Center for Equal Opportunity

The nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.


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Donald Trump Ends Up Where He Started

Donald Trump's immigration "pivot" has been more like a whirling dervish act these past few weeks. He's gone from meeting with Hispanic leaders, promising to soften his position, to sending out his surrogates to make mutually contradictory promises that he definitely would or would not find a way to allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. Then on Wednesday, he jetted off to Mexico for a photo-op with President Enrique Pena Nieto. He held a short and mild-mannered news conference afterward but ended the day delivering a rant in Phoenix that reiterated his commitment to deport everyone here illegally and also his goal of restricting legal immigration in radical ways. So what are voters left with, besides a bad case of vertigo?

Most commentators after Trump's speech focused on his tough line on getting rid of immigrants already here illegally. Indeed, he broke new ground in his Phoenix speech, promising to revoke not only President Barack Obama's executive action giving temporary reprieve from deportation to the undocumented parents of American-born children but also Obama's earlier, mostly noncontroversial executive action that temporarily shielded undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children. The courts struck down President Obama's executive action for parents of American-born children but did not touch the exemption for young adults who came illegally as children. Trump now seems ready to deploy his new "deportation force" to rid the country of law-abiding young people who've lived here for as long as they can remember and know no other home.

This callousness has already prompted some of Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council to quit, most notably Alfonso Aguilar, former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship in the George W. Bush administration, businessman Jacob Monty and Pastor Ramiro Pena, who offered a stinging rebuke after the speech. "The 'National Hispanic Advisory Council' seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam," Politico reports Pena as writing to campaign and Republican National Committee officials.

Less noticed in Trump's speech were his words on legal immigration -- but in many ways, they are the most radical thing he said. Trump has, from the beginning of his campaign, surrounded himself with immigration hard-liners, not just people concerned about illegal immigration. It's no coincidence that accompanying Trump on his visit south of the border was Sen. Jeff Sessions, arguably the most anti-immigrant politician since Sen. William Paul Dillingham, whose opposition to immigrants from southern and eastern Europe resulted in the first mass restriction legislation in the early 1900s. And whenever Trump cites studies on the supposed ill effect of immigration, they are usually from the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, which not only opposes illegal immigration but, more importantly, wants to put strict limits on legal immigration, as well.

Conservatives have tried to argue for years that they are not anti-immigrant, just anti-illegal immigration. And most, I believe, are sincere. But goaded by Sessions and restrictionist organizations such as CIS, Trump made clear in Phoenix that he wants to return to the days of Dillingham.

"We take anybody," Trump said, referring to current law. "Come on in, anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore," he vowed. What he was promising was to roll back the 1965 immigration law that abolished quotas on national origins put in place a half-century earlier to favor immigrants from northern Europe. In its place, Trump says he wants "to keep immigration levels measured by population share within historical norms," and he's not talking about recent years or even the levels of the early 20th century. He wants fewer immigrants, period, and he wants to make sure immigration does not upset the historical racial balance of the U.S.

Trump also said he will "select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society." The language may sound benign, but the sentiment is not all that different from what prompted Dillingham and others in the early 20th century to want to keep out Italians, Slavs and others deemed inferior to people of northern European descent.

It's easy to forget that anti-immigrant fervor isn't new. Trump and his most fervent followers may want to bar Mexicans and other Latinos now, but the grandparents of many of the people gathered in Phoenix this week to hear Trump speak faced the same opposition when they came from Ireland, Italy, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland -- and, yes, Germany, where Trump's grandfather was born.

Donald Trump's runaround on immigration the past week leaves him right about where he started -- demonizing people based on not just how they got here but where they come from.

Trump's Amnesty Plan

It would be funny if the stakes weren't so deadly serious. Donald Trump, who launched his campaign for the presidency by attacking Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals," is suddenly embracing the idea of working out a way to give legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been here a long time and have kept out of trouble.

Trump won't call it amnesty, of course, but his position is little different from what's in the "Gang of Eight" bill his allies on conservative talk radio and cable shows have been deriding as amnesty for years. Of course, Trump's position could change again between the time you begin reading this column and the time you finish it, but for the moment, let's take Trump at his (latest) word.

In a town hall meeting hosted by Sean Hannity this week, Trump said the following: "Everybody agrees we get the bad ones out. But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, 'Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person that's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump.' I mean, I have it all the time. It's a very, very hard thing." Indeed.

Trump said his version isn't amnesty. "No citizenship. Let me go a step further: They'll pay back taxes. They have to pay taxes. There's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, but we work with them," he said.

Has Trump even read the Senate's Gang of Eight bill?

The legislation, sponsored by four Republicans -- Sens. John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake -- passed the Senate in 2013 but subsequently died in the House after conservative talk radio and cable news shows sparked a populist assault on the bill by crying "Amnesty!" But many of the bill's actual provisions would be much tougher than Trump's latest, admittedly sketchy, plan.

Immigrants who entered illegally would have to not only pay back taxes but also pay a $1,000-per-person fine, learn English and remain employed. Though the bill would provide a so-called path to citizenship, following that path would take a long, long time. During the first 10 years, the immigrants would be eligible for renewable temporary permits and then could apply for permanent residency. Only after three additional years -- 13 years in total -- could they apply for citizenship, and they would have to meet all the usual requirements to qualify.

Most importantly, all the provisions easing access to legal status for the undocumented would require that the government demonstrate that border security has improved significantly. Toward that end, the legislation would include an additional $3 billion in funding for more drones and other security measures, allow for the hiring of 3,500 additional border agents, and appropriate another $1.5 billion for more border fencing. The Department of Homeland Security would have to demonstrate it has achieved 100 percent surveillance along the Mexican border and can apprehend 90 percent of unlawful crossers at high-intensity cross points along the southern border before any permanent status or citizenship could take place. Moreover, no previously undocumented immigrant would be provided permanent resident status until all current legal applicants receive their green cards.

The bill is far from perfect, but it's not the free ticket to citizenship for lawbreakers that its detractors claim. Trump's latest comments that it makes no sense to deport millions of people who have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more -- which constitutes two-thirds of the undocumented immigrants here now -- are a far cry from what he had been saying for the previous 14 months. If he were a serious man rather than a provocateur, he'd have figured this out a long time ago. Better late than never? Maybe. We'll see how long he sticks to this new proposal after the anti-immigrant crowds he's stirred up turn on him.

The IRS Should Call Trump's Bluff

For 40 years, Americans have had a chance to review the tax returns of major party candidates running for the presidency. But this year, the Republican nominee says he "can't" release his returns because they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has said nothing prevents a candidate under audit from releasing his or her returns, but Donald Trump still balks. He has not flatly refused to release the returns, which some might view as suspicious, so here's a solution to the dilemma: The IRS should close the audit of Trump's most recent returns immediately. He will have no excuse then and will either have to release them or, as I suspect he might, stonewall, thus confirming his critics' worst suspicions.

IRS audits are the government's way to ensure taxpayers aren't cheating. But for wealthy individuals who have multiple business interests and income earned from a variety of sources, audits are pretty routine. For someone as wealthy as Trump claims to be, his chances are about one in 50. So his audit doesn't necessarily mean he's done anything wrong. But his secrecy does raise red flags. Richard Nixon -- a president not known for his openness -- released his returns while still under audit in 1973. And Mitt Romney eventually released his, though he waited until the fall of 2012, which probably brought more scrutiny and criticism than if he'd done it earlier. In campaigns, the general rule is: release bad news early and hope it will be forgotten by Election Day.

If Trump does owe more in taxes than he's paid over the last several years, closing the audit would mean the government might not be able to automatically force payment of those taxes. So the U.S. Treasury would be a few million dollars poorer. But isn't transparency worth that cost? Of course, closing the audit would not allow the IRS itself to reveal the returns -- that's a felony -- but it would force Trump's hand. He's said many things about his returns, but perhaps Trump can be held to this tweet reprinted in Politico this week: "In interview I told @AP that my taxes are under routine audit and I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!"

Closing the audit would not prevent the IRS from prosecuting Trump for tax fraud later if he intentionally misrepresented information on his return. While there is a three-year limit on collecting back taxes, there is no statute of limitations on fraudulent returns. So the risk in releasing Trump from audit is minor compared to the risk of giving him an excuse to avoid honoring his pledge.

Many pundits and Trump critics have speculated about why Trump won't release his returns. Some think he's not nearly as rich as he claims -- I fall into this category -- and believe Trump pays almost nothing in taxes. There's good reason to assume this speculation is correct. Trump's returns from the late 1970s, which he provided for the New Jersey gambling commission in order to open his casino, showed he paid $0 in taxes for the previous two years at a time when he claimed to the New York Times he was worth $200 million.

A look at Trump's return would doubtless find that the billionaire is stingy. According to an investigation by the Washington Post, which examined gifts to 188 charities Trump has either claimed he's given to or whose events he attended, he's given almost nothing. The Post found that contrary to Trump's boasts about the millions he gives, he's made only a single, verifiable donation between 2008 and May 2016 -- less than $10,000 to the Police Athletic League of New York City. Nor has Trump given anything to his own charitable foundation since 2008.

But the biggest worry is that Trump may be in hock to Russian banks, which would show up in his returns. Again, there is ample fuel for such speculation. Trump's reputation with American banks isn't great; he's got a history of trying to stiff them. His lender of choice is Deustche Bank, but he's had a rough relationship even with them involving suits and countersuits when Trump refused to pay back what he owed. According to Trump's financial disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission, he owes at least $335 million on more than a dozen large bank loans. But the sum may be much higher since the disclosure only lists rough categories, the largest of which is $50 million or more per loan.

The public has a right to know Donald Trump's complicated financial dealings before voters go to the polls. If it takes suspending his audit to force Trump to come clean, the IRS should do it today. And if Trump won't honor his pledge, voters should know he's hiding something.

Facebook Breaks the Law

The Wall Street Journal had an article last week about how Facebook, in an attempt to increase its workforce “diversity,” gave its in-house recruiters a paid incentive to encourage applications from people who weren’t white or Asian males. That is: “Previously, recruiters were awarded one point for every new hire. Under the new system, they could earn 1.5 points for a so-called ‘diversity hire’ — a black, Hispanic or female engineer — according to people familiar with the matter. More points can lead to a stronger performance review for recruiters and, potentially, a larger bonus, the people said.”

As I immediately pointed out (on National Review Online and in a Wall Street Journal comment), Facebook’s approach is illegal. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a), says, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer — . . .  to . . . classify his . . .  applicants for employment in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 

I’ll be expecting an investigation by the Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission right away.

Mismatch at Smith – Inside Higher Ed reports that two professors have complained about a “mismatch” problem at Smith College.  And, predictably, the fact that they would make such a complaint has resulted in them being labeled as racist.

“Extreme Vetting” – Donald Trump recently called for the “extreme vetting” of potential immigrants.  Well, whatever you call it, here’s my top-ten list of what we should expect from those who want to become Americans (and those who are already Americans, for that matter). The list was first published in a pre-9/11 National Review Online column, and it is fleshed out in Congressional testimony:

1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity.
2. Respect women.
3. Learn to speak English.
4. Be polite.
5. Don’t break the law.
6. Don’t have children out of wedlock.
7. Don’t demand anything because of your race or ethnicity.
8. Don’t view working and studying hard as “acting white.”
9. Don’t hold historical grudges.
10. Be proud of being an American.

Are “Microaggressions” Migrating to the Workplace? – The answer to that question, alas, may be yes.  George Leef’s recent Forbes column discusses a recent complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by an employee who thought a “Don’t Tread on Me” cap worn by another employee was racist.  The EEOC seems to be taking this pretty seriously, and Mr. Leef is not amused.  As with similar complaints in the campus context, there are First Amendment concerns here, and the column discusses them, too.

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Finally, you might be interested in this memorandum that the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Pacific Legal Foundation recently sent to the city council and mayor of Austin, Texas (CEO sends many of these every year to various state and local governments that are contemplating the use of preferential treatment in their contracting):

To: City Council & Mayor
Austin, Texas

From: Roger Clegg, Center for Equal Opportunity
Meriem L. Hubbard, Pacific Legal Foundation

Re: Discrimination in city contracting

Our understanding, based on various news stories, is that the City is considering the role that race, ethnicity, and sex should play in the award of municipal contracts, in light of a disparity study that was completed earlier this year.

We are writing to urge the City to be race-, ethnicity-, and gender-neutral in all its contracting programs.

We know that frequently disparity studies are used to try to justify legally something that in our opinion the City should not want to do — that is, engage in discrimination — but such studies no longer offer that legal justification. What’s more, disparity studies are frequently revealed to be defective, and even fraudulent. This has happened quite recently, by the way. See, e.g., . It is also worth noting that frequently these programs end up discriminating not only against nonminorities but also against members of some racial and ethnic minority groups. See, e.g.,

To elaborate: The City can undertake race-, ethnicity-, and gender-neutral measures to ensure that the bidding process is fair and open, with or without a disparity study. It can, that is, make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex.

A disparity study is needed, supposedly, if the City wants to have a legal justification for non-neutral measures, like “targets”
and “goals” and so forth. But the City should not want to engage in such preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex, even if it had a legal justification for it, since such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption; and it costs the taxpayers and businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder. What’s more, it is very doubtful that, in 2016, a disparity study would justify preferential policies, since there will always be nonpreferential ways to remedy any disparities in treatment that are found.

… See also this model brief our two organizations have prepared and posted for those wishing to challenge preferential contracting programs:

Thank you very much for your attention to our concerns.

School Discipline and Political Correctness

My response to a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial was published last week by that paper in its “Correspondent of the Day” feature, and I thought I would make the issues it discusses the focus of this week’s email. 

My response was titled “Undisciplined students hurt the entire class,” and here it is:

You made two points in your recent editorial “Political Correctness” that were spot on. Both issues involved the Obama administration’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. In each instance, the administration has indeed “fixated on leftist identity politics.”

In the first instance, the department has reacted to the serious issue of sexual assaults on campuses with decidedly unserious guidance for universities, urging them to stack the deck against alleged violators who may not have been violators at all. The second matter is even more absurd. The administration is creating a strong presumption that any school system in which discipline policies have a disproportionate statistical result for this or that racial or ethnic group is illegally discriminatory.

But the fact is that there can be wide variations in a school district among different groups when it comes to misbehavior. The title of a recent article in the Journal of Criminal Justice neatly sums this up: “Prior problem behavior accounts for the racial gap in school suspensions.”

The Obama administration’s insistence on de facto racial quotas is what is really illegal. What’s more, it is bad policy. If students who should be disciplined are not disciplined, this penalizes their classmates who will be trying to learn in unruly classrooms. Those students are themselves likely to be African-Americans from poor backgrounds.

Somehow, those enamored of leftist identity politics always forget about the interests of the law-abiding members of poor communities, even though they are in the majority.

My discussion prompted a lot of comment from readers, both positive and negative.  Hans Bader — who is an expert on these issues and works at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a frequent ally of the Center for Equal Opportunity — kindly helped answer some of the critics.  He noted:

The above letter was written by former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general Roger Clegg, a civil-rights expert. He carefully read the Education Department "Dear Colleague" letter he is criticizing in his letter to the editor. Links to the study he mentions in his letter can be found in my 2014 column in the Daily Caller, which supports everything Clegg says in his letter. Clegg is arguing that colorblind school discipline rules should not be overridden by "disparate impact" rules being interpreted to require racial quotas in school discipline, which violate the federal appeals court decision in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997).

Hans then added:

The Department of Education, where I used to work as a lawyer, is wrongly pressuring schools to adopt racial quotas in school suspensions, ignoring research showing that black students have higher misbehavior rates because they are more likely to come from broken homes. As Katherine Kersten noted this year in the Star-Tribune, black students’ "discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more.”  …

Many thanks, Hans! 

I’ll add that my analysis of the DoEd guidance when it first came out was published by National Review Onlinehere.

Finally, I should say that the original editorial by the Richmond Times-Dispatch is itself well worth reading:

The Education Department's double standard on school discipline

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and on the issue of political correctness Donald Trump has a point. For evidence, just look at the Education Department’s ridiculous double standard on school discipline.

In 2011, in response to perfectly legitimate and reasonable concerns about the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campuses across the country, the department sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter with an unreasonable demand. It instructed colleges and universities to lower the standard of proof in cases of alleged sexual assault. Instead of requiring “clear and convincing” evidence, the department said, schools should require only a “preponderance of the evidence,” the better to find students guilty.

Law professors across the country have condemned that standard for violating the rights of the accused — and it’s not hard to see why. Colorado State University-Pueblo recently expelled a student-athlete for sexual assault even though the woman in question said their relationship was consensual, told investigators “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped,” and the two had sex again later.

The Education Department is now investigating 192 colleges and universities for not prosecuting sexual misconduct cases more aggressively. And yet for grades K-12, the Education Department has been hammering schools for being too aggressive on school discipline, especially when it comes to suspensions, because of their alleged “disparate impact” on minorities.

Two years ago the department issued guidance warning schools that they “violate Federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies” if those policies affect minority students more than non-minority students. Under that standard, a school that metes out exactly the same punishment to every student who breaks the rules is not discriminating if black students commit fewer infractions per capita — but it is discriminating if they happen to commit more.

Since schools cannot punish white students who have done nothing wrong, at certain times the only way to avoid this dilemma, and hence the wrath of federal officials, will be to refrain from punishing minority students in cases where the students are at fault.
In short, an Education Department fixated on leftist identity politics has incentivized colleges and universities to convict some students who might be innocent — and incentivized K-12 schools not to convict some students who might be guilty. For liberals trying to unpack the mystery of Donald Trump’s appeal, this would be a good place to start.

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Just a few words on the recent party conventions:  Hated to see Ivanka Trump cite the phony “women-get-paid-78-cents-on-the-dollar” figure in the speech introducing her father.  Amused at the decision to have the Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing as the balloons dropped for Donald Trump.  Irritated to see Tim Kaine going back and forth between English and Spanish in his acceptance speech.  Really irritated to see Hillary Clinton decrying America’s supposed “systemic racism” and, therefore, calling for the “reform our criminal justice system from end to end” in hers.

Email Scandal

Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls, but the public still doesn't entirely trust her. This week, those suspicions focused on the candidate's relationship to the organization her husband founded, which she joined following her tenure as secretary of state. Appointees to high office must avoid not just actual conflicts of interest but the appearance of conflict, and the since-renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation's aggressive pursuit of donations from individuals and governments that might want special access to the State Department made it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid such conflicts. Thanks to Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, we now have evidence that the Clintons may have crossed the line.

In a batch of emails newly released this week as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, we see concrete proof that foundation staff sought access to top-level State Department officials on behalf of donors. In some cases, doors appeared to open for donors; in others, it is less clear. But in several cases, the foundation sought help from two of Hillary Clinton's top, longtime aides: Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. No quid pro quo is necessary to determine that such contact was highly inappropriate.

In a normal election cycle this story would be dominating the news -- but Donald Trump's comments that maybe "Second Amendment people" could do something to stop a President Clinton from appointing unfriendly judges managed to take the focus off Clinton and put it on Trump once again. Nonetheless, this story has legs, and Clinton must come to terms with the problems the Clinton Foundation poses to a Clinton presidency.

Neither Bill Clinton, president of the foundation, nor daughter Chelsea, who is vice chair, have announced what their relationship to the eponymous foundation will be should Hillary become president. Resigning their posts would seem a prerequisite to avoid actual conflicts, but I believe they would be wise to go much further. Even the name of the foundation presents problems. Donors would perceive gifts to a foundation named for a former and current president and their daughter as their way of showing "appreciation," not simply fostering good deeds. Whether or not the Clintons and their aides provided access to such individuals, the donation would always raise suspicions. The first step, then, in avoiding such conflicts would be to drop the Clinton name. Why not rename the group simply the Global Initiative, which the foundation uses in the titles of many of its projects?

But even that would not be enough, so long as the charity was headed by Clinton allies and staffed with Clinton stalwarts. The best way to avoid the problem would be for the Clintons to hand over the leadership to a prominent Republican, a former governor, senator or president. George H.W. Bush is probably too old to assume the duties, but what about George W. Bush? No, I'm not kidding. President Bush was very active in the fight against AIDS and malaria in Africa, among other humanitarian efforts. Certainly no one could accuse donors to a foundation headed by such a prominent Republican as trying to curry favor with a Democratic president. If naming a Bush to head up the group is a bridge too far, the Clintons could appoint co-chairs or co-presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, and make sure the executive director had no previous ties to the expansive Clinton network.

The Clintons have always relied on "friends" to get them what they wanted, whether it was getting deals on investment properties on the White River; making miraculously profitable trades on the commodity markets; or securing huge donations to charities that would burnish the Clinton legacy.

And they've managed to enrich themselves along the way, earning fabulous speaking fees: Bill has a talent for public speaking that could possibly justify those fees, but no one could say the same for Hillary. And it was those fees that helped turn the couple from being "flat broke" when they left the White House (as Hillary claimed in an interview) to being worth more than a hundred million today. No president in recent history has cashed in on the presidency to the degree Bill Clinton has, and part of the reason is that Hillary moved into a position of power just as Bill was relinquishing his, first as a U.S. senator then as secretary of state.

If the Clintons don't give up their ties to the Clinton Foundation entirely should Hillary become president, you can bet they will be hounded by skeptical Republicans in Congress, who will haul the foundation into hearings and maybe even try to bring in the president herself. The last thing she needs if she assumes office is to keep feeding the suspicion that she's not entirely trustworthy. So, why not get out front now? Who knows, she might even boost her favorability ratings by a few points.

What I Want in a President

More than 20 million Americans watched some or all of the Republican and Democratic conventions these past two weeks, though how much crossover there was between the two is unknown. For those of us who watched both, the differences were stark and confusing. Donald Trump's convention painted a dismal view of the American landscape: a nation at war -- besieged by terrorists, criminals and cheating foreigners -- losing on all fronts and able to be saved only by electing a strongman who will bring law and order.

Hillary Clinton's convention was more optimistic, but its pledges of more income equality and new entitlements, such as free college tuition, sounded distinctly like a socialist utopia. There were more flags at the Republican convention, but the Democrats talked more about love of country, with speakers from Michelle and Barack Obama to Cory Booker extolling American exceptionalism in language reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Watching the two, I felt the world had been turned upside down.

With voters telling pollsters that they are unhappy with both major-party presidential nominees, the next three months will be a roller-coaster ride -- and as with riding a roller coaster, many voters will hold on tight, shut their eyes and end up screaming.

I want to be able to vote for a candidate for president, but I will only vote for someone who offers at least some of the following. I want a president who offers a clear, integrated approach to dealing with terrorism that incorporates better intelligence, cyber efforts to take down radical Islamic websites that pose a clear and present danger to America and our allies, and increased U.S.- and NATO-led strikes on Islamic State-held territories in Iraq and Syria. I want a president who will honor our commitments to NATO and our allies in Asia and elsewhere and one who will maintain our current free trade agreements within our hemisphere and seek broader agreements that expand our markets elsewhere.

I want a president who understands that our economy depends on a healthy private sector, where government doesn't play favorites or discourage investment and innovation. I want someone who will take a hard look at government regulations and keep those that truly protect safety and eliminate those that simply create busywork and jobs for bureaucrats. My ideal president would be courageous enough to take on entitlement reform, which includes taking on the biggest special interest group in America, seniors like me who draw Social Security checks and Medicare benefits. But he or she would also look at our so-called safety net programs to see whether they really are a temporary helping hand or they are a permanent crutch that discourages work.

I want our next president to know that immigrants helped build this country and continue to make it grow more prosperous every day. I want him or her to encourage more people to come legally, but I also want those newcomers to have the skills America needs and a willingness to learn our language and take pride in becoming American as every group before them has, including the most recent Hispanic immigrants.

I want a president who will unite us, not divide us. I'm tired of appeals based on race, ethnicity, sex and economic status. I want a president who appeals to the better angels of our nature, not one who sees one part of our population as ripping off the other or one group as victimizing another.

I want someone who understands that our most intractable social problems -- from poverty to unequal educational achievement to crime -- can be traced not to race but to the breakdown in the two-parent family. And I want that president to speak honestly and openly about this issue and to evaluate every government program to see whether it encourages or it discourages the formation and support of two-parent families.

At the moment, neither major-party candidate offers much, if anything, that I'm looking for. Worse, the next four years promises not an end to the roller-coaster ride but more of the same. The best we can hope for is that whichever candidate is elected, we'll be able to step off the ride with nothing more than a queasy stomach.

Some Blunt Talk on Race

Many African Americans have blown it.  By no means all, but many.  By no means only African Americans, as I’ll discuss in later, but a disproportionate number of them.

African Americans finally and rightly achieved great equality of law, and along with it much greater equality of opportunity than they had ever had, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the 1960s.  But they have failed to take advantage of it.  

It’s a sad irony that, at the same time something good was happening for them, sometime bad was happening, too.  This is not to say that great progress hasn’t been made in shrinking various socioeconomic gaps between African Americans and other groups, but the progress could have been much greater.

To be blunt:  The reason I say that African Americans have blown it is because, at the same time that they were achieving so much, they abandoned marital childbearing.  At the same time the civil-rights advances were occurring, the black family started to implode, so that now 71 percent of African Americans are born out of wedlock.

And now those in organizations on the left like Black Lives Matter are blaming others for this failure by too many African Americans.  Yet it is this failure that accounts for the persistence of racial disparities, not racial discrimination.   For raising children without fathers results in more crime, more poverty, more unemployment, more substance abuse, more high-school dropouts — you name the social problem, and it goes along with illegitimacy, and that includes the problem of illegitimacy itself, which has become intergenerational and culturally ingrained.

And, what’s more, the persistence of racial discrimination is itself caused by the racial disparities as much as it is a cause of them.  Racial stereotypes are not, alas, completely divorced from reality. 

Recall the confession years ago of Jesse Jackson — yes, Jesse Jackson of all people — that if he hears footsteps behind him on a dark street he is relieved when a nervous glance back over his shoulder reveals that the two youths behind him are white, not black.

Why did this happen — why, that is, did the African American family implode at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement was triumphing? 

I don’t know.  John McWhorter, a decade ago in his book Winning the Race, blamed it on the hippies — or, more precisely, on the cavalier liberal attitude in the 1960s toward sexual promiscuity.  It’s as good a theory as any I’ve heard.  The same forces that gave us the Civil Rights Movement also gave us the Great Society, and with the latter came a decidedly anti-bourgeois mentality.  But, as Irving Kristol warned, it’s a mistake to look down on the bourgeoisie, and we ignore its values at our peril. 

Upper class whites were able to recover from the sixties nonsense.  Lower-income blacks, not so much.

Whatever the cause of that 71 percent number, in any event, what is to be done now? 

Here again, I’m afraid that it’s hard to say.  You can’t pass laws against illegitimacy and promiscuity.  These are fundamentally moral problems.  My own view is that we need another Great Awakening.  And of course that’s something else that can’t be legislated.

But the good news is that the out-of-wedlock birthrate can go from 71 percent to 0 percent in exactly 9 months without it costing anyone a dime.  All that’s necessary if for African Americans — and, in particular, African American women — to will it.  

I stress women not because they are more culpable.  To the contrary, biology being what it is, I think it is more likely that they can be persuaded to behave responsibly than men, especially young men.  And women, after all, are the ones more likely to bear the brunt of the problems of single parenthood. 

I’m under no illusions, though:  This message has to be carried by someone like Oprah Winfrey, or better yet whoever the younger version of her is these days, rather than an old white guy like yours truly.

And, while I’m focusing on African Americans here, let me also hasten to add that all of this is true for members of other racial and ethnic minority groups — and for whites, too

Indeed, much is being made now of the collapse of strong families and the concurrent rise of social pathologies in large swaths of white America.  That seems to be the theme of J.D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.  That was also the point of Charles Murray’s earlier book, Coming Apart.

That’s all true.  This is really not about race.  Bad behavior leads to bad results for any demographic group, and bad behavior for any demographic group is strongly correlated with raising children in a home without a father.

*          *          *

Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed by the head of the Obama administration’s Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, calling on Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision three years ago in Shelby County v. Holder.  She wants, that is, to resurrect the “preclearance” provision in the Voting Rights Act, which requires many state and local jurisdictions to get advance permission from her minions before making any changes in voting practices or procedures.

My published response in the Washington Post can be read here:

No new legislation is needed. The Supreme Court invalidated only one provision in the Voting Rights Act, and that provision was indeed unconstitutional. There are plenty of voting-rights laws on the books to ensure that the right to vote is protected.

In every other area of civil rights law, if someone believes his rights have been violated, he has to prove it in court. That is fair, and there is no reason that our voting laws should be any different.

Liberal lawyers would prefer to be able to get their way without proving anything, simply working behind the scenes with left-of-center bureaucrats to block laws they dislike. They are not concerned about ballot integrity and use racial gerrymandering to advance their own interests.

Also, the principal bill that has been drafted is bad legislation. It does not protect all races equally from discrimination, contains much that has nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision and violates the Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not actually racially discriminatory but have only racially disproportionate effects.

No Unity, No Victory

Conventions are usually pretty boring affairs, but this week's Republican convention was anything but. Apparently, Donald Trump thinks that's a good thing for the party he now leads. Midweek, Trump tweeted about the controversy surrounding his wife's partially plagiarized Monday speech: "Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!"

If chaos, disorganization and mixed messages on policy are a mark of success, Trump had a banner week. But for those of us watching to see whether Trump could bring a badly fractured party and country together, it was a disaster.

The Trump campaign's refusal to acknowledge that parts of Melania's speech were taken word for word from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention dominated the news for almost three days. It could have been a one-day story, but the campaign's adamant, blatantly false denials turned it into three. And no sooner had Team Trump put one controversy to bed than it stoked another.

Ted Cruz's failure to endorse the nominee was, apparently, no surprise to the campaign. Staffers had a copy of his speech for three days prior to his delivering it. So why did they extend his time from 10 minutes to 20? The only possible explanation is that they hoped for exactly what happened on the convention floor -- the booing and jeering of Cruz.

But the melee also managed to upstage the evening's star, Mike Pence. Trump's vice presidential pick was supposed to add gravitas to the ticket. Pence warned in his speech that the United States "cannot have four more years apologizing to our enemies and abandoning our friends. America needs to be strong for the world to be safe." But no sooner had he uttered those words than The New York Times published an interview with Trump done earlier that day, which threw those sentiments under the bus.

Trump told The New York Times that he would reverse 67 years of American foreign policy by disregarding Article 5 of the NATO treaty if he felt that member nations haven't "fulfilled their obligations to us." He also said he'd shred NAFTA "in a split second." These are treaties signed by presidents of the United States and ratified by the U.S. Senate.

A Trump administration would mean adios to the rule of law and welcome to rule of one. For those actually listening to what he says he would do, it sounds like a more bellicose version of the current administration -- with the president following the laws he likes and disregarding or rewriting those he doesn't.In a normal election cycle, this would be enough to defeat a candidate. President Gerald Ford's re-election odds famously plummeted when he declared in a presidential debate, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe," arguing that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet interference. In 1976, such blunders could actually doom a candidate. This year, Trump's gaffes have been so numerous and outrageous that no single misstatement or insult seems to stick.

Even Trump's disparaging remarks about America in that same Times article will probably go unnoticed. "When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don't think we are a very good messenger," he said when asked why he seemed to be defending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's jailing of 50,000 people after the failed coup that tried to oust the leader.

Trump also called for pulling out U.S. troops from South Korea, noting that if we hadn't stayed on the peninsula after the Korean conflict, "maybe you would have had a unified Korea." Apparently, it doesn't matter to Trump that that would most likely mean one under the rule of Kim Jong Un, about whom Trump has admiringly said, "You've got to give him credit. ... He goes in; he takes over; and he's the boss. It's incredible."

There is no doubt that Trump's true believers will end the week thinking their guy is a winner. But I can't imagine that most undecided voters will feel the same. The Trump convention gave us controversy, plagiarism, heckles, boos and cries of "lock her up" about the Democratic nominee. It was full of anger, even hatred, and remarkably devoid of policy.

Will any of this matter on Election Day? I think so, not that people will go into the voting booth remembering the missteps made in July. But the likelihood that we will see more of the same for the next 100 days virtually guarantees Republican defeat. This week was Donald Trump's chance to show those not yet in his camp that he can indeed lead the nation to a more prosperous, secure and principled future. He failed, utterly.