If any of you are following this, in the wake of the USSC decision allowing the affirmative action program in the University of Michigan Law School (and disallowing a similar program in the undergrad), anti-quota activists have been working on a ballot initiative modeled on the California Civil Rights Initiative (Prop 209, for those of you who remember).
And pro-quota activists have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent the MCRI from getting on the ballot and being put to a vote, direct-democracy style. The main group is a Trotskyist organization known as theh Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (often going by “By Any Means Necessary” or “BAMN”).
You may think its artistic license or hyperbole to call them Trotskyists, but you’d be wrong.
Here’s a copy of a document complaining about BAMN’s tactics during the Proposition 209 campaign in California.
And guess whose doing the complaining? Leaders in the Socialist movement. Nobody likes BAMN–except the Michigan Board of Canvassers and the Michigan Democratic Party.
[i]"Socialist organizations condemn attack at UCB by “Coalition to defend affirmative action by any means necessary” and the Revolutionary Workers League/NWROC.
"6 September, 1995
"The following statement has been signed by a range of national socialist leaders and Bay Area socialist activists (see the list at the end of the statement):
"On Wednesday, August 30th at UC-Berkeley, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary, which is composed largely of members of the Revolutionary Workers League, assaulted leaders of the broad student Diversity in Action (DIA) coalition and sought to disrupt DIA’s pro-affirmative action rally. Members of the Revolutionary Workers League assaulted students and shoved them aside in order to seize DIA’s microphone and harangue the crowd gathered at the rally. This followed a pattern of disruption of DIA organizing by the Revolutionary Workers League.
"As socialists, we condemn the actions of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary and the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL). The Revolutionary Workers League’s actions in no way reflect socialist values and contribute nothing to social change, “revolutionary” or otherwise. The Revolutionary Workers League, both under that name and its National Women’s Rights Organizing Committee (NWROC) name, has a history across the United States of similar disruption and undermining of progressive coalitions.
We call on all socialists and left-minded individuals of principle to reject the tactics of the Revolutionary Workers League and the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary.
"Militant socialist values can and must be promoted with respect for the broad progressive movements. There is no room in the left for the sabotague and disruption that has been too common a characteristic of the Revolutionary Workers League.
"As members of the left, we are committed to supporting progressive change and our allies fighting for affirmative action.
National Socialist Leaders
David McReynolds, Socialist Party USA, National Co-chair
Duane Campbell, Democratic Socialists of America, Anti-Racism Commission
Sushawn Robb, Committees of Correspondence, National Co-Chair
Claudette Begin, Solidarity National Political Committee
Bay Area Socialist Organizations/Chapters
Northern California Committees of CorrespondenceFreedom Socialist Party
Nathan Newman, Committees of Correspondence
Tom Boot, AFSCME Local 3211, Diversity Council
Janice Kimball, AFSCME Local 3211, President
Anders Schneiderman, Committees of Correspondence
Jim Cane, AGSE/UAW, History Department Steward
Steve Ongerth, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) member
Other Areas of Country
Robert Naiman, Socialist Forum, Urbana Illinois
Chris Faatz, Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation, Board
Stan Yasaitis, AFSCME Local 82, Pres U-WI-Milwaukee
Paul Burke, Appalachian Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, Vice-Chair
J.J. Plant, Editorial Board Revolutionary History, London
Warren Davis, Solidarity, Philadelphia Branch
Justin Schwartz, Solidarity, Columbus Branch Chair
Pablo Vragus, Solidarity, San Diego Branch" [/i]
As usual for people backing programs that don’t have the support of the population on which the population might actually get to vote, they’ve been fighting via lawsuits.
The Wall Street Journal had a great op-ed piece on this issue the other day - and get a load of the ridiculous and condescending theory BAMN is advancing to try to get the signatures tossed out:
Michigan Meets Malcolm X
Gov. Granholm joins forces with a Trotskyite group to suppress democracy.
BY S.D. MELZER
Thursday, August 11, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
DETROIT–Liberals have been beating their collective breast in recent years over the Bush administration’s post-9/11 assault on civil liberties. But Michigan Democrats–from Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the State Board of Canvassers–have joined ranks with a radical, 1960s-style Trotskyite group to deny state residents the most basic of all rights: the right to vote.
The group, which lives in a Malcolm X-inspired fantasy world and calls itself By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), has been engaged in a long guerilla campaign to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) from getting on the state ballot.
This initiative, backed by Ward Connerly, the California businessman who successfully spearheaded a similar effort in his home state, seeks to end, once and for all, racial preferences in public universities and state government.
Polls have repeatedly shown that over 60% of Michigan voters oppose preferences, even though the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled them constitutional in a lawsuit challenging University of Michigan admission polices.
But instead of doing the hard work required in a democracy to convince voters, BAMN has been using its patented formula of political intimidation and legal harassment in an attempt to strangle the initiative in the crib. Last year, it disrupted initiative meetings on college campuses and tailed initiative signature-seekers, denouncing through bullhorns any student who approached them.
At the same time, it mounted a legal challenge questioning the language of the petition. Even though it lost twice, including in the Michigan Supreme Court, the delay made it impossible for MCRI to gather enough signatures for the 2004 ballot deadline. That will not be a problem for the 2006 ballot. MCRI has already obtained 500,000 signatures and the secretary of state’s office has certified around 450,000 of them–about 125,000 more than necessary.
Undeterred, BAMN is now trying to invalidate the signatures. And, unfortunately, instead of distancing itself from BAMN’s thuggish tactics, the Democratic establishment in Michigan is backing them with its political muscle.
BAMN alleges that MCRI signature gatherers engaged in “systematic and racially targeted” verbal fraud by claiming that the petition would protect affirmative action.
But BAMN’s evidence of fraud consists not of any audio or video recording of the deception, something that Stephen J. Safranek, the legal counsel for MCRI, notes it could have easily obtained given its habitual shadowing of signature-seekers. Rather, its evidence consists mostly of affidavits that BAMNers themselves signed after supposedly conducting phone interviews with duped voters. Only a handful of the affidavits were actually written and signed by the voters themselves.
Longstanding Democrat Mark Grebner–a political consultant who has advised BAMN and who supports affirmative action–believes that even if initiative representatives verbally misled voters, that is not sufficient to throw out the signatures. In a democracy, of course, voters bear the ultimate responsibility for reading any petition they sign.
Despite the flimsiness of BAMN’s case, the Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer has joined BAMN in condemning the Republican secretary of state for certifying the petition signatures–never mind that career civil servants with unimpeachable credentials verified the signatures using long-established methods.
Mr. Brewer is also accusing the Republican attorney general’s office of partisanship. Why? Because the Deputy Attorney General Gary P. Gordon–who also served under Ms. Granholm when she held the same office–wrote a letter rejecting Mr. Brewer and BAMN’s demand that the State Board of Canvassers investigate MCRI for fraudulent inducement.
Mr. Gordon’s letter pointed out that well-established case law limits the board’s powers to ensuring that the petition conforms to a prescribed form and has the requisite number of authentic signatures–not conducting wide-ranging investigations.
But the irony is that if anyone is co-opting the Board of Canvassers–a bipartisan office–for partisan ends, it is Mr. Brewer himself.
At a recent hearing held by the Board of Canvassers, supposedly to give both sides a fair opportunity to express their concerns, Mr. Brewer huddled with one of the Democratic members after the member called a five-minute recess. Soon after, the board split 2-1 along party lines (with the Granholm-appointed Republican member abstaining) and against the secretary of state’s recommendation refused to certify the petition–a move that even liberal editorial pages such as the Detroit Free Press and the Lansing State Journal condemned. MCRI has filed an appeal.
Incensed by the board’s shenanigans, the Michigan Legislature a few weeks ago approved a bill to limit the board’s powers. But Gov. Granholm vetoed the bill on the grounds that her approval might signal that she was ignoring allegations of fraud and misrepresentation against the Initiative.
“The governor’s move has made BAMN the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, its agent in circumventing the democratic process,” says Bill Ballenger, publisher of the highly respected and nonpartisan Inside Michigan Politics.
Why BAMN has no use for democracy is perfectly clear. In its totalitarian, morally righteous universe, political opponents deserve no voice. Those who reject racial preferences are not honorable individuals with different views–they are “racist devils.”
But what’s more troubling is the Michigan Democrats’ willingness to ally themselves with BAMN despite its contempt for the democratic process. As at the national level, there is an intellectual void, a lack of vision, among mainstream Democratic leaders in the state–a vacuum that extremist fringe groups are filling.
Ms. Melzer is a writer in Detroit.
Does anyone from Michigan have any first-hand observations and opinions about what’s going on up there? Or does anyone else know more about this?