What Makes a Real Man: An Interview with Ward Connerly
BC: I've of two minds regarding James' opinion that you should sweat the small stuff. Has it been your experience that when you take care of the little things "the big stuff" falls into place?
Ward Connerly: I am and have always been equally conflicted by his view about this. On the one hand, staying focused on "the big picture" has served me well in virtually every campaign in which I have been engaged. There is enormous danger in losing one's sense of purpose when one gets "bogged down in details." On the other hand, if you don't pay attention to details, the overall objective can be undermined because something important "slips through the cracks." Loaded in my response is a bunch of cliches that underscore how much many of us are torn by this issue. I have come to believe that it is not an either-or circumstance but a balance of the two.
BC: In my adult life I have met no one who agrees with James' notion that if you're "not working all-out when you were on the clock [it's] tantamount to theft." Was it the sixties and the automatic questioning of authority that dispelled this work ethic from our lives? Is it possible to re-instill such values in children today?
Ward Connerly: Then you haven't met me yet, because I am in full agreement with Uncle James about this.
For decades, there has been a steady erosion of America's work ethic and in the concept of giving an honest day's work for your pay. This erosion cannot be viewed in isolation. For example, it was unthinkable back in the sixties for someone to unabashedly stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign that reads, "Will work for food." We were too proud to beg. With that relaxation came a sense of entitlement. In short, "if I am broke, you have a duty to help me out" seems to be the thinking that has evolved.
With James Louis, this notion was part of his total outlook. Values like "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you," don't take anything that doesn't belong to you, give an honest day's work for a day's pay -- all of these values formed Uncle James. Therefore, his work ethic did not stand in isolation; it was part of his overall value system. For him, work was an enjoyment and he was grateful to the company that gave him a job. Therefore, he owed it to the company, as a matter of honor, to give it full measure of what he promised when he accepted the job.
BC: As I read Lessons from My Uncle James, I was reminded of a quote from William F. Buckley -- "I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University" -- because James Louis was a man with little education, but one who seemed to know more about life than most of the folks in Congress. What would America have looked like had he ever been president?
Ward Connerly: Wow! What a great question!
First, the political bullsh*t factor would be greatly reduced, because Uncle James would tell the American people exactly what he thought. No spin! No punches pulled! In response to the current economy, he would say: "Get off your butts and stop whining. Find a job, any job, to support your families. Don't expect the taxpayers to take care of you. Stop buying things when you don't have the money."
America would be a nation in which the government would not distinguish one citizen from another based on skin color or race or ethnic background. Everyone would have equal rights and equal responsibilities. America would have no tolerance for illegal entry into our country, but once you became a citizen you would be treated like everyone else.
A James Louis administration would respect and honor the Second Amendment, because a "mane" needs to be able to hunt and provide for his family. Taxes would be low and government would be small, because President Louis wouldn't believe in taking money from private citizens except for the most essential of functions. Families would be stronger, because James Louis would place responsibility that is currently assumed by the government into the hands of families.
President Louis would make certain that the government would get out of the way of private businesses and citizens trying to earn a living. America would have a very high level of consciousness about the importance of freedom. James Louis would awaken and remind Americans of why their country is a great nation. America would be confident in its values, in its people, and in its way of life. To the rest of the world, he would say, "Don't mess with us," and he would mean it.
Americans would have more fun and laugh more, sometimes at but more often with President Louis. He would not take himself too seriously. America would operate at a slower pace than it does now. Many would be critical of that, but James Louis would say, "What's your hurry? Enjoy life!" President Louis would encourage us to go to church more often.
I think America with James Louis as president would look like America with Ronald Reagan as president, only more conservative.
BC: I've always wondered about the left's counterattacks against the Civil Rights Initiative. The logic behind its wording is irrefutable and non-offensive: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or contracting." Do they ever attack the idea behind the proposal or simply stick to ad hominem assaults against its proponents?
Ward Connerly: Frequently, the very idea of a "colorblind" government is the source of the attack. Opponents argue that such an idea is naive and unattainable; therefore, it should not be pursued. In addition, many of the opponents of these initiatives argue that because America has been "racist" and "sexist" in its past, the country has an obligation to "level the playing field" for women and minorities, and the policy implicit in the language of our Civil Rights Initiative prevents the pursuit of that objective. More often than not, however, the opponents of these initiatives realize the irrefutability of the language and resort to ad hominem attacks as a way of discrediting the messenger since they are incapable of discrediting the message.
BC: It strikes me as very sad that in America today blacks are only allowed to have one political viewpoint. If one doesn't back the Democratic Party then you're illegitimate -- or a term far worse. Do you think Barack Obama's winning 95 percent of the black vote was a step backwards for the nation in terms of identity politics?
Ward Connerly: I detest identity politics, because it divides Americans into arbitrary groups and it sometimes results in mediocrity. Yet, we must ask how most Italians would have voted for Rudy Guiliani had he been on the ballot or how Mormons would have voted had Mitt Romney been one of the two major candidates. How would those respective groups have voted in the aggregate? It is undeniably true that racial, religious, and gender considerations are significant to many as they weigh how to vote.
It is equally true that the more a group of people perceive themselves to be oppressed, the greater likelihood there is that such a group will embrace racial or religious solidarity when it comes to casting their vote for "one of their own." Thus, I am somewhat hopeful that in the fullness of time black people will be less likely to vote as blindly as they did this past November. If that does not happen, then the 2008 presidential election may be characterized at some future point as a gigantic step backward in terms of identity politics.
BC: So far, Obama has marched lockstep with leftists in regards to statism and radical feminism. Is there any chance, in your mind, that he might take a more neutral stand on affirmative action in the future?
Ward Connerly: Some believe that President Obama, based on his comments in an interview with George Stephanopoulos last year, will move toward socioeconomic affirmative action instead of race-based affirmative action. Although I would applaud such a move, I am highly skeptical of that happening. "Affirmative action," as a system of preferences designed to benefit women and "minorities," is supported by the two most prominent pillars of the "progressive" cartel -- women and "minorities." Such programs are a political article of faith with black people. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that President Obama would muster the courage to alter his stance on affirmative action. The most that he might do is supplement class with race, gender, and ethnic background, not supplant those factors.
BC: Thank you for your time, Mr. Connerly.