Jewish World Review August 31, 2005 / 26 Av,
Memo to GOP: Native classification may cause bigger headache
Do Republicans actually stand for anything? I wonder sometimes,
especially when GOP lawmakers make appeals to traditionally Democratic
voters by trying to out-pander the Democrats. A handful of Senate
Republicans are set to do so when Congress comes back after Labor Day and
takes up a bizarre bill that could not only give the imprimatur to odious
racial classifications but set the stage for secession for one state:
Hawaii. The bill, S. 147, has been bottled up for months, thanks to the
efforts of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who has valiantly fought the legislation
for years without much help from his fellow Republicans. The legislation
would grant so-called native Hawaiians status akin to that of American
Indian tribes, including a measure of self-government.
Hawaii became a state in 1959. At the time, Americans were
firmly committed to the idea of the Melting Pot. There was broad consensus
that Hawaii's multi-racial population which included the descendants of
Europeans, Asians, and the Polynesian inhabitants who came to islands from
the South Pacific would be treated the same. Intermarriage among the
various ethnic groups living on the island was widespread, and there was no
effort to treat native Hawaiians as a separate racial group, much less a
tribe. But nearly 50 years later, multiculturalism and racial preferences
have permeated American society, and the push is now on to grant special
status to some of Hawaii's citizens, depending on their racial lineage.
The legislation defines as "Native Hawaiian" anyone who is one
of the "indigenous, native people of Hawaii," and who is a "direct lineal
descendant of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people" who resided in the
Hawaiian Islands before Jan. 1, 1893, when the United States took possession
of the island from the reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. The definition
is simply a racial classification of the kind normally suspect under the
14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its purpose is to define members of
a group who would be given special status including the right to
self-government. The bill even empowers the new entity established by Native
Hawaiians to "negotiate" with the existing state and federal governments
over lands and natural resources, civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the
"delegation of governmental powers" from the United States and the state of
Hawaii to the new governing entity.
But rather than fight similar mischief, a number of Republicans
appear ready to jump on the Native Hawaiian bandwagon. The bill's chief
sponsor is Sen. Daniel Akaka, who has tried to get the legislation through
Congress for several years. In the past, he's been given a boost by Sen. Ted
Stevens, R-Alaska, who has also pushed for legislation to make Puerto Rico a
state, but most mainstream Republicans have steered clear. Not so of late.
Now Stevens is joined by his Alaska colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as well
as Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Norm Coleman (MN) and Gordon Smith (OR). In
addition, Ben Ginsburg, former general counsel of the Republican National
Committee, is one of the chief lobbyists for the bill.
Let's hope their fellow Republicans as well as sensible
Democrats see the folly in this legislation.
JWR contributor Linda Chavez is President of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Her latest book is "Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)