Elizabeth Edwards, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ wife, wants affirmative action — for white males. OK, she didn’t put it exactly that way. Here’s what happened.
In explaining why her husband relies so heavily on the Internet — as opposed to traditional media — to get his message out, Mrs. Edwards said: “In some ways, it’s the way we have to go. We can’t make John black, we can’t make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fund-raising dollars. Now it’s nice to get on the news, but not the be-all and end-all.”
So the strong campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat, reflects nothing more than her gender. And the competitive campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, rests primarily on his race. Hey, any black guy could pull this off — whether Barack Obama, rapper Snoop Dogg or television personality Mr. T. What’s the diff?
If, according to Mrs. Edwards, gender plays such an important role, what happened to the 2000 presidential candidacy of now Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican? Or what about black former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Illinois Democrat, whose 2004 presidential campaign went nowhere? And Mrs. Braun was a “two-fer,” both black and a woman.
Rev. Al Sharpton, who ran for president in 2004, complained that, because of his race, the media ignored him. “I think when you look at the lack of diversity in the newsrooms,” said Mr. Sharpton, “when you look at the lack of diversity from the editors and those in power, then you see them as automatically dismissive of anything that is not like them, which is white males. I think we’ve seen some very blatant racial insensitivity in the coverage of this race so far.” Tell that to Mrs. Edwards.
What about Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, with his Hispanic heritage? He was former President Bill Clinton’s energy secretary and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Richardson also helped turn around the economy of New Mexico with tax cuts. In that state, he enjoys a popularity rating of 65 percent. Yet as a Democratic presidential candidate, he is mired in single digits in the polls. What happened to his benefit?
How many Democrats know that their hero, their John Wayne — President John F. Kennedy — opposed preferences? According to a 1963 U.S.News & World Report story, Kennedy said: “I don’t think we can undo the past. In fact, the past is going to be with us for a good many years in uneducated men and women who lost their chance for a decent education. We have to do the best we can now. That is what we are trying to do. I don’t think quotas are a good idea. I think it is a mistake to begin to assign quotas on the basis of religion or race — color — nationality. … On the other hand, I do think that we ought to make an effort to give a fair chance to everyone who is qualified — not through a quota — but just look over our employment rolls, look over our areas where we are hiring people and at least make sure we are giving everyone a fair chance. But not hard and fast quotas…. We are too mixed, this society of ours, to begin to divide ourselves on the basis of race or color.”
Ward Connerly, the man who pioneered California’s Proposition 209 (the successful effort to abolish state-sponsored race- and gender-based preferences), makes an interesting point. Defenders of affirmative action say we need it because “the playing field remains unlevel.” Mrs. Edwards‘ husband supports affirmative action — that is, preferences for the “disadvantaged.” Yet Mrs. Edwards says the playing field no longer tilts against disadvantaged minorities. It now tilts against people like her white male husband.
Mrs. Edwards may be onto something. An examination of a select group of 28 colleges and universities shows that when a black applicant scored between 1250 and 1300 out of 1600 on his or her SAT, the student stood a 3-in-4 chance of getting admitted. When, however, a white student scored between 1250 and 1300, he or she stood a 1-in-4 chance of admission. And in “Civil Rights,” author/economist Thomas Sowell writes, “Black college-educated couples with husband and wife working had by 1980 achieved incomes higher than white couples of the same description.”
The Supreme Court in 2003, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the use of race as a criterion in college admissions. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing the decision for the majority, said society needs racial preferences for another 25 years to right past wrongs.
Mrs. Edwards apparently thinks society paid the mortgage off early.
Larry Elder is a nationally syndicated columnist and a radio talk-show host and author.