Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 1999 /10 Kislev, 5760
Jeb Bush's political
ploy of the week
IF THERE'S ONE THING more noxious than Nanny State socialism, it's
Blame the Bush family for the rising popularity of this Disneyland
political dogma. Get-along-ers shrink from heated debates and fear all
things "divisive." They favor flaccid pragmatism over iron-fisted
principle. Their spinal columns are as hollow as their compassionate
rhetoric. And their true colors show most vividly when they are forced to
confront the issue of race.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, following in brother W.'s faint path, stepped
gingerly into the affirmative action debate and unveiled an initiative last
week to "increase opportunity and diversity while ending racial preferences
and set-asides in state contracting and university admissions." The scheme
gives the illusion of establishing colorblind government with an
oh-so-sensitive touch. Bush calls it the "One Florida" plan and claims it
will end racial discrimination by government "in ways that unite us, not
This smiley-face program is achieved by taking one step forward (to quiet
diehard supporters of equal opportunity who want to eliminate all race and
gender preferences by popular vote) and two steps back (to appease
left-wing guardians of the affirmative-action apparatus).
Bush denounces the nationwide movement to eliminate government-sanctioned
racial preferences as "divisive" – there's that word again – even though he
claims his own plan accomplishes the same goal of equal protection under
the law. Under Bush's proposed executive orders, Florida purportedly
abolishes racial set-asides and minority preferences in state contracting
and university admissions. But penalties and enforcement mechanisms are
Despite his ostensible commitment to non-discrimination, Bush advocates
"enhancement of minority business development through financial and
technical assistance programs that target the legitimate development needs
of emerging minority businesses, minority construction firms and minority
In other words: more color-coded government aid.
Instead of encouraging minority businesses to compete on their merits, Bush
pledges to "reduce the red tape in the minority certification process to
encourage more minority businesses to become certified."
He would also
encourage more race-based outreach in state purchasing programs and de
facto quotas in hiring. Moreover, under the One Florida plan, countless
racial preference programs run by counties, cities, and public schools
would remain untouched.
It's more of the same old racial spoils system. To label Bush's plan "the
end of affirmative action," as most news accounts have done, is folly. Bush
himself asserts: "My plan is not race-neutral....Race-consciousness is
As for the higher education component, Bush advocates a few unobjectionable
methods of ensuring equal opportunity. He would dramatically increase
need-based financial aid and push for greater availability of Advanced
Placement courses in low-performing schools. These race-neutral efforts
are greatly undermined, however, by the governor's "Talented 20" Program –
a knock-off of brother W.'s minority appeasement program in Texas.
Jeb Bush has stated unequivocally: "I oppose rigid quotas and set asides
designed to guarantee outcomes for one class of citizens over another." Yet
his "Talented 20" Program would guarantee state university admission to the
top 20 percent of students in every Florida high school senior class. That
percentage – that quota -- was engineered deliberately to guarantee a net
increase in minority enrollment in the state university system.
Wasn't the point of One Florida to end numerical racial gerry-mandering
that Bush himself calls "legally suspect?"
No, that wasn't the point. Bush's political "play of the week" was intended
to help his brother, the GOP presidential front-runner, by defusing a
statewide petition drive backed by Californian Ward Connerly to end race
and gender preferences at all levels of government.
Bush deserves denunciation from both sides of the aisle for the timing and
transparency of his cynical family ploy. As Connerly noted in a TV
interview last week: "I think the Republicans are frequently timid people.
And they play politics just as Democrats do…Republicans, I regret to say,
as a Republican, are far too timid in dealing with this issue, and the
Democrats demagogue it."
Connerly's drive has already collected tens of thousands of signatures, and
is headed to the courts for legal vetting. Floridians in the media and
political establishment may resent the outside agitation. But Connerly and
his supporters around the country will not go away. The electorate is ready
for an honest debate -- however divisive -- about racial entitlements.
Voters will not be fooled by the Bush brothers' sugar-coated Mickey Mouse
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Creators Syndicate