Commentary

Enshrine Equal Opportunity

By Quentin Kopp

In a time of medical, economic and political uncertainty, a San Diego legislator, Shirley Weber, espouses discrimination, preferential treatment and institutional racism based upon race, sex, color or national origin for admission to public colleges and universities, public employment and governmental contracts. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 awaits action this month or next in the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. 

English statesman Edmund Burke declared in 1790: “Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the position of being no policy at all.” Weber’s bill amends the California Constitution, Article I, Section 31 by repealing California’s prohibition against racial or gender discrimination or preferential treatment. 

In 1996, I introduced a bill, allowing California voters that November to enshrine equal opportunity constitutionally. After it failed, an initiative for voter approval qualified as Proposition 209 for the November 1996 election and was approved, 55% to 45%, “a vote for color blind government, and, especially, color blind admissions to the University of California,” as noted last month by colleague, then-State Sen. Tom Campbell, my co-chairman of the Proposition 209 campaign.

Started to expose college students to diversity of thought and supposedly a temporary practice until unequal treatment because of race, sex, ethnicity or national origin was eliminated, affirmative action in the late 1960s became a policy of “leveling the playing field” (remember that cliché?) or promoting equal opportunity. A Dartmouth College student in the weekly Dartmouth Review on May 5, 2017 dubbed it “bait and switch” and called affirmative action creation a “form of racial Marxism for college admissions.” (Proposition 209 itself allowed use of “bona fide qualifications based on sex . . . reasonably necessary to the … operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”)

The University of California has been called “the original practitioner of affirmative action” by many, who also note that today UC Berkeley and similar historical practitioners of affirmative action are hostile campuses for dissenting speech. Proposition 209 represented California’s propensity to strive for equality. In 2019, Asian Americans constituted 27.26% of UC applicants; 39.72% enrolled. Latino Americans represented 28.82% of applicants, with 25.45% enrolling. African Americans comprised 5.58% of applicants; 3.8% enrolled. UC bureaucrats contend practicing “benign” use of color to admit more African Americans and Latino Americans is justifiable. As former State Sen. and Congressman Campbell demonstrates, if you grant preference to some applicants because of their race, that limits others of different color or race. In 1996, African Americans constituted 3.7%; today they constitute 3.87% of UC students. Latino Americans were 13.4 in 1996; they’re now 25.45%. Asian Americans were 36.1% in 1996; they’re 39.72% now, while whites constituted 38.4% in 1996, and are only 19.29% currently. 

Proposition 209 achieved its state constitutional purpose. In 2014, the State Senate approved a measure to repeal Proposition 209. The Assembly did not pass the bill after Asian American parents organized spirited opposition – which they will do again – as they have at Harvard University, if ACA-5, motivated by Democratic Party two-thirds control of both Assembly and Senate, is passed. (Asian American Harvard students and parents sued that private institution in 2018 over racial discrimination in Harvard’s admissions practices, losing in the U.S. District Court in Boston and appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals to secure a pending reversal of such decision.)

Remember that a majority statewide vote in November would still be required to eliminate Proposition 209 and institute reverse discrimination. ACA-5 may, because of the pandemic and aborted legislative session, reach the ballot this year. If it does, I hope Californians will join me in rejecting it. 

Amidst the pandemic, various politicians who forget history and human nature clamor for universal mail-in voting. As John Lott, Jr. reminded Wall Street Journal readers last month, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” That wasn’t President “Bone Spur” Trump commenting; it was the Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former President Jimmy Carter in 2005. American history reveals states required secret balloting commencing in 1880 and concluding only in 1950 because of America’s history of vote-buying! Lott and a University of Florida researcher discovered voter turnout decreased 8 to 12% after adoption of the secret ballot. 

Carter’s commission noted: “Citizens who vote at home, at nursing homes, at the workplace, or in church are more susceptible to pressure, overt and subtle, or to intimidation. Vote-buying schemes are far more difficult to detect when citizens vote by mail.” 

In the 1997 Miami mayoral election, 36 persons were arrested for absentee ballot fraud. The election was nullified, reoccurred, and the prior result was reversed. In 2017, a Dallas city council election investigation revealed about 700 fraudulent mailed ballots signed by the same witness using a fake name. Norway and Mexico don’t ever allow absentee ballots for their residents. Don’t be fooled by efforts to reduce ballot probity. As Thomas Jefferson observed: “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes, a propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission  and retired judge.

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