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Perhaps the most striking thing that a contemporary reader of the
writings of the American Founders notices is the confidence that the
statesmen of that era were willing to place in the good judgment of the
people. The American political system does have various checks in place
to keep the momentary winds of passion from sweeping through the nation
and knocking us off our feet But there is no escape from the fact that
if our people finally lose either their character or their good
judgment, nothing in law or government will be able to save us from our
own folly. Here the Founders took their stand, and reasonably so.
We should be glad to see evidence that this confidence of the
continues to be reasonable. Californians have provided more than their
share of it in the past decade, chiefly through the initiative process.
Let’s take a look at three key initiatives from the past four years
that, taken together, are an encouraging sign that the people still
intend to insist on taking the duty of principled self-government
seriously. All three propositions were misinterpreted by the media; all
were called partisan or racist. In fact, the racialists and partisans
were on the other side, and the people voted for national unity,
justice, and reason. Let’s take a look and see how that’s so.
Proposition 187 was a complex mixture of remedies, not all of them
or constitutional, to the ills posed by the ineptitude of the federal
government in enforcing its own immigration laws. It rested on the
distinction between citizens and non-citizens. That meant that
Californians took their membership in the American Republic seriously,
and insisted that the national government do so too.
Citizenship is deeper and broader than race or ethnic group. In
it means belonging to an order based on the truths of the national
creed, the Declaration. The foes of prop 187 took children out of school
to demonstrate on the streets of Los Angeles waving foreign flags. The
citizens of California responded by passing the initiative. Who was the
separatist, and who understood the bond of unity that is citizenship?
The American Creed was even more directly at stake in the California
Civil Rights Initiative, proposition 209, which passed in 1996. Closely
patterned after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment, the
initiative banned preferential treatment on the basis of sex or race.
Extra points on exams for employment, lower standards for some and
higher ones for others in college admissions, endless proliferation of
favored groups in bureaucratic tally sheets, set-asides in contracts,
all went out the window when 209 was upheld without comment by a
unanimous Supreme Court last year.
It shouldn’t have to be said, since it is so obvious, but the
here is that all men are created equal. From that equality comes a
natural right to be treated equally under the law. From slavery to Jim
Crow, and with ugly spells of anti-Chinese and anti-Mexican legislation
and prejudice, this country has often failed to live up to its creed.
victory of the California Civil Rights Initiative was a call to renew
our efforts to do what in our hearts we know we should.
Next week the voters of California will cap their display of justice
wisdom by passing proposition 227, ‘English for the Children’ as it is
called. Racialists in the government schools and in political interest
groups have saddled California with a failing foreign language regime in
the public schools. Bi-lingualism was supposed to move kids on to
English, but it actually left them almost illiterate in both English and
By the incompetence and ethnic separatist designs of the public
authorities, in other words, these children are being cheated of their
chance to share in the political life and prosperity of their country,
both of which require a knowledge of the English language. Their own
government is not only failing to secure their rights to liberty and the
pursuit of happiness, it is putting barriers in their way.
That is why I believe that the parents of non-English speaking
will join the rest of the state to pass proposition 227.
There are points in each of these propositions that men of good will
find fault with. The courts have essentially struck down 187, and there
are loopholes in 227 that will lead many principled conservatives to
vote against it. But step back and look at the big picture. The huge
and encouraging fact coming out of California lately is that we
Americans do understand our heritage of citizenship, justice, and
reason, and we’re willing to tell the purveyors of division and
resentment to grow up and rejoin America.