in various states to exercise their power to end such practices through ballot initiatives, wherever permitted. I find it interesting that the only ones who consider such initiatives “divisive” are the ones who oppose them, such as Senator Obama. But, they never seem to find preferences themselves as being “divisive.”

Apparently, as long as those who are harmed by such policies and those of us who believe that preferences are fundamentally wrong keep our mouths shut and accept the status quo, sweet harmony will ring throughout the land.

While he acknowledged the resentment that affirmative action engenders in his March 18 speech about race, Obama now claims our initiatives are not really all that important and are “all too often designed to drive a wedge between people.” This is neither the tone nor the substance of what he said on March 18 when he was trying to appeal to white Democrats to get the issue of Jeremiah Wright off his back.

It is true McCain has “flipped” about whether ballot initiatives are appropriate as a device for ending preferences. It is NOT true that he has “flipped” with regard to the substance of this issue. The record is clear that he has consistently evidenced disdain for preferential treatment based on race. But, let’s assume he has even changed his position substantively.
In truth, millions of Americans are at a different point in their thinking about race today than they were ten years ago when McCain opposed legislation to place an initiative on the ballot to end preferences in Arizona. For this, Senator Obama should be thrilled and should thank God for race “flippers.” Without them, he would not be the presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party for president of the United States.

While he criticizes McCain for changing his position, Obama evidences an equal readiness to change from his support of race-based preferences to one based on socioeconomic circumstances – a position with which I concur.

Asked if there would continue to be a need for affirmative action should he be elected president, Obama said, "I am a strong supporter of affirmative action when properly structured so that it is not just a quota, but it is acknowledging and taking into account some of the hardships and difficulties that communities of color may have experienced, continue to experience…”

What he fails to say is, it is not only “communities of color” that experience hardships and difficulties. Nor does he say how a president who professes the desire to unite the American people intends to do so by asking those who are not “of color” to look the other way when they are discriminated against.

If Obama is truly concerned about divisiveness, why didn’t he speak out when his foot soldiers at ACORN were taking pride in blocking our petition circulators from gathering signatures in Missouri? Their despicable tactics of harassment give new meaning to the term “divisive.”

Until we reach the point that we are living out what Martin Luther King Jr. often called the “true meaning of our creed” – that all men (and women) are created equal – how we deal with the issue of race will be a work in progress. Something tells me that deep in his soul Senator Obama knows this. Certainly, he should.