Do Republicans actually stand for anything? I wonder sometimes, especially when GOP lawmakers make appeals to traditionally Democratic voters by trying to out-pander the Democrats. A handful of Senate Republicans are set to do so when Congress comes back after Labor Day and takes up a bizarre bill that could not only give the imprimatur to odious racial classifications but set the stage for secession for one state: Hawaii. The bill, S. 147, has been bottled up for months, thanks to the efforts of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who has valiantly fought the legislation for years without much help from his fellow Republicans. The legislation would grant so-called native Hawaiians status akin to that of American Indian tribes, including a measure of self-government.
Hawaii became a state in 1959. At the time, Americans were firmly committed to the idea of the Melting Pot. There was broad consensus that Hawaii's multi-racial population -- which included the descendants of Europeans, Asians, and the Polynesian inhabitants who came to islands from the South Pacific -- would be treated the same. Intermarriage among the various ethnic groups living on the island was widespread, and there was no effort to treat native Hawaiians as a separate racial group, much less a tribe. But nearly 50 years later, multiculturalism and racial preferences have permeated American society, and the push is now on to grant special status to some of Hawaii's citizens, depending on their racial lineage.
The legislation defines as "Native Hawaiian" anyone who is one of the "indigenous, native people of Hawaii," and who is a "direct lineal descendant of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people" who resided in the Hawaiian Islands before Jan. 1, 1893, when the United States took possession of the island from the reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. The definition is simply a racial classification of the kind normally suspect under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its purpose is to define members of a group who would be given special status -- including the right to self-government. The bill even empowers the new entity established by Native Hawaiians to "negotiate" with the existing state and federal governments over lands and natural resources, civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the "delegation of governmental powers" from the United States and the state of Hawaii to the new governing entity.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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