(0)  RPI Defeated by 64 to 36!
Why did Californians reject this color-blind policy?

          On October 7, 2003 California voters defeated the Racial Privacy Initiative by a margin of 64% to 36%.  In the article below, Ward Connerly, the architect of the Racial Privacy Initiative, reflects upon the reasons for RPI's defeat and the dire implications for California and the entire nation of our continued obsession with categorizing our citizens by the color of their skin.  The article originally appeared in the National Review.  -- Editor.

Not a Chance
The electoral journey of Proposition 54.

By Ward Connerly
Oct. 15, 2003

          In July 2002, the California secretary of state certified that enough signatures had been submitted to qualify the "Racial Privacy Initiative" (RPI) - an initiative to ban government classification based on race and skin color - for the ballot in the next statewide California election.

          Little did anyone know at the time that the next statewide election in California would be a special election in October 2003 to recall Governor Gray Davis. According to California's election code, any ballot initiative that has qualified for the ballot is automatically rolled over to the next statewide election, a fact that doomed RPI.

          A recall election by its very nature disadvantages a ballot measure such as Prop 54. Such initiatives are typically promoted by a handful of citizens who believe in a principle but who lack institutional support that can be mobilized on a moment's notice to support their cause. When the ballot measure addresses the topic of "race" and runs counter to the forces of political correctness, the odds become even more daunting. The opponents of such measures, however, do not suffer from a similar infirmity, as shall be explained further.

Oct. 7, 2003 Ballot:
Proposition 54: The Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin Initiative:

“The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity,
color or national origin in the operation of public education,
public contracting or public employment.”

          Over the past three months, the proponents of RPI (Prop 54) have had to contend with several legal challenges filed by the unholy triumvirate of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. These challenges contested the legality of certain voting machines, and questioned whether ballot measures can be voted upon at recall elections and whether racial "minorities" are smart enough to find their way to the voting booths in a recall election.

          Prop 54 proponents have also been the subject of litigation and an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to determine whether those involved in the "Yes on 54" campaign are required to disclose donors to the American Civil Rights Coalition (ACRC) - a totally separate organization that contributed to the signature-gathering phase of the effort to qualify Prop 54. Although the court ruled preliminarily in favor of ACRC several days before the election, the lawsuit and investigation were distracting and costly.


          The entry of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a replacement candidate to Gray Davis had profound consequences for the Prop 54 campaign. Even without a candidate with the star quality of Schwarzenegger, it was easy to predict that the recall election would be hotly contested and costly. Once Schwarzenegger entered the political arena, the stakes were elevated and it became a virtual certainty that no candidate or ballot-initiative campaign could be competitive without a vast expenditure for television airtime in prime spots - the windows around Oprah Winfrey, The Today Show, and Jay Leno, to be specific.

          As a footnote to the Scwarzenegger candidacy, his ultimate opposition to Prop 54 did not inflict much damage on our campaign, but his support could have delivered vital financing and GOP support.

          The blow that began to cripple Prop 54 was the decision by Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante to hijack the "No on 54" campaign, with the blessing of Prop 54's opponents, so that he could have a vehicle to use nearly $3.8 million in campaign contributions from Indian Tribe gambling to promote his candidacy despite the legal campaign limit of $21,200 per contribution. With these funds, subsequently mushrooming to nearly $5 million, Bustamante ran a series of television ads, featuring himself, claiming that Prop 54 would impair the ability of medical and health officials to detect diabetes and heart disease - a message clearly aimed at blacks and Latinos. Although state senator Ross Johnson sued Bustamante for violating the Political Reform Act, and a judge ruled that Bustamante had, indeed, violated the law, he defiantly continued to run the ad for several days after the decision was handed down.


          The total money spent to defeat Prop 54 was over $12 million, according to campaign disclosure reports reviewed by the San Jose Mercury News. The "Yes on 54" campaign spent less than $220,000. By my math, that is being outspent by a margin of 57:1. To put this in perspective, the opponents of Prop 54 spent roughly $2.50 for every vote, while the proponents spent less than eight cents. And, I might add, these figures do not include all of the time spent by government employees on "gubment" time organizing and campaigning against Prop 54.

          On Election Day, Prop 54 was defeated by a margin of 64-36. I have shared some of the tactical reasons for our defeat. But it is important for conservatives and others in the nation who care about issues relating to race to understand the true significance of our loss.

          The Proposition 54 campaign revealed how balkanized our society has become. Although every demographic group voted against 54, the "health scare" distorted the underlying racial and ethnic tension in California. Everyone could unite to protect something that was not in jeopardy - namely their health - but few groups could unite around what should have been the focus of the debate: Should the government categorize its citizens so that "racial disparities" can be detected and government programs created to correct those disparities, despite a state constitutional provision (Prop 209) that forbids preferential treatment on the basis of race? That is the fundamental question that opponents and proponents of 54 knew to be the basic issue. The opponents were able to keep the debate away from that question and the proponents were never able to get the public to focus on it because of the phony health issue.

          When it comes to race, America is governed by a grievance industry. They make their case by the use of data, citing the number of black males in prison, the number of blacks who have difficulty hailing a cab, the dropout rate of Hispanics, the incidence of hate crimes and "racial profiling" by the police, and on and on. Whenever there is a disparity between whites and "people of color," that disparity is defined as a form of "institutional racism." During the campaign, two additional forms of institutional racism were unveiled: "environmental racism" - the number of toxic-waste sites located near "minority" communities, for example; and "disenfranchisement" - the disparity between the number of blacks and Hispanics who vote and the number of whites who vote. In response to the latter, the California legislature enacted legislation a few weeks before the recall election requiring local elections officials to include race check-boxes on forms to be completed when individuals register to vote.

          With "institutional racism," actual incidents of discrimination are not required. It is the mere existence of statistical disparities that confirms patterns of "discrimination" by public and private institutions. The presumption of those who advance this argument is that if there were "social justice" and equity, the disparities would not exist; instead, all groups would be proportionately represented.

          Initially, I could not understand why certain interests, such as the health-care industry, the gay/lesbian community, and the environmentalists, had joined labor unions, Indian Tribes, trial lawyers, "educrats," and race advocates to oppose an initiative that had no obvious effect on them. Nor could I understand why the medical industry was claiming that 54 posed a health risk when the exemption for "medical patients and medical research subjects" seemed so clear to us. As the campaign evolved, I began to understand what Hillary Clinton meant by the "vast right-wing conspiracy," except in this case the conspiracy was on the opposite side of the compass.

          These interests assemble under the political umbrella of the Democratic party and unite in pursuit of the "progressive agenda." By threatening certain members of that cartel, Prop 54 had unwittingly declared war on all of them. With the recall of their governor hanging in the balance, 54 became the vehicle to get out the vote of critical constituent groups that are ordinarily allowed to hibernate, and are awakened every four years to growl: namely, racial and ethnic "minorities."

          Each profit center of the progressive cartel relies on a common commodity to justify its activity: racial data. Labor unions seek to organize in emerging markets and need racial data and "minority" support to promote their interests. Public-teachers unions rely on racial data to generate bigger budgets for education, despite the fact that the academic gap between "underrepresented minorities" and Asian and white students hardly ever closes, no matter how much money is spent on public education. Trial lawyers use government-generated racial data to argue their discrimination cases.

          Most of those in the health-care industry want universal health care and need data to demonstrate the number who are uninsured. It certainly helps to be able to identify diseases that are endemic to certain groups in order to mobilize a "diverse" demand for this new entitlement.

          Race advocates most especially rely on racial data to underscore their claims of institutional racism based on the "disparities" noted in the data. This is how they make their case on "racial profiling," hate crimes, and racism in law enforcement. More young black men in prison, based solely on the data, serves as an illustration of institutional racism. In short, data are the lifeblood of the grievance industry. In California alone, the acquisition, analysis, and massaging of race data is an enterprise of staggering proportions.


          While the proponents of Proposition 54 were engaged in an intellectual debate about the role of government and the absurdity of race categories, the opponents of 54 were fighting to preserve an industry. This is not to suggest that those involved in the enterprise of race do not genuinely believe in what they do. Most of these individuals are good people who simply have bad ideas that produce disastrous consequences.

          The race-grievance industry cannot flourish by acknowledging improvements in the conditions of their adopted clientele. To the contrary, the worse the conditions, the healthier the industry.

          On the day after the election, Maya Harris, Northern California director of the "No on 54" campaign, said Prop 54's defeat "marked the dawn of a new age of progressive politics. This really decisive victory proves that the voters of California recognize that race matters, racial information matters in achieving a society that is based on social equality."

          Those who promote efforts to reduce the influence of race in American life do so without any semblance of institutional support. Although the delegates of the California Republican Party unanimously adopted Proposition 54 at the GOP convention in February 2003, the party elders and most Republican legislators refused to provide support to the "Yes on 54" campaign. The reason for this became known after the election.

          According to a column that appeared in the Sacramento Bee, Maria Blanco, senior counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said MALDEF, the California Teachers Association, Californians for Justice, the Bay Area Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Kaiser Permanente, and other organizations targeted the initiative for defeat two years ago, before it had even qualified for the ballot.

          In a preemptive strike, Blanco said, she and other opponents of Proposition 54 met with high-ranking GOP officeholders (I know who these are) to persuade them to stay on the sidelines: "We said, 'We hope you think twice about funding this initiative. The last thing California needs is another racially divisive battle.'" Then, when focus groups showed that a majority of likely voters didn't respond to the argument that Proposition 54 would cripple California's ability to fight discrimination, the "No on 54" campaign shifted gears, proclaiming it "bad medicine."

          It always amazes me that the proponents of race-conscious policies can claim that they are simply promoting "inclusion" and "diversity" while the proponents of "colorblind" policies are regarded as "racially divisive" and as promoting "wedge politics," even by their fellow Republicans. This post-election disclosure by Blanco illustrates how liberals browbeat Republicans into compromising supposed party principles in the interest of maintaining the illusion of racial harmony.


          While Republican officeholders bask in the warm glow of faint praise from liberals for being opponents of "divisive" initiatives such as Prop 209 and Prop 54, the liberals still beat up on Republicans at every opportunity. For example, after the election, Eva Patterson, director of the Equal Justice Society, said, "This is a dress rehearsal for 2004." What she meant was that the coalition that had been assembled to defeat Prop 54 would be actively engaged in campaigning against President Bush in 2004.

          Finally, it cannot be overstressed how disciplined the opponents of Proposition 54 were. All of those who are supporters of the "progressive agenda" across the nation weighed in to defeat the initiative. They sent checks, big and small. Foundations financed "research" projects to aid the opposition. Out-of-state organizations loaned staff for several weeks. Labor unions paid for Jesse Jackson to travel to California to help get out the vote in black neighborhoods. For the opponents of 54, this was a national effort, and all allies rallied to help. For the proponents of 54, as is often the case in matters of this nature, the battle was a lonely one with very little support, either from within the state or from without. Worse, those who should have been assisting were making side deals with the opponents of 54 to "stay out of it," or were openly opposed to the initiative.

          If our nation has any expectation of solving the riddle of race, the historical practice of categorizing the American people according to skin color and origin of one's ancestors must end. Black Americans must be weaned off the debilitating mindset that they are victims of an oppressive, institutionally racist society. Whites must give up their collective guilt about race and avoid being leveraged into supporting bad policies as a result of that guilt. Asians and Hispanics must not be allowed to believe that it is now "their turn" to profit from decades-old policies, such as race preferences, just as the country seems on the verge of phasing them out.

          In short, a clean break from race is essential if America is to realize its promise of "one nation, indivisible." Proposition 54 was a bold attempt to make good on that promise by getting the government out of the race business. It's too bad that Prop 54 did not have a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to match that of its detractors on the Left. The noble cause of a "colorblind society" could have been advanced immeasurably by such an effort.

- Ward Connerly is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute.

Last known link to original National Review article:

Older Background Article from the UCLA Daily Bruin

          "With last week's announcement of a recall election on Oct. 7, Californians will soon have to decide more than just whether or not to oust incumbent Gov. Gray Davis.

          "They will also be voting on the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin initiative, which earlier this year qualified for the next statewide election. The change in date has caused some political analysts to wonder how this will affect voter turnout.

          "If approved by California voters, CRECNO - formerly known as the Racial Privacy Initiative - would prohibit the collection of racial information about employees and students at any state institution, including the University of California, beginning January 1, 2005.

          "The initiative has also undergone another identity change - it will be listed as Proposition 54 on the official ballot.

          "Some political analysts believe that placing the initiative on the recall ballot favors its supporters. A recent Field Poll found that 62 percent of Republicans approve of the initiative."

Excerpted from the UCLA Daily Bruin.   Last known link:

Related Topics:

Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Announced by Connerly on July 8, 2003

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