|George W. Bush and
By Glynn Custred
July 4, 1999
George W. Bush on his first trip to California as a presidential candidate was promptly asked about his position on Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot initiative (now constitutional amendment) that ended racial, ethnic and sex preferences in the state’s systems of public education, public employment and public contracting.
Instead of answering the question Bush said, “I support the spirit of no quotas, no preferences. But what’s important to say is not what you’re against - what you’re for. I’m for increasing the pool of applicants and opening the door so that more people are eligible to go to the university systems”. That’s fine. In fact that’s just what people in the Proposition 209 campaign said then and continue to say now. The question remains, however, how does Bush stand on the most concrete political expression of that “spirit of no quotas, no preferences” that he espouses, namely Proposition 209? Obviously Bush had no intention of telling us, at least not in San Diego and not at that time. To find out more about where Bush stands on this issue we’ll have to look elsewhere.
Last year the Houston, Texas based Campaign for a Color Blind Society sent Bush a questionnaire to gauge his position on racial and ethnic preferences. In a written response Bush said, “I do not support quotas or preferences for anyone.” He went on to say “I do not support race-based quotas or preferences… Equal opportunity doesn’t guarantee equal results - but it guarantees that every person will get a fair shot based upon their potential, heart and merit”. Again, that is what the Proposition 209 people said during the campaign and are still saying today.
Moreover, the Miami Herald on June 30 reported Bush saying that “If I am president of the United States, I will eliminate racial preferences, quotas”. Also Ward Connerly, the man we selected to be campaign chairman of Proposition 209, was among the sponsors hosting a fund-raising luncheon for Bush in Connerly’s home town of Sacramento. About Connerly Bush said “I like him. I’m glad he’s supporting me”. In return Connerly announced his formal support for George W. Bush which unambiguously shows all sectors of the electorate with whom Bush really stands on this issue.
Why then did Bush shy away from commenting on 209 in San Diego, prompting the New York Times to describe him as “refusing to stand behind the measure on affirmative action”, i.e., Proposition 209? Bush of course wants the Latino vote, and according to conventional wisdom he has a better chance of getting it by concealing his support for Proposition 209. If this is true then George W. Bush seems to be telling those who voted for 209 that he is ashamed of them; that when appealing to Latinos he is ashamed of the 1964 Civil Rights Act from which 209 was taken, and that he is ashamed of the principles of individual rights and equality before the law assert by both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Proposition 209.
Bush’s evasion of this issue in California is not only a slap in the face to those millions who voted for 209, it is also a slap in the face to Latinos who George W. Bush obviously thinks are incapable of understanding the principles of individual rights and equality before the law. This suggests that Bush sees us as a country of two distinct nations; one Latino and the other Anglo, and that each of these nations needs its own quite distinct pitch based on different principles in order to garner votes, rather than an appeal for national unity grounded on common principles of basic fairness and justice. In this respect Bush is no different from his Democratic partners. He is, in other words, a Gray Davis Republican.