There is a ballot initiative in my native state of Michigan which would make all affirmative action programs (based on race or ethnicity) illegal under Michigan law (similar initiatives were passed in California and Washington state). Touchy subject, race. George Will tells us this morning that some opponents of the measure do not want “to argue the merits”:
>some opponents of MCRI have adopted four tactics, none of which involves arguing the merits of racial preferences and all of which attempt — in the name of “civil rights,” of course — to prevent Michiganders from being allowed to vote on MCRI. The tactics have included:
And he goes on to list four separate charges, which, if true (and let’s assume they are), demonstrate the hypocrisy (at least) of some opponents of the Michigan ballot measure. But demonstrating the hyprocisy of some of an initiative’s detractors does not demonstrate the forthrightness of some or any of its supporters. Nor does it mean they’re right. Lots of voters–even lots of serious political writers–do not want to argue the merits of their case; they’d rather argue about whether the opponent was wounded in Vietnam, or whether he’s an effete snob who would never shop at Wal Mart. The merits of the case–whatever they are (and if they are)–still wait around to be argued.
And now to that argument:
>Because the plain language of MCRI is appealing, some opponents argue that MCRI would have terrible “unintended consequences.” It might, they say, eliminate single-sex public schools (Michigan has none; eight of 3,748 schools have a few voluntary single-sex classes) and breast-cancer screening or might stop a Department of Natural Resources program aimed at helping Michigan women become hunters (the initiative concerns only hiring, contracting and public schools).
>Given the caliber of opposition arguments. . .
These are the best arguments Will could find? If so, it looks as if Will doesn’t want to argue the merits either. And least not seriously. He wants to (1) malign all of the supporters with the hyporcritical actions of some of them and (2) find the weakest arguments against the initiative he supports and make fun of them in order to lend support to the view that the supporters of the initiative
>are provoking remnants of the civil rights movement, which now is just a defender of a racial spoils system, to demonstrate its decadence, even thuggishness.
And everyone knows that’s a straw man.