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Fighting for a Colorblind Country

6:09 PM, Nov 14, 2008 • By KEVIN VANCE
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Ward Connerly is founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute. This year, he led efforts to approve ballot propositions banning affirmative action in Colorado and Nebraska. Amendment 46 in Colorado failed with 49 percent of the vote, while Initiative 424 passed in Nebraska with 58 percent of the vote. I recently asked him a few questions about these efforts and his plans for the years to come.

Why do you think Amendment 46 failed in Colorado?

For several reasons. Number one, there were about 13 or 14 initiatives on the ballot, and there was a very well-organized "just say no" campaign that was intended to discourage future ballot initiative proponents from pursuing initiatives by triggering their defeat this time around.

The second issue was the enormous effort that was waged by Senator Obama to get out the vote. He had a lot of money and hired a lot of people who joined forces with some of our opponents, and they walked precincts door to door and they urged people not only to vote for Senator Obama, but while you're there, also to vote against Amendment 46. If we did not have to run during this Obama year or if we did not have so many initiatives on the ballot, I believe we would have won by 15 points.

The third thing, and this is one that is highly conjectural, is that it appears that many individuals did not fully understand what our initiative was. For example, we lost in a lot of districts that were McCain districts.

Was there anything unique going on in Nebraska that eased passage of Initiative 424?

I think it was just the message. Our message that this was just about fairness, that we have reached the point in Nebraska where we don't have to worry about treating people differently, and the state motto is equality under the law. Therefore we should live up to our creed and put it in the constitution.

What are the most likely opportunities for success in the next four years for the anti-affirmative action movement?

Given the fact that we now have a self-identified black man as the president of the country, I think it is much more difficult for racial advocates to argue for discrimination. Given that difficulty, it is an excellent time for those of us on my side of the issue to put the nail into the coffin of these policies. So the three states I think are fertile ground for 2010 are Colorado, Arizona, and Missouri. The opposition will have a hard time replicating what they did this year.

There has been a lot of discussion since the election about how conservatives can appeal to minority voters. How do you think the GOP could or should reach out to minority voters, and do you think anti-discrimination initiatives can play a role?

I certainly think we should reach out to everyone. I am not a proponent, however, of trying to reach people on the basis of their color, race, or ethnic background, or circumstances such as that. Once my party starts doing that, it corrupts its own hard-core values. I have seen over the last 10 years enough things the Republican party has done to appear more attractive to blacks and Hispanics that violate the professed beliefs of the party that I shudder at using that kind of tactic.