Imagine you are the Democratic governor of a southern state; you’re one of the first blacks ever elected to that office; you have confronted racism and overcome it—and then one morning you wake up to discover that you are not “authentically black.”
That’s exactly what happened to Douglas Wilder, governor of Virginia. Lani Guinier, President Clinton’s nominee for civil-rights chief at the Justice Department, has accused Wilder of not being an “authentic black.”
Why? Because he was voted into office partly by whites, Guinier explains, which means he does not represent the interests of blacks exclusively.
An authentic black politician, she says, is not just “physically black,” he’s someone beholden to blacks alone. Someone who, in her words, has a “cultural and psychological view of group solidarity.”
Well, I guess a group mind is a terrible thing to waste. And to get more group-minded blacks into government, Guinier wants nothing less than to abolish our entire electoral system. She recommends a cumulative voting system where black votes can be weighted more heavily than white votes.
Clearly, this kind of vote-rigging has no place in classic American democracy, which is based on the principle of one person, one vote. But that doesn’t bother Guinier: In her view, the current system is “inherently unjust” anyway.
Sure, the 1965 Voting Rights Act means black votes are counted fairly. But that’s not enough, Guinier says: The dice are still loaded against blacks by sheer numbers. What she wants is a quota system in government, along with procedures to force legislatures to enact polices that reflect black interests.
This is not simply ivory-tower brainstorming tossed around in law school faculty lounges. In published articles, Guinier has proposed using the Voting Rights Act to force procedural changes on state legislatures to guarantee blacks the outcomes they want.
And if her nomination is confirmed, Guinier will gain real power toward that goal. Her position will give her responsibility for both interpreting and enforcing the Voting Rights Act.
And don’t think she wouldn’t try anything radical. A Washington Post column notes that as a lawyer Guinier litigated several cases in which she tried to get her views translated into law.
Colorblind policies are a “luxury” we can’t afford, she says.
If this weren’t so tragic it would almost be amusing. I was recently in England, speaking to a group of conservative political philosophers. They called me a liberal. I was stunned. Me, a liberal? On policy, I’m about as conservative as they come.
But in British politics, a liberal is anyone who supports individual rights and a pluralistic society; so I was a liberal. A British conservative is someone who wants to protect the privileges of a vested ruling class.
By that definition, Lani Guinier has given up true liberalism. She wants to jettison the classic liberal tradition of individual rights and democratic rule in favor of giving privileges to a special group—in her case, a group defined by race.
Call your senators and tell them you expect to hear some tough questions asked in the Guinier confirmation hearings.
America is not ready to fill top government posts with anyone willing to cast out the most fundamental principles of liberal democracy.