Washington Voters: Vote NO on Referendum 88

A Referendum to Overturn Racial Preferences

Peter Wood

Racial preferences are on the march again. Coast to coast, so to speak.

In Massachusetts, U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs issued a peculiar decision in the case of Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies. Essentially Judge Burroughs said that Harvard could continue on its merry way because it meant well. Capping Asian admissions was a small price to pay for the opportunity to boost the number of underqualified black students.

On the other coast, the legislature in Washington State recently overturned a thirty-year-old law banning racial preferences. This case has more twists and turns than the Snake River, but Heather Mac Donald has untwisted it here.

I’m going to add some additional straightening. Let me start with the immediate issue. Washington voters who oppose racial preferences should vote no on Referendum 88. Actually they should vote NO!!! or Hell No! but those aren’t options on the ballot. Those of us who live outside Washington and who oppose racial preferences should contribute money to the Vote No campaign.

The November ballot measure is called Referendum 88. Anyone who opposes racial preferences or who is concerned about the pernicious advance of identity-group entitlements should be alarmed at what the preference lobby has attempted to sneak into law in the northwest.

Here’s why.

In 1998, Washington State passed a Civil Rights Initiative that outlawed racial preferences. It was modeled on Proposition 209, the California ballot initiative that NAS members drafted and that California businessman (and NAS board member) Ward Connerly championed. The California measure passed by ballot referendum with a substantial majority of the vote and became part of the state’s constitution. It drove the pro-racial division left crazy. Decades of attempts to get the courts to invalidate it have failed, as have attempts to get the legislature to subvert it. The best that the preference activists have been able to do in California is to convince college administrations to become scofflaws. Many of them pursue racial preferences in open defiance of the law.

The lawlessness of the college administrators is a terrible thing, and has been well documented, as for example by Professor Tim Groseclose in Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA. But the academic left pays a price for such mischief. Its strategy for transforming America, after all, depends on Americans recognizing the rule of law. When the left chooses lawlessness as its preferred path, it burns the bridges it hopes one day to cross.

This is a matter that progressive politicians in their eagerness to advance their social justice agenda seldom seem to consider, but it has already deepened the cultural divide in the United States.

Which takes us back to Washington State. Washington quickly emulated California’s Proposition 209, but not as a constitutional provision. Instead Washington State Initiative 200 created a statute. It passed handily, supported by 58.22 percent of the voters. The difference between a constitutional provision and a statute is that the legislature can overturn a statute. Initiative 200 declared:

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

This, of course, did not go down easily with the progressives who view preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin as among the highest purposes of public administration. And also a source of remunerative administrative jobs, abundant patronage, and client-creating programs.

Decades of efforts to overturn Proposition 200, however, were smothered by the deep snows of the Cascades and the wariness of Washington voters,

Until April. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “On the last night of its 2019 session, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed Initiative 1000. This overturned the ban on preferential treatment voted in 20 years ago.”

But then, something unexpected happened. The Asian-American community in Washington rose up to object to the re-introduction of racial preferences. A group called Washington Asians for Equality has spearheaded the effort and it gathered enough signatures on a petition to force the ballot measure, Referendum 88. The trickery of the left is not to be underestimated. The Referendum reads as an endorsement of Initiative 1000. Thus the way to vote against racial preferences is to vote No on Referendum 88.

To read the text of Initiative 1000 is to enter a hall of mirrors. The unwary reader may easily mistake it as a rejection of racial preferences. It says its aim is “remedying discrimination and affirmative action.” One might think that the remedy to discrimination is to stop discriminating and the remedy to affirmative action is outlaw it. But in the topsy-turvy world of diversity-speak that’s not the case. The remedy that Initiative 1000 puts in place is to authorize more discrimination but hiding it under slippery definitions and devious maneuvers. A loophole is created for the “valid disparity study,” another for “outreach efforts,” and yet another for the pursuit of “diversity.” According to the legislation, race and other minority characteristics cannot be used as “the sole qualifying factor to select a lesser qualified candidate,” but as Heather Mac Donald points out, that’s the sophistry on which the whole “holistic admissions” game is built.

Initiative 1000 is a Christmas tree for the progressive left’s identity politics agenda. It authorizes every technique the left has devised for selectively channeling patronage, funding, and privilege to its client groups. And it does so to the rampant disadvantage of everyone else.

Thank goodness that Washington Asians for Equality succeeded in getting this on the ballot, even if the pro-preference bureaucrats succeeded in twisting the ballot language into a balloon animal. The preference crowd has come forward with huge funding to sustain Initiative 1000 from the hoi polloi who dare challenge it. If they win, you can expect that the preference armies will keep marching. Identity group clientage is pretty much the whole of their agenda and they intend to carry it from Harvard Yard to the Space Needle and every place in between. Now is the time to stop them in their tracks.

Update: The Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars has passed a resolution supporting Washington Asians for Equality and their effort to overturn Initiative 1000.

Image: capitol building washington By Olichel // Source pixabay // License No Rights Reserved

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