Like a stack of scratched records, pundits repeatedly dismiss Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential prospects because of his “social liberalism.” True, the former New York mayor’s views on abortion, guns, and gays (despite his opposition to same-sex marriage) clash with those of many socially conservative Republican primary voters.
However, socio-cons care about more than just these three important matters. On school choice, welfare reform, adoption, and quality of life, evangelicals cannot quibble with Giuliani’s achievements. His Bush-like immigration proposals are no more liberal than the president’s.
Socio-cons also like to see violent criminals incarcerated and terrorists incinerated. No Rightist calls Giuliani Leftist on that.
Significantly, Giuliani can hold his head up high as the GOP hopeful with the finest legacy on racial preferences — a key issue to conservatives of every hue.
In 1993, Giuliani ran and won on the slogan “One Standard, One City.” These words guided his administration.
In his first month, Mayor Giuliani scrapped New York’s 20 percent set-asides for minority- and female-owned contractors, and a 10 percent price premium that City Hall let such companies charge above the bids of white, male competitors.
As Giuliani told me at a December 3, 1997 Manhattan Institute forum:
“I, number one, thought that was very bad public policy. The city shouldn’t be paying 10 percent more. Remember, I was dealing with a city that had about a $3 billion deficit at the time. How we could possibly pay 10 percent more for anything seemed incomprehensible to me.”
“And second,” Giuliani added, “the whole idea of quotas to me perpetuates discrimination. It has exactly the opposite effect on people who support quotas think it would have. So, I did away with it.”
Instead, Giuliani offered all contractors workshops on how to prepare more competitive applications. Some projects were subdivided to qualify newer, less-capitalized bidders.
Giuliani also padlocked the city’s Balkan-style offices of African-American/Carribean Affairs, Asian Affairs, European-American Affairs, Gay Community Affairs, Jewish Community Affairs, and Latino Affairs.
Through these actions alone — in Gotham, not Green Bay — Giuliani enacted more equality before the law than the GOP Congress even debated in the 12 years between the 1994 “Republican Revolution” and 2006’s Republican Rout.
“I have focused on people as people and not had the sense that their first claim on me is because of the group they belong to,” Giuliani told Jonathan Capehart in the March 2, 1999 New York Daily News. “They have a very, very strong claim on me as human beings.”
Giuliani promoted other policies that happened to benefit minorities while advancing his colorblind philosophy.
Giuliani privatized 69.8 percent of some 33,000 apartments the city previously had confiscated from tax-delinquent landlords. Families and individuals, many of them minorities, now occupy these roughly 23,000 private homes.
Primarily, but not exclusively, Giuliani helped minority students by launching his Charter School Fund. He visited Milwaukee’s mainly minority voucher schools and forcefully advocated that Gotham adopt “vouchers.” (He actually uses that word.) Last June 13, he told a Manhattan Institute luncheon: “The only thing that I believe is going to change dramatically public education in this country is to go to a choice system and to break up the monopoly.”
Giuliani and then-City University of New York chancellor Herman Badillo (whose new book, One Nation, One Standard, I helped edit) ended non-selective “open admissions” and increased graduation requirements and other academic standards.
Then-Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D., Bronx) on January 19, 1999, very specifically warned CUNY’s Board of Trustees that Giuliani and Badillo’s reforms would mean, “that 46 percent of black and 55 percent of Hispanic students would not be able to enroll in the senior colleges.” Contemplating these proposed changes, City Councilman Helen Marshall (D., Queens) said that June: “I get a feeling of ethnic cleansing.”
Despite these calamitous predictions, CUNY’s minority enrollment and graduation rates grew after Giuliani and Badillo raised, not lowered, what they expected of students of all colors:
The total number of first-time freshmen at CUNY’s seven senior colleges rose from 7,104 in fall 1999 to 9,576 in fall 2006, a 34.8 percent increase. Among blacks, such students simultaneously increased from 1,655 to 1,765 (up 6.65 percent), while Hispanics climbed 37.1 percent higher, from 1,771 to 2,428.
At the other end, bachelor degrees earned by blacks grew 5.15 percent, from 3,843 in 1999-2000 to 4,041 in 2005–2006. For Hispanics, the equivalent figures were 2,456 and 3,032, a 23.45 percent boost.
According to CUNY, these figures increased steadily, through the late Giuliani years, right through today’s Michael Bloomberg administration.
“Not only was there no hemorrhaging of students, but the opposite was the case: The CUNY senior colleges became more attractive,” says Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s senior vice-chancellor for university relations. “The scare tactics turned out to be, at best, smear tactics.”
As part of Giuliani’s now-legendary anti-crime crackdown, homicides plunged 67.9 percent, mostly in formerly crime-plagued black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Asked once what he ever did for minorities, Giuliani replied: “They are alive, how about we start with that?”
Indeed, the New York Post estimated that, absent Giuliani’s law-enforcement initiatives, 2,299 additional black New Yorkers would have been murdered between 1993 and 1998. As Giuliani told police cadets on February 16, 1994, “the right to public safety” was that era’s “single most important civil rights struggle.”
“America’s Mayor” did not manage all this in lily-white Provo, Utah, or right-wing Colorado Springs. Rudolph W. Giuliani courageously accomplished these things in a largely minority city notorious for its liberalism. That’s leadership.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.