Over the years, I've had discussions and arguments with conservative friends about affirmative action (AA). There is no question that AA helped to multiply the ranks of the black middle class; it also provided many deserving and qualified individuals with opportunities to shine. Yet, cynical implementation of AA programs have led, I believe, to the current sense of disdain toward those programs (and the beneficiaries of those programs). Personally, I believe (like BHO) that we should look to economic AA, in order to help increase the opportunities of the strivers in the lowest economic echelons. But that is not the point of this particular post.
I find it extremely funny that conservatives, who rail the loudest against the "deleterious" effects of AA on the beneficiaries (and concomitantly the society), seem to be in full support of AA when the beneficiary supports their point of view. Clarence Thomas was the classic example. No thinking person really believed President George H. W. Bush when he noted that Thomas was "the most qualified" person for the SCOTUS. Bush simply replaced a black Supreme Court Justice with one who met his ideological test (hardly a sufficient qualification in my mind). Conservatives came to the defense of Thomas and contorted their own positions to make themselves believe that indeed he was the most qualified person to replace Thurgood Marshall. It was comic theatre during those hearings.
Sarah Palin has usurped Thomas' position as my classic example. When she was selected, I waited to see how she would turn out. Palin was such an obscure figure that it was possible that she, in fact, might have had the chops to handle the job. I was over her, by the conclusion of her speech at the RNC convention. I knew that she was selected primarily for her gender, but I did not fully understand until later how woefully, woefully, unqualified she was.
It was fascinating to watch conservatives contorting themselves to make it so that Palin was more qualified than either BHO or Biden. It was fun to watch the building crescendo of evidence that made it clear that Palin was not even in the same league as some political staffers on the Hill. A few folks in the intellectual conservative community have come to that conclusion as well (Kathleen Parker, George Will, and David Brooks come to mind). Yet, the rank and file within the GOP see Palin as someone who is "just like them." What happened to the standard of "the best and the brightest?" Isn't that what AA allegedly attacks?
The bottom line is that AA is only a negative when the beneficiary is not a conservative, when one examines this issue from the GOP perspective. I want conservatives in the world to provide me with some ideological clarity. Either AA is wrong in all cases (as many conservatives claim), or there are exceptions that should be honored (as many conservative practice to satisfy their ends). Which one is it?
As for me, Palin, like Thomas before her, is precisely the example of bad AA that conservatives complain about. Seems to me that there needs to be some cleaning of house.