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The Artful Dodger By: Ward Connerly
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 25, 2008


[The following speech took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center retreat in Santa Barbara, which was held at the Four Seasons Resort May 30-June 1. -- The Editors.]

Manny Klausner: Good morning. A pleasure to see everybody here early Sunday morning. I don't think anyone left here to go to the services at Trinity Church this morning. Am I right about that?

This has been an extraordinary weekend so far, and it's not over yet. We've seen a lot of heroes this weekend, and it's a particular pleasure for me to be able to introduce one of our very special champions of liberty, and that's Ward Connerly.

As most of you know, Ward has been a prominent voice in the front lines of the struggle for equal rights for well over 10 years, and while Ward was serving on the Board of Regents as a prominent outspoken regent for equal rights for all students, regardless of their skin color, Ward became known and prominent for his firm stands in a group that was dominated by people that didn't originally share his view. He won them over at the Board of Regents to his view, that University of California in its admissions should not consider race as a preference, and that was a very, very significant leap forward before the passage of one of the great initiatives -- I'm a great believer in the initiative process -- the great initiative to eliminate race and sex as a basis for preference or discrimination in government contracting, government employment, and government education. And Ward came in.

We had a campaign going in 1994/95 that had been ongoing for a couple of years to try to qualify the CCRI, the California Civil Rights Initiative, for the California ballot. I was fortunate to be involved in the group. I helped draft the initiative. I was very involved in the campaign. But we were struggling, and it looked like we were not going to be able to qualify for the ballot.

And so what did we do? We were very lucky. We turned to Ward Connerly. Ward came in to help our faltering effort. We got enough signatures to hopefully -- fortunately to qualify for the ballot, and we succeeded very handily. Once it was on the ballot, although we didn't have a lot of money and it was a struggle and it was never easy, but the voters understood. When they saw the measure on the ballot, they understood this is the American way, that equality of rights should prevail.

And so that led -- that started -- Ward formed his own organization, the America Civil Rights Institute. He's used that organization to spearhead the drive for the same California Civil Rights Initiative measure into other states, first in the state of Washington, most recently, as most of you know, in the state of Michigan, which came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race could be used in the university in law school admissions at the University of Michigan. The Michigan civil rights initiative showed that the voters believed more in the principle of equality of rights than they did in preferences.

Today is kind of an interesting day for Ward to speak to us because today happens to be the anniversary of the day in 1909 that William DuBois, Jane Addams, and John Dewey formed a group called the National Negro Committee, which the next year was renamed as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And if you go back -- and it's available on the websites if you want to Google it -- what was one of their founding -- their cardinal objectives for the NAACP was to make sure that people are treated on the basis of merit, not on the basis of race.

That fight is still alive today. Unfortunately, the NAACP has fallen behind in that effort, but we have, fortunately, today, Ward -- a person of extraordinary courage and principal. Just like David, everybody knows David's efforts, and many of our war heroes that we heard, we've talked to and met over the weekend, Ward also walks into the lion's den. He's totally courageous in his efforts to transform the culture of racial politics and identity politics and victimization in America.

We actually, the Center here, honored Ward in 1995. We gave him its honored Patrick Henry Award in 1995. He hasn't slowed down since. His efforts now to qualify the civil rights initiative are ongoing. The measure was going to be on the ballot at least in the state of Colorado, though there is massive litigation ongoing, and we just filed a brief on Friday in the Colorado Supreme Court, which has a few enemies of our concept. But it's going to be on the Colorado ballot. The measure is going to be on the Arizona ballot and Nebraska ballot. We're confident Missouri probably in the year 2010 will be on the ballot. So voters all over the country are going to have a chance this year to look with pleasure at the opportunity to help restore the concept that our founders believed in, which is equality of rights, and that is enshrined in the 14th Amendment Equal Protection clause.

It's a great honor for all of us to be able to hear one of our great champions, Ward Connerly.

Ward Connerly: Well, good morning to all of you, and thank you, Manny, for such a great introduction. Are there any questions? I always enjoy these events because I see them as sort of refueling stations, where I can meet with people of like mind. It's not often that I get that experience on college campuses and the like.

But I do want to pause for one moment and thank David for that recognition back in 1995. I had just come forth as a regent during my sentence -- 12-year unpaid sentence on the Board of Regents to put forth a view that in the activities of the university, college hiring and contracting and admissions, that all of us should be treated as equals, and I thought that that was a principle that was pretty well established in the culture of our nation, but I soon learned that doesn't matter whether something is established; it's what the environment is willing to accept.

And the president of the university and many of my colleagues, conservative Republicans they were, really distanced themselves from me and wanted nothing to do with me. And I went overnight from a quiet businessman working behind the scenes, helping the political establishment, my good friend Pete Wilson, to a pariah almost overnight. Even my dog would run the other way when I approached.

And so it was that David and the Center invited me to visit with them and to give me a little recognition, and it really had a great effect. I don't need reinforcement to do what I think is right. But it's very lonely when you're out there swimming against the tide and everybody says, "You're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong," or "You're right, but not now," or, "You're going to upset the faculty," and all of those things. It gets very lonely.

And so these kinds of events have a big effect, believe me. When you recognize someone and you tell them, "You haven't lost your mind, you're sane, stay with it," it has a lot to do with reinforcing ideas and the wisdom of ideas and the importance of pursuing them.

When I first, as a regent, shared with my colleagues that it is morally wrong -- apart from the fact that we were breaking the law, race wasn't one of many factors at the University of California; race was the factor. We only hid behind the fig leaf that it was one of many factors to avoid litigation, but once I began to do my due diligence as the chair of the Finance Committee, which was the major oversight committee, and I saw the extent to which race was being used, I said to the general counsel, "Race is not one of many factors at this university; we are a lawsuit waiting to happen, and you know it and I know it and everybody else knows it."

When I shared that with Pete Wilson, who, by the way, in the fullness of time, as we look back on the Wilson years, regardless of how you may feel about his position on taxes or whatever, Pete Wilson was one of the greatest governors this state has ever had because he was willing to walk into the lion's den and say what he believed, and Pete never backed away from something he believed in. Whether you agreed with him or not, once he took a position, he had thought through that position, and he did not veer from that position. We need more of those kinds of people. We need more of those kinds of people in public office.

But once we begin to understand the magnitude of the university's breaking of the law, then as a fiduciary, we had no choice, it seems to me, but to deal with it.

Manny talked a little bit about the significance of today’s date and I want to pause for a moment. I don't give addresses; I just ramble about race, and I want to do that today because I feel more comfortable doing that, and you're not paying me, so I do what I think is comfortable.

William E.B. DuBois talked about the talented tenth. The whole idea was to benefit the top 10% of black people, the talented 10th, as he called them, and by helping that 10%, that would draw up everybody else. That philosophy, the talented 10th, really was the basis of modern-day "affirmative action." Help the 10%, help the top kids go to Berkeley instead of Riverside, and somehow that is going to benefit the masses. Hasn't worked. It just hasn't worked.

Apart from the moral question of whether we should treat our citizens differently on the basis of skin color or race, whatever that is, hair color, texture, if you have any, skin color, whatever race is, the notion that we should treat people differently on the basis of those factors is abhorrent.

But apart from that, affirmative action, as we have seen it over the years, just hasn't worked. It hasn't brought up the masses. The masses are still lingering in lousy communities, not pursuing the goodness of this nation for whatever reason, but that talented 10th concept has not worked. DuBois's view there was really a colossal failure.

You know, this year was supposed to be the year that was transformative about race, and we had this great candidate, young candidate, who came along, and he transcended race. He was going to take us to a new place, and we were going to get beyond race, and his campaign workers were chanting in South Carolina the night of the victory, "Race doesn't matter," and yet here we are with a campaign that will be decided, in my view, on the basis of race.

And as it plays out, the moment is a very important one for us as a people. It's a very important one. With all my heart and soul, I hope we reject Senator Obama, but I hope that we reject him for the right reason, and the right reason is that the philosophy that he would bring to our nation on taxes, on healthcare, on a whole range of issues is totally at variance with life as we know it, with what we believe, most of us -- I hope all of us in this room -- is the right remedy for giving people a chance to lead a productive life, a life of freedom, a life of independence, based on their contribution.

In my private life, where I began, I worked at the Redevelopment Agency of Sacramento. That was my first job out of college. And my job was to go out and buy properties for the Redevelopment Agency that we would put into more productive uses through the power of eminent domain but in a different context, by defining a neighborhood, and I always had some misgivings about redevelopment process, but nonetheless, a guy's got to eat, and I had a young family, so I went to work right out of college for the Redevelopment Agency.

That's where I learned something about community organizing. My great enemies were community organizers. I have never met in 40-some years a community organizer who was not a socialist.

Now, I don't like to stereotype, but I want to tell you that when you are a community organizer, you have to have a certain view of the world, a certain view of things that puts you at variance with free enterprise, puts you at variance with the notion of individual rights, makes you want to redistribute the wealth. That's what community organization is.

The country seemed surprised by Reverend Wright and Father Phleger's comments. I don't know why you're surprised because if you've had one debate about affirmative action on a college campus, the rhetoric of institutional racism, the nation just heard it with Phleger and Reverend Wright. The problem is the media doesn't understand the debate enough to be able to ask the right questions of Senator Obama, not whether you think the rhetoric is divisive.

You know, when I first got involved in all of this, some of my fellow Republicans would say, "We can't support that because it's divisive." Not a question of divisive. Public policy is divisive. The question is, do you agree or do you disagree with the merits of the issue?

So when Senator Obama says it's divisive, he is very artfully avoiding the question of whether he agrees or disagrees with the inherent philosophy. And what Phleger and Wright are saying is that view of the nation in which whites, basically white males, are inherently evil and don't want to share the good life with anybody else and that the order has to be changed in our nation, change -- change -- so that all of this is reconfigured, this is a defining moment.

To his credit, Senator Obama has been very artful. He has not shucked and jived his way by saying, "I don't agree with the inherent philosophy." He has been artful, and if we let him get away with it, shame on us. But there is a profound change that is being offered to the American people, a profound change about our economic system, about the relationship between the government and its citizens, and if we embrace that, our kids and our grandkids are going to have a tough life from here on out because America, as we know it, folks, will not be the same. It will not be the same.

If I'm frightening you, then my purpose is served because I don't think that we have paused long enough to really think through what the Obama phenomenon is really all about. The country wants to change. It wasn’t to give him the benefit of the doubt. More people want to vote for him because of his skin color than those who do not want to vote for him and who will not vote for him regardless of what he says because of skin color. There is that debate going on, and there are those who will never vote for him because he's a brown-skinned guy. They're wrong. But there are more of us, I believe, who really want to examine what he has to offer and make the decision on that basis, and I confess, the minute that I knew that he was a community organizer, my mind was made up.

But for the rest of the notion, we do have to take a look at what he offers. I would never vote against someone because of sex or because of skin color or religion or ethnic background. I would never vote against someone because of that. But just as I would never vote for or against someone because of that, I would never vote for them because of that. There are a lot of people who are willing to do that, who are willing to do that.

Tom Sowell wrote a column about a baseball player who had 2,999 hits, and he hit one up the field, up the middle, and it was fielded not so well. Scorekeeper gave him a hit, 3,000th hit. When the inning was over, the ballplayer went to the scorekeeper and said, "I don't want to go into the record books with a flawed hit." A couple of nights later, he got his 3,000th hit, a clean one. Tom's point is some day there will be a black president, but let's not soil the record books by going with an error. This would be an error. This would be a terrible error.

When I was in college, I had a professor for whom I was the reader, Dr. Thompson, Bob Thompson. They don't get any more left than Dr. Thompson, but I loved him dearly, and he induced me into joining the NAACP and the ACLU, and I went to one meeting of each and never went back. And he asked me why, and I said, "I don't feel comfortable at either organization." And we talked a little further.

And he always ended his lectures by saying, "We shall overcome." And one day I was being a smartass, and I said, "Dr. Thompson, how will we know when we have overcome?" And he said, "Mr. Connerly," -- and he always had these glasses and he looked over them and peered down at me -- he said, "There are three things that will determine when we have overcome. First of all, when a white girl can bring her black fiancée home to mom and dad and have the father not become apoplectic. Remember those days, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? He said, "That's test one. Test number two is when any white, no matter how impoverished, would be willing to take the place of any black, no matter how successful." I think a lot of people would be willing to switch places with Oprah and a lot of other prominent blacks. The third test was when the nation would be ready to consider -- to consider, not necessarily elect, a black person for president.

Profound wisdom, foresight. We are there. We are considering this man. He is a formidable candidate. I think that he has polished his rhetoric, except there is a difference when he is talking -- improvising and when he is delivering a speech, a major difference in the delivery. But he's packaged himself in such a way that he seems to be acceptable to us until we open the package. And the challenge for us is to open that package, that we don't destroy all the paper, that we not shred the package to bits, still, leave it intact for us to examine.

We're going to win the fight on preferences. There's no doubt in my mind about that. We're going to win it. Before I move on to another place, we're going to win this battle about preferences. Victory is in sight. The question is whether we're going to win the race about race. That's the larger challenge, so it's important that we do this the right way. It's important that we are honest with ourselves about the issue of race. It's important that we look at its horrible consequences.

I mean think about it. With all the problems that we're facing in the nation about the issue of the war, about the looming prospect of a one-party government controlling the House, the Senate, the presidency, able to control the Judiciary, with the battles that are going on in our country between representative government and direct democracy -- and they are large. I could take 30 minutes to tell you about the blockers who are trying to deny people from putting their signatures on petitions -- and about the warriors of Obama, ACORN, namely, but the fact is that we're fighting over race. That is the issue. It transcends the war. It transcends the consideration of taxes and healthcare and this stuff about global warming. Whether it's real or not, I don't know, but regardless of all that, race is transcending all of that.

No value is being added to the conversation. There's no value added when we talk about the issue of race. And once we start talking about race, as a good friend says, "That's all we talk about." You turn on any channel, and the issue is race, skin color. Now, Senator Obama has brought that to us, but we have to get beyond it. We have to use this moment somehow to navigate ourselves out of this morass where race is so terribly important in our nation. That is the real challenge that we face, and every one of us has a duty, has an obligation to help accomplish that. We see people marrying across lines of race and ethnicity, and we don't even care, thank God, but the reality is that it is still the most potent issue in American life. It is the most potent issue in American life, and we have to get beyond it.

And probably those of us like us in this room are the ones who will have to provide the leadership for that to happen, but until we can accomplish that and make it totally irrelevant in American life and live, as John F. Kennedy said, "where race has no place in American life or law," we will not be the nation that we were, I think, ordained to be.

So thank you for inviting me to visit with you. This is a great family that David has convened, and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Thank you all very much. God bless you.

Unidentified Audience Participant: Could you just expand a little bit more on exactly what a community organizer does? I honestly have no idea of specifics what they do.

Ward Connerly: First of all, I am totally serious about that. I mean I despise labels, political labels. I am generally conservative, but I am libertarian in many things. And I detest labels, but I have learned over the years that there are certain occupations that attract certain beliefs, certain mindsets. Community organizing is one of them.

To be an effective community organizer, you have to believe that the people you're serving who are "the disenfranchised" largely are getting a bad deal in life. Your job is to try to improve their lives, all good -- that's a good mission.

But what you do in the course of that is you challenge any rent -- you challenge any rent structure. You want rent control. You want to make sure that they're not paying more than they can afford. Well, if you're unemployed and if you're homeless, you can't afford very much. So that means that there has to be some rent control. That's one of the policies that's there.

Number two, you want to make sure that people who are low income, that their lives are uplifted. Fine. But the uplifting does not come from working, getting a job, working, earning your way in the capitalistic system; it comes from the government somehow giving you the benefits -- the benefits.

Think about how the argument about healthcare, universal healthcare, is articulated. The government has a duty -- this is the argument -- the government has a duty to make sure its people all have healthcare. That is the foundation of a community organizer's belief. What you do is you're trying to change the order.

If you go back and you read what Senator Obama has said and the things that he has done when he ran for the state senate, he talked about change. The word change is not new for him. Change was always a part of what he wanted to do. But what it means is changing the system, changing the system. He's even said things about the poverty of -- I forgot what it was exactly, but in a recent commencement address, and he talked about not going out and getting a job necessarily and all those things. Think carefully about what he is saying. He wants to change the system.

Community organizers -- Phleger, Wright, the system -- they're uncomfortable with capitalism. They're very uncomfortable with it. He wants to change the system. It's not just changing the peace of the people who are sitting at the table in the White House. It's changing the system economically. I don't think he is -- I don't think that he is as deeply enmeshed in race as, say, Reverend Sharpton or Jesse Jackson would be, but the essence of what he wants to do is the same. It's a distinction without a difference. It's changing the system. Every community organizer that I have known believes that the system is inherently flawed. Capitalism doesn't work, in their view, because it doesn't distribute enough of its benefits to enough people. It's only certain people who get the benefits.

So any time someone tells you they're a community organizer, watch your wallet. The job itself does not allow you to believe in things like capitalism. It just doesn't.

Unidentified Audience Participant: Thank you for coming here today. Appreciate it. I have a couple of questions. Can't you use the same principles of community organizations for conservatives? I mean can't we just use that same principles and overlay it unto what we're trying to do? In other words, we want to go out to the community, and we want to uplift the community. We want to apply our principles to the community.

Ward Connerly: I'm not so sure that we could take a conservative ethic and apply that the way it's being applied right now. I'm not so sure that we can find a conservative community organizational structure. Conservatives believe in individuals. We believe that it's your job as an individual to go out and pursue your life. It's not the government's job to do it for you. Community organization brings with it a certain groupism, a certain responsibility, a benevolence of the government that is essential. You're trying to change the order of things. There may come a time when we need to organize to change, but --

The nation still believes in the basic system that we have. That's why you have such a variance between the people in most states, especially California, and representative government because the people still believe in that basic system. There are places where that belief is being tested and places that you would not suspect.

I never would've thought that there would be the ACLU, the Service Employees International Union, ACORN that would be so powerful in the state of Missouri. I mean these are people who are actually employing fascist tactics to prevent people from signing petitions.

Let's say that I approach you and I want to get your signature on a petition. One of those community organizers will actually come between us and put their leaflet on top of my petition and say, "He's a racist. He's with the Ku Klux Klan. Don't sign the petition." It amounts to identity theft. That's what they will say. The citizen turns and walks away. They shouldn't be allowed to do that, but they are, and they're aided by the police.

Circulator is arrested for trying to get signatures standing on the sidewalk in front of the Kansas City library, public property. The librarian says, "You can't circulate on the streets here, but we have a table inside the library for you, but you can't talk." So you go in and you sit at the table, but you can't talk to anybody to tell them what the initiative is about. The process has changed. The street people, the community organizers have taken over.

I don't think that Senator Obama is getting the examination that he would otherwise get with the same views. I don't think he would get the pass that he's getting. I think he's getting a free pass on a lot of things. He's not being examined. There's no vetting at all that's genuinely taking place about Senator Obama. No one is asking, "Senator Obama, do you really believe in institutional racism?" The question is at this level, "Do you distance yourself from Reverend Wright?" "Well, yeah, I distance myself from Reverend Wright," but there's on explanation of why. Nobody is vetting him and asking him what he believes because to ask that possibly invokes the question of whether you're a racist. You can't even ask questions about his wife.

So I would submit to you that if Senator McCain identified with the policies of Wright and Phleger and took so long to distance himself from them, from those views, he would've been history a long time ago. He wouldn't have made it through the primaries. All you have to do is go to Bob Jones University and you're dead meat. Doesn't matter that you belong to the church. For 20-some years, you had that close relationship.

They're saying things that are from the playbook about -- of those who believe in institutional racism and using preferences as a way to compensate, to level the playing field. None of that's getting vetted. None of it. The eight-minute segments on cable television do not allow for the real vetting of issues like this.

So as a result, as long as Senator Obama keeps his voice mild, doesn't get upset, is not flappable, he can skate right through with questions never being asked -- "Do you really believe that stuff? Tell me, do you believe in institutional racism?" That's the only -- you ask that one question alone, and that will tell you a lot about Senator Obama, just that one question. "Do you believe in institutional racism?" I have yet to hear it asked.

Institutional racism? It's a belief that American society is basically racist, that there are policies that apply that may not be deliberate -- deliberately racist, but they're racist in their effect.

You get pulled over by the police solely because of your skin color, at night, by the way, when they can't really tell necessarily who's in the car, but you get pulled over by the police.

You can't get a cab because of your skin color without examining the fact that the cab driver perhaps is Ethiopian, who was slashed on the neck by young black kids in New York or Washington, D.C. There are all kinds of explanations that you -- when you're a kid, you're followed in the grocery store, you're followed in the shopping malls solely because of your skin color, apart from the fact that owners of stores are always nervous, regardless of skin color, of a bunch of kids who are carousing through the shopping area. But institutional racism suggests that the whole institution is racist. More blacks are in prison solely because they're black rather than because of the number of crimes that are possibly committed.

So if Senator Obama said, "Yes, I believe in institutional racism," bingo, but I don't think he'll answer it.


Ward Connerly is a former Regent of the University of California, Chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, and 2005 recipient of the prestigious Bradley Prize for his defense of the American ideals of freedom and equality.


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