Thursday, February 27, 2003

Lagniappe - Well, well ... I'm back. I've just about given up on trying to resolve to post on a somewhat regular basis. My life is just too preoccupied with other more important things like my job and my family. But, I refuse to give up the ghost because I enjoy posting when I can. I'm sure what little readership I had has now long disappeared, but I've always kinda just done this for myself anyway, so ... what the hell! I'll keep writing for myself and for those who do peek in every now and then.

What has really prompted me to write is an insight that I've recently had about the more subtle race-baiting of the right which has emerged in the debates swirling around the democratic filibuster of Miguel Estrada's nomination to the federal bench. Personally, I think Estrada's ideological tilt is far right of mainstream; but I must say that my gut tendency is to advocate his nomination for one reason only: that he's an Hispanic and we need more Hispanics of all political persuasions involved in our political system in significant ways. I may be an ideological sellout because of this position, but at least I can remain true to my belief in greater ethnic diversity in public officialdom.

Now, the funny thing about this is that, by reading some of the more rabid anti-affirmative action conservative columns these days, one might get the impression that my position, if it gets Estrada confirmed, is fine and dandy. I can't tell you how many Conservative columnists have worked themselves into a frenzy because the "diversity-friendly" democrats don't see Estrada as "Hispanic enough" to meet the affirmative action threshhold. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that conservatives would make this an issue, even if to criticize apparent democratic dishonesty on the issue. By making Estrada's ethnicity the focal point of the discussion, conservative critics of Senate Democrats have simply resorted to the use of the race card in an effort to shame democratic opponents of Estrada. I would suspect that conservatives would find any reference to ethnicity as a yardstick in any context quite distasteful - but I am finding that ethnicity is manipulated as much by conservatives as by liberals. The difference, however, seems to be that conservatives make gratuitous use "race" to throw "race" back in the face of liberals. Today, Miguel Estrada is the "racial" cause celebre of conservatives much like Clarence Thomas was the "racial" cause celebre of the past. In fact, conservatives are much more likely to point to the ethnicity of these folk as central in a discussion of the issues surrounding their nominations than any liberals are. The argument that I see most frequently from conservatives is not that race doesn't matter, but rather how much it desperately does matter to them when it seems to behoove their cause. It's almost as if conservatives will say how race doesn't matter to them and shouldn't to anybody, but get simply livid when a liberal doesn't stick true to their affirmative action proclivities. Tell me if I'm missing something here, but it seems that conservatives consider affirmative action so reprehensible and then spit fire when it isn't practiced by liberals. I fear that, down deep in the recesses of conservative attitudes, the "racism" of the affirmative action kind (which is a conservative position regarding affirmative action, mind you, not a liberal one) would not only be expected, but also quite welcomed, if it served conservative ends. In short, when conservatives point to supposed liberal inconsistency with regard to racial preferences and affirmative action, they simply confirm how important it is to take race and problems of discrimination on the basis of race into account.

In the end, I would think that conservatives would welcome liberal opposition to Estrada on the basis of ideology rather than because he happens to be Hispanic. To criticize liberals for not towing the affirmative action line only makes it more likely that liberals will tow this line in the future. What is it that conservatives want? To me, it seems conservatives want and need liberals to be pro-affirmative action so they can ridicule and bury them during Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada moments. Fine. But then just don't pretend that the conservative vision on race is based on the absence of "color consciousness." For it seems that, when it comes to conservative discourse with liberals on issues of race and affirmative action, Estrada's principle value to conservatives is his "color" rather than his legal opinions on the subject. It's ironic that conservatives are flaunting Estrada's ethnicity, while the filibustering Democratic senators are more insterested in hearing his legal opinions. I wonder how Estrada feels about that.