“Caving to the Right” – John McCain Supports Ward Connerly

July 29, 2008

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


Caving To The Right On Affirmative Action

On ABC News’s This Week yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about how “opponents of affirmative action” in his home state of Arizona are pushing a ballot initiative “that would do away” with the equal opportunity program. “Do you support that?” asked Stephanopoulos. “Yes, I do,” replied McCain, adding that he had “not seen the details of some of these proposals,” but that he’s “always opposed quotas.” Asked again specifically about “the one here in Arizona,” McCain responded, “I support it, yes.” McCain’s support for the current anti-affirmative action initiative is a reversal of the stance he took in 1998 when Arizona previously considered a similar referendum. At the time, McCain said that “rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide every child in America to fulfill their expectations.” Caught off-guard by McCain’s reversal on equal opportunity, his own spokesman Tucker Bounds struggled to explain the contradictory stances to ABC News, saying, “I do not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain’s remark in 1998 to give you the pushback that this question deserves.” Later, the McCain campaign “refused to say whether it stands by the candidate’s announcement that he supports the ballot initiative,” instead saying in a statement that McCain “has always been opposed to government-mandated hiring quotas.”

WHAT MCCAIN IS BACKING: In his interview with Stephanopoulos, McCain justified his support for the Arizona initiative by saying, “I do not believe in quotas.” But the effort to dismantle equal opportunity in Arizona has nothing to do with quotas, which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 30 years ago. The proposed amendment to the Arizona’s constitution, which is being pushed by the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, seeks to “prohibit preferential treatment or discrimination” by Arizona governmental entities “based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” “The initiative is part of a nationwide attempt by Ward Connerly to have governmental affirmative action policies eliminated.” Connerly’s anti-affirmative action initiatives are set to capitalize on the “tensions of race, class, and ethnicity” stirred up by anti-immigrant efforts. Connerly, who successfully outlawed affirmative action in California, is also supporting initiatives in Colorado and Nebraska. On CNN’s Late Edition yesterday, McCain declined to take a position on the Colorado initiative, saying, “I’m not familiar with the referendum.” The language of Connerly’s Colorado amendment is essentially the same as the Arizona amendment McCain endorsed on ABC.

MCCAIN’S RECORD ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: As many news outlets have pointed out, McCain’s embrace of Arizona’s anti-affirmative action ballot initiative stands in opposition to his record on equal opportunity. Not only has McCain previously resisted state-level efforts to dismantle affirmative action, as he did in 1998, but he has also defended such programs on the federal level. In 1998, McCain worked with Democrats to defeat an amendment that would have ended a program that sought “to give 10 percent of all Federally financed highway contracts to companies owned by minorities and women.” In 1999, while speaking at the Unity convention, McCain declared, “I’m in favor of affirmative action and I support it.” He reiterated this support as recently as April 2008, telling reporters in Ohio, “all of us are for affirmative action to try to give assistance to those who need it, whether it be African-American or other groups of Americans that need it.”

BENDING TO RIGHT-WING PRESSURE?: Throughout the election season, conservatives have been pressuring McCain to get behind their efforts to dismantle affirmative action. In June, after McCain’s campaign repeatedly refused to take a position on the initiatives, Connerly told ABC News that it would help McCain politically to support the initiatives. McCain should say, “I believe that our country is at its best when it treats everybody as an equal and I have read these initiatives and they do precisely that,” said Connerly. Other conservatives have been calling for McCain to back Connerly as well. In April, hardline right winger Pat Buchanan published a column wondering “where does McCain stand.” Writing on the National Review’s blog, Center for Equal Opportunity President Roger Clegg asked rhetorically of McCain, “[D]o you favor the ballot initiatives” and “Do you support the anti-preference plank in the 2004 Republican platform?” Reacting to McCain’s ABC interview, Politico’s Jonathan Martin wrote that McCain’s answers on affirmative action and gay adoption are indicative of the fact that he has a “lack of interest in cultural issues,” but that he knows there are positions he is “supposed to take” in order to please the conservative base. With his support of the Arizona referendum, McCain has now pleased one part of this base. Clegg responded by declaring, “Kudos to John McCain.”


One Response to ““Caving to the Right” – John McCain Supports Ward Connerly”

  1. Alex Says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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