Proposition 209 could be thrown into doubt

The election of Jerry Brown as California governor brings many uncertainties, particularly on the economy, but his earlier regime, and a case during the recent campaign, suggests a return to race and gender preferences in the Golden State.

The California Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Proposition 209, bans race and gender preferences in state employment, education and contracting. It has been state law since 1996, when California voters approved the measure by a wide margin, 54.7 to 45.3 percent. It was the first time voters anywhere in the U.S. had a say on gender and race preferences, which had been imposed largely by unelected bureaucrats.

In the preference mindset, all institutions in society must reflect the ethnic breakdown of the population. If they do not, as this creed has it, the problem is always deliberate discrimination and the remedy is always government action. The preference creed places ethnicity on a par with ability, experience and achievement.

In his previous career as governor, Brown’s choice for health and welfare boss was the late Mario Obledo, who was on record saying Hispanics would take over all the state’s political institutions, and that if anybody did not like they should go back to Europe.

Racial preferences, and blatant ethnic quotas in the University of California system, fueled the drive for Prop. 209, which survived a host of legal challenges. As California’s attorney general, whose primary duty is to enforce the law, Brown sided with those determined to impose quotas.

San Francisco officials recently passed a law giving preference to “women and minorities” in contracting. When challenged in court, Brown filed a brief charging that Prop. 209 fosters the discrimination it is supposed to eliminate. The court rejected this argument, and struck down the San Francisco preference plan.

Prop. 209 did not emerge as an issue in the recent race for governor or attorney general. It remains unclear how Attorney General-elect Kamala Harris will enforce or ignore the state law.

The notion that all institutions should reflect the ethnic breakdown of society remains an orthodoxy of political correctness. But that is not state or federal law, and not part of the U.S. Constitution. Even so, Brown is not likely to make a priority of enforcing a law he attacked as attorney general.

Brown showed open and doctrinaire support of San Francisco’s preference plan, and criticized voter-approved state law. That will embolden state agencies to turn back the clock to the heyday of race, ethnicity and gender preferences. Such preferences are still illegal, but now more irrelevant.

California has had no ethnic majority since 2001, based on census data. With no majority, all Californians, in effect, become minorities. This reality was even recognized by former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is editorial director at the Pacific Research Institute (www.pacificresearch.org).

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