One can only hope that the nation applauds President Bush’s opposition to the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies. Without question, universities should — and typically do — factor in a student’s life experiences in determining admission. But applying extra points to certain candidates solely because of their race is a thinly veiled form of racism. Arguing otherwise is nearly impossible.
As the 108th Congress begins its session without a single black Republican, many are wondering if the G.O.P. is better described as the party of Lott or the party of Lincoln. After all, black Americans have been handing the Democratic Party their vote without much contemplation for many years. In recognition of the overwhelming political clout blacks possess, the Democratic Party has played the race card time and time again, and in light of Trent Lott’s indefensible December remarks, the Democrats seem poised to once again bring forth the race card.
In response to Lott’s resignation, Hillary Clinton spoke the following words on December 20: “If anyone thinks that one person stepping down from a leadership position cleanses the Republican Party of their constant exploitation of race, then I think you’re naive.”
Constant exploitation of race? Let’s get real here.
Although Democrats are the first to scream racism when a comment stemming from a Republican can be interpreted as racist, members of their own party seem immune to such criticism. In a March 2001 appearance on Fox News Sunday, senior Democratic Senator Robert Byrd stated, “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I’m going to use that word.” Considering Byrd also discussed his former membership in the Ku Klux Klan (“a mistake,” he claimed), one must wonder: How many Republicans could possibly dream of chairing the Appropriations Committee and being elected President pro tempore of the Senate — in light of deliberate use of the word “nigger” and a biography that includes membership in the Ku Klux Klan?
For decades now, Democrats have argued that Republicans are anti-civil rights. But research by Linda Chavez thoroughly disputes such claims. “In the House, 80 percent of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, compared with only 63 percent of Democrats. In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans supported the legislation, compared with 69 percent of Democrats.” Among the Democrats voting against the bill was a young senator by the name of Robert Byrd — who filibustered the measure for over 14 hours.
In a 1999 survey, the nonpartisan research group Public Agenda found that 68 percent of blacks support school vouchers. While middle and upper-income parents have long practiced school choice, the option is unavailable to those who don’t make enough money. Yet Democrats have stood adamantly against such a system in spite of the proven refuge it provides to children caught in the trappings of the underclass. Upon taking office in 1992, the Clintons chose to send their daughter to Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Sidwell Friends School. As parents who wanted their daughter to have the finest education available, I certainly can’t criticize their choice. But why shouldn’t inner-city parents, especially African-Americans who overwhelmingly favor school vouchers, have the same choice as the Clintons?
Upon the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the civil rights movement was born. School segregation, as the catalyst for the movement, thus became its principal goal. One wonders, however, if New York — home of two Democratic senators and 19 Democratic House members — ever heard the decision. According to a recent report by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, New York’s schools are the most segregated in the entire country. Of the nation’s five most segregated states for black students on three separate measures of segregation, Gore carried all five in the 2000 presidential election. In spite of this seemingly distressing fact, Democrats have failed to bring legitimate school integration policies to the table.
Bill Clinton was also among the first to capitalize on Lott’s remarks. As Clinton stated, “He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day.” If Republicans are the ones who make such dreadful comments “on the back roads every day,” why is it the Democrats who perpetually flaunt the race card?
Without question, one could selectively choose pieces of history to paint the Republican Party in a similarly poor light. Yet instead of offering legitimate pieces of policy to address the real problems black Americans still face — and bring the nation closer to the colorblind ideal of Martin Luther King — the Democrats shamelessly exploit the race card for political advantage. In all likelihood, the Democrats will milk Lott’s comments for all the political gain they can muster. In an era where racial profiling still exists, affirmative action is being brought before the Supreme Court, and men like Trent Lott and Robert Byrd serve in the United States Senate, wouldn’t it be nice if Lott’s dreadful remarks motivated both parties to finally push forth some sensible policy?
David White is a junior in Pierson College. He is co-editor in chief of The Politic.