December 18, 2005
Fascism of the Left on Display in Michigan
By Thomas Bray

Momentum continues to build for a noisy showdown over racial preferences in Michigan.

Just how ugly the issue could become was starkly demonstrated last week in Lansing, the state capital. The state’s Board of Canvassers, a four-person body split by law between Democrats and Republicans, was meeting to decide whether to certify for the 2006 ballot a referendum that would ban the use of race in state hiring and admissions policies.

But no sooner had the meeting started than a mob of mostly black students from Detroit schools, led by a radical national outfit calling itself By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), stormed the building, overturning tables, jumping on chairs, stomping their feet and yelling “They say Jim Crow – We say hell no.” When a black Democratic member of the board dared to suggest that he might have no choice under the law but to approve the measure – as a Michigan Court of Appeals panel has twice ordered – he was shouted down: “Be a black man!”

Cowed by this show of force, the board once again failed to muster the three votes to let the ballot go forward. In the end, few observers doubt the courts will approve the measure. The state’s rigidly nonpartisan Bureau of Elections has certified that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, as it is called, received 465,000 valid signatures, 150,000 more than necessary. And the three-judge appeals court panel that ordered the Board of Canvassers to ballot the issue included two judges who are widely viewed as left of center.

And if matters get that far, the state Supreme Court is considered highly likely to agree. It recently barred the use of race, color, sex, religion or national origin in jury selection, explicitly adding that “discrimination during voir dire…for the purpose of achieving what the court believes to be a balanced, proportionate or representative jury…shall not constitute an excuse or justification for a violation” of its rule.

Not that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a lead pipe cinch to pass at the ballot box. While BAMN and other radical groups provide the shock troops, most of Michigan’s business, labor, religious and political leadership, including the likely Republican candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, is arrayed against the measure – as the same groups were in California in 1996 during the fight over Proposition 209, a similar measure.

But Californians, understanding that businessmen and politicians hate to risk being portrayed as racist even when a legitimate cause is at stake, voted 54-46 to approve the measure. And polls have consistently showed even stronger support in Michigan for ending racial preferences.

A string of recent debates on the issue also suggests the difficulty that supporters of affirmative action are having in trying to mount a reasoned defense of such policies. In a recent debate with Ward Connerly, who led the successful California fight to end preferences, the dean of Wayne State University’s law school asserted that race-based admissions is a “civil right.” That left even the veteran Connerly slack-jawed with wonder, ignoring as it did the language of the Constitution and a century of efforts to define civil rights as equality – not inequality -- before the law.

Had a mob of student conservatives invaded a meeting of state officials, it would have been denounced as fascist. The fascism of the left tends to be excused, even by those who know better, as a case of overwrought idealism. But voters may not be so easily fooled.

Thomas Bray is a Detroit News columnist.

Thomas Bray

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