Representative Ted Lieu may be rethinking his position on affirmative action today.
Lieu, a Democrat who has been representing the 28th Senate District in the California State Senate, famously voted in favour of SCA5 — a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have repealed Prop 209 for public education and restore affirmative action to the state — in early January, only to later rescind his support for SCA5 in a joint letter signed by himself and two other Asian American politicians in the state (including disgraced representative and would-be gun runner Leland Yee). Lieu’s withdrawal of support for SCA5 came after his office was targeted by weeks of bitter objection from a subset of California Asian American voters, themselves misled by anti-affirmative action misinformation put forward by conservative PACs and ethnic media. Currently, Lieu is currently against 17 other candidates in a race for a Congressional seat vacated by retiring Congressman Henry Waxman, (D-Beverly Hills) and is considered one of the race’s front-runners.
In the joint letter withdrawing support for SCA5 issued in February, Lieu and his colleagues wrote:
As lifelong advocates for the Asian- American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children.
However, Proposition 209 has had a clear negative impact on California’s children: following passage of the law, admission rates for Black, Chicano and Native American applicants dropped precipitously with virtually no significant change in the overall rate of offers given to Asian American and White applicants.
In an 18-person race for the U.S. Congress, any candidate needs as much support as they can get. So, it’s a big deal when a representative loses endorsements, because it’s not only embarrassing, but it can also serve as a major blow to fund-raising and campaign energy.
Last week, 6 California legislators — all Democrats — issued their own joint letter to Ted Lieu. All 6 California legislators had previously endorsed Lieu’s candidacy for the US House of Representatives, but were now withdrawing support, citing concerns over Lieu’s commitment to diversity. They wrote:
As lifelong Democrats, we support the core democratic values of inclusion and diversity and we expect the candidates we support will share these values. Our constituents depend on us to take even the most divisive issues and use our leadership to help bring people together and guide the path toward progress.
At this point, we cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate who does not share that perspective.
The six legislators include 3 of Lieu’s State Senate colleagues — Sens. Ricardo Lara, Norma Torres and Holly Mitchell — as well as 3 California State Assemblymen: Lorena Gonzalez, Jose Medina and Anthony Renden.
So what’s the take-home message here? Race-based affirmative action is beneficial to the entire community, and is critical to help equalize access for underrepresented minority students to public education. An Asian American politician who takes a stand against affirmative action is taking a standing against diversity; and, if he chooses to take that stance, the least he can do is offer an explanation for his position. To date, neither he nor Liu or Yee — nor Congresswoman Judy Chu, for that matter — have offered an in-depth explanation to their constituents reconciling their core Democratic values of diversity and inclusion with their stance against affirmative action.
And, yes, we’re still waiting to hear from them.
— Reappropriate (@reappropriate) April 4, 2014