Lessons Of Lott

The battle has already begun to determine the effects of the mess Lott made. According to an article in the Washington Post this morning, Democrats “may be more aggressive than they would have been in challenging Bush on judgeships” and other matters.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), both of whom worked closely with Bush to pass an education bill, sent a letter to the president challenging him to file a friend-of-the court brief supporting the University of Michigan and its affirmative action policy in a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court this term.

Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), who initially gave Lott a pass on his comment about Thurmond, issued a statement challenging the next GOP leader to demonstrate a commitment to racial equality through legislation, not rhetoric. “The new Republican leader in the Senate must do more now than merely disavow Senator Lott’s words,” Daschle said. “He or she must confront the Republican Party’s record on race, and embrace policies that promote genuine healing and greater opportunity for all Americans.”

I completely agree with Daschle. The Republicans must bring their committment to equality out of the closet and aggressively promote policies based on the popular, and morally compelling, principle that every person has a right to be treated without regard to race, creed, or color. The Republicans, in short, must affirmatively make a persuasive case that that is the best way to “promote genuine healing and greater opportunity for all Americans.”

If they fail to do that out of fear of being called “insensitive,” or worse, they will confirm the widespread but mistaken assumption that equates civil rights with race-conscious preferences.

The time to begin is now, and the way to begin is to unleash Ted Olson to write a powerful, principled brief rejecting racial and ethnic discrimination and affirming colorblindness in the pending University of Michigan affirmative action case. Not to do so would be to admit that Sen. Kennedy is right about civil rights.

Say What?