Trump should challenge Biden and Harris to denounce California's Proposition 16
President Donald Trump should immediately begin using a California ballot proposition as a springboard for making the evil of racial discrimination and preferences a part of his national campaign. In doing so, Trump should invoke Martin Luther King, Jr.'s heroic campaign for civil rights.
Trump honored King on July 3, 2020 when he issued an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, which Trump described as "a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live," including King.
On the California ballot this fall is the Democrat-backed Proposition 16, which will remove anti–racial discrimination language from the California Constitution. The present language that the Democrats want to remove is in Article 1, Section 31 of the California Constitution and states:
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 language was put into the state Constitution by the voters of California who approved Proposition 209 in 1996. The "No on Proposition 16" campaign puts this language front and center on its website as it explains that the proponents of Proposition 16 want to remove this language. The "Yes on Proposition 16" website deceptively never quotes this language, which Proposition 16 will remove from the state Constitution.
In his famous speech on August 28, 1963, King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Consistent with that dream, King never publicly advocated for the establishment of racial preferences in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. Instead, apparently aware of the inherent divisiveness of all racial preferences, King advocated for the establishment of nonracial economic class-based preferences.
I am proposing, therefore, that, just as we granted a GI Bill of Rights to war veterans, America launch a broad-based and gigantic Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged, our veterans of the long siege of denial. ... While Negroes form the vast majority of America's disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill. (Martin Luther King, Jr., "Why We Can't Wait," pages 137–138, published by Mentor [Penguin Books, New York, 1963].)
An interview with King was published in the January 1965 issue of Playboy magazine in which King again discussed his nonracial Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged:
I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro: it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races. ... [S]uch a bill for the disadvantaged and impoverished could enable them to buy homes without cash, at lower and easier repayment terms. They could negotiate loans from banks to launch businesses. They could receive, as did ex-GIs, special points to place them ahead in competition for civil service jobs. ... And together with these rights, a favorable social climate could be created to encourage the preferential employment of the disadvantaged, as was the case for so many years with veterans. During those years, it might be noted, there was no appreciable resentment of the preferential treatment being given to the special group. ... We must develop a Federal program of public works, retraining and jobs for all--so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened. ... Black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done. The unemployed, poverty-stricken white man must be made to realize that he is in the very same boat with the Negro. (Playboy, pages 74–76 [January 1965])
No matter where Trump campaigns, he should challenge Democrat candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to denounce the California Democrats' attempt to give the California state government the power to discriminate and grant preferential treatment on the basis of race in state hiring, state contracting, and admissions to state schools and colleges.
Trump should use the opportunity to remind people that the words of a law or a state or federal Constitution are not enough to guarantee a prohibition on racial discrimination and racial preferences. In the 1979 decision in Steelworkers v. Weber, five justices of the United States Supreme Court interpreted the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which King fought so hard to get enacted. The five justices interpreted this language from the act:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for any employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining, including on-the-job training programs to discriminate against any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training.
The five justices ruled that despite this language, it was legal for Kaiser Steel and the United Steelworkers Union to jointly select workers for a training program in a manner that gave a racial preference to black applicants.
Trump should remind voters that he will do his best to nominate people to be judges and justices who interpret laws and constitutional provisions honestly, unlike what the five justices did in Steelworkers v. Weber.
The Democrats have turned King's dream into a nightmare. Trump should alert the electorate that the Democrats want this nightmare for the entire country, and it is he, not Biden and Harris, who honors King's dream.
Allan J. Favish is an attorney in Los Angeles. His website is allanfavish.com. James Fernald and Mr. Favish have co-authored a book about what might happen if the government ran Disneyland, entitled Fireworks! If the Government Ran the Fairest Kingdom of Them All (A Very Unauthorized Fantasy).
Image credit: RareFacts, via shareable YouTube, screen shot, processed with FotoSketcher.