Although the new year has barely begun, one issue that will dominate state politics in 2006 is already clear. The deceptively named Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is all but certain to appear on the ballot this fall. Students at the University have a crucial role to play in the campaign to defeat this attack on a wide swath of the state’s residents. Unfortunately, the work of groups fighting MCRI, such as One United Michigan and Students Supporting Affirmative Action has often been overshadowed by BAMN’s outlandish and unproductive tactics. Pro-affirmative action groups need to redouble their efforts towards winning public support for affirmative action to defeat MCRI in this November’s election.
Some groups working to defeat MCRI have thus far relied on challenging the petition to put the initiative on the ballot, claiming that many signatures were fraudulently obtained. There is a startling amount of evidence to support the fraud allegations raised against the MCRI petition and, even Gov. Jennifer Granholm has acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations.
However, these fraud claims met with little success in the courts. The ruling last month by the state Court of Appeals that ordered the initiative to be placed on the 2006 ballot proved conclusively what was long clear – opponents of MCRI couldn’t stall it indefinitely through legal maneuvers. The only way to lay the initiative to rest is by ensuring its defeat at the ballot box.
Sadly, one of the most visible groups attempting to fight MCRI is also alienating the public. BAMN, the same organization that brought busloads of inner-city school children to a rally on the Diag last semester, made the news once again for unruly conduct during a Board of State Canvassers meeting last month. BAMN’s tactic of shouting down and disrupting the meeting – including an incident in which protestors flipped over a table – projects an unappealing image of affirmative action supporters. In order to win public support, affirmative action supporters should ensure their conduct is beyond reproach. Other pro-affirmative action organizations need to improve their visibility so that BAMN is seen for what it is – a small, radical group – rather than as the representative of the pro-affirmative action movement.
The battle against MCRI can and must be won. To do so, affirmative action supporters need to shift their efforts from the courtroom to the broader public, boosting their public relations efforts and getting out information about the radical nature of MCRI.
Many state voters, for instance, are likely unaware that prominent Republicans in state politics have come out against MCRI. Dick DeVos, the likely Republican candidate against Gov. Jennifer Granholm, has joined two of the three Republican hopefuls for Debbie Stabenow’s U.S. Senate seat with his opposition to MCRI. Whether out of true support for affirmative action or political expediency, the prominent Republican voices against MCRI back up the point that it is a radical proposal which will have far-ranging and unintended consequences. The passage of a similar proposal in California, for instance, has even led to cuts in women’s health and domestic violence programs.
The state cannot afford to pass a measure as flawed and counterproductive as MCRI. Voters must look past the spin initiated by proponents of the ill-advised measure and see MCRI for what it really is: an unjust proposal that threatens to reverse the social progress gained so far through affirmative action.