1. Webb v. Diversity: The Timing Question
Jim’s Webb’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Friday morning calling for an end to diversity programs and attacking the “myth” of white dominance will have everybody talking (for quite some time). In particular, why did Webb pick this moment to recycle a stance he took in 2006 to the effect that he’s opposed to most forms of affirmative action, except those that are limited to African-Americans? Is Webb attempting to initiate a genuine nationwide dialogue on fairness and diversity or is he making a political appeal to the white independents that recent polls indicate are abandoning Obama in significant numbers?
2. Democrats Respond to Webb
Democratic responses to Webb were all over the map. Donald McEachin praised him for courageously initiating a needed discussion about equal opportunity in contemporary America. Doug Wilder criticized the article, noting that Webb himself has been the political beneficiary of the movement and program that enabled African-Americans to have full voting rights in the Commonwealth. And most Democrats were unavailable for comment on Friday, grateful that they’d have the entire weekend to formulate a response to Webb’s bombshell. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t possibly see how prominent Virginia Democrats such as Bobby Scott, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine can ultimately endorse Webb’s position.
3. Hard Quotas and Soft Diversity
In addition, I think that further media inquiries will compel Senator Webb to explain just what kind of diversity programs he wants to eliminate. While there is widespread disenchantment (and legal prohibitions) against hard quotas, almost every large institution in the United States- governments, corporations, universities, police departments, etc.- embraces some form of diversity promotion. Is he against efforts by police departments to recruit more members of the minority communities in which they serve? Is he against mentorship programs for women in large corporations? Is he opposed to the special efforts that universities are making today to recruit first generation college students of all races? At the moment, Webb’s position is articulated in such general terms that it allows almost everyone to read into it whatever they want to see.
4. How Will the White House Respond?
Webb and Obama will be running together in Virginia in 2012 and it’ll be fascinating to watch how the Obama administration reacts to the Senator’s arguments. My sense is that the White House is unlikely (at least privately) to view the editorial very positively. Instead, they almost have to see it as the beginning of a Deeds-like dance in which Webb distances himself from the President on some matters while also hoping to benefit from Obama’s capacity to mobilize the Democratc base in 2012.
5. The Suprising McDonnell Numbers
Bob McDonnell was elected less than a year ago with almost 60% of the vote in Virginia. Despite a severe recession, a newly released VCU poll indicates that Virginians believes by a 47%-37% margin that the state is on the right track, compared to October, 2008 where the “wrong track” was leading by a 49%-40% margin. Yet the same poll provides job approval numbers for the Governor in which 52% of those who rate him say he’s doing a fair or poor job compared to 48% who say that he’s doing a good or excellent job. I’m not sure what’s going on here and why McDonnell’s numbers are relatively low despite a 19 point swing in right track numbers. Are citizens simply inclined to have an absolute “show me” position about any political figure? Is there what Nate Silver calls a “house effect” to the VCU survey where the people who are willing to speak with a university-based pollster are a little more left leaning with which to begin? Or does the fact that the poll surveyed “adult Virginians” and not registered voters have an impact? It’ll be interesting to watch whether the VCU results are a one-time anomaly or an indication of a real trend that not many observers had actually perceived.
6. The Best Summer Story
May be the poker saga in Portsmouth that Dave Foster and Janie Bryant are covering for The Virginian Pilot. In recent years, seven poker rooms have opened up in the city. The state law against gambling apparently makes an exception for “games of skill” and poker advocates in Portsmouth argue that winning is more dependent on skill than chance (which is absolutely true over an extended period of time). Until recently, Portsmouth has been reluctant to close the games and prosecute because of the “loophole” in the state law. This week, however, Commonwealth Attorney Earle Mobley has said that he is asking the police chief to notify the owners that they must close the poker rooms or face prosecution. Not everyone is ecstatic about the coming enforcement action. Foster and Bryant report that Beth Cross, Executive Director of the Help and Emergency Response Center, said “you just made my stomach drop” when she heard of the impending closure. It seems that The Poker Palace donates more money to the shelter than the state provides. And Foster and Bryant also note that until the rooms are shut down, security is being provided by………off-duty Portsmouth PD employees.