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Gingrich told “Meet the Press,” “We need a black, Hispanic, or Asian leader or a group of leaders who are prepared to say ‘The time has come to move beyond quotas.'” Gingrich argued that “because he was black, Ward Connerly could walk into a room, make the case against affirmative action” – but because there were no blacks in Congress willing to make the argument against affirmative action, they needed to put it off.
Connerly responded that Gingrich’s argument suggests “that my skin color grants me some special entitlement to defend a basic American value – equal treatment under the law – that is not extended to those without my degree of melanin content.” Connerly countered that he opposes “preferences, set-asides and quotas not because of my skin color, but because I believe in the fundamental principle of fairness that our Constitution embodies and the people have a right to expect” and that Gingrich’s remarks “leave a clear impression that white Americans should remove themselves from this debate about the future of race relations in America lest they be saddled with the charge of ‘racism.'”
Gingrich said he was strongly influenced in his decision to abandon opposition to racial preferences by J.C. Watts who at the time was the only black Republican in Congress. However, when Watts aptly called Jesse Jackson and then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry “race hustling poverty pimps,” Gingrich apologized on Watts’ behalf and then invited Jackson to join him in the Speakers’ Gallery during the president’s State of the Union address. More recently, Gingrich has toured the country with Al Sharpton.
Many Americans supported Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 because they bought his claim of being a post-racial president who would get us beyond our old racial divisions. However, since he became president, the Obama administration has greatly expanded racial preference programs in hiring and education.
Poll after poll show that a large majority Americans oppose preferences and quotas. If Republicans have the courage to stand up for colorblind policies, this could be a winning issue against Obama. Let’s hope they do not follow Newt Gingrich’s cowardly flip-flops while speaker as a model.