The legislation is a marked departure from the government's treatment of legitimate Indian tribes, which must produce evidence to show that they have been in continuous existence since 1900 and have kinship and marriage, as well as cultural or religious, patterns that are distinctive. Indian tribes must also prove that their membership is based on historical tribes that have functioned as a political entity in the past -- none of which will be required for Native Hawaiians.
The recent debate over immigration has raised important questions about national identity, but conservative Republicans are no better than their Democrat colleagues in tackling this issue head-on. Republicans -- including illegal alien foe and Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner -- back bilingual ballots, for example.
When I testified at Judiciary Committee hearings against providing bilingual ballots, I felt a little like the skunk at the tea party. And Republicans have been almost as bad as Democrats in including racial preferences for supposedly underrepresented minorities in federal legislation, even voting again to include such preferences in legislation that had been the subject of a successful Supreme Court challenge in the 1995 Adarand v. Pena case.
What we need now is not more racial categories and special privileges, but fewer, especially in light of the changing demographics of the country. Instead of pushing legislation to create a whole new victim-group -- Native Hawaiians -- Republicans ought to get back to color-blind principles and a commitment to the melting pot.
But principles don't seem to matter to some members of Congress nearly as much as interest groups pushing an agenda. At this rate, it's hard to figure out what some Republicans really stand for anymore. Aside from support for aggressively challenging our enemies abroad, the GOP doesn't bear much resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan on much of anything these days.
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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