Ann Coulter certainly does have a successful strategy: Say something outrageous and sell books. But Coulter’s sometimes cheap lines often come at the cost of substance — and not just her own. The rhetorical firebombs distract from what the less provocative, and sometimes much more reasonable, have to say. There was a prime example of this phenomenon at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference last month.
Had it not been for Ann’s silly slur against former North Carolina senator John Edwards (you know what I’m talking about), perhaps someone would have had at least a foggy idea of what some of the other speakers at the conference had to say — and not just the presidential hopefuls, among them Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, but also some of the compelling and articulate, if young and lesser known, conservative leaders. Say, for instance, Jennifer Gratz.
Gratz was presented with the CPAC’s “Reagan Award,” mainly for her efforts as executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (or “Proposition Two”). The MCRI, which Michigan voters approved by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, amended the state’s constitution to prohibit “state entities from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” It was no small victory for conservatives in a woeful election.
Before November, Gratz already had a place in the history books. She is the Gratz of the 2003 Supreme Court decision Gratz v. Bollinger, which struck down the University of Michigan’s racial-preference program. Gratz had been unfairly rejected by the school despite a stellar academic record. It was an example of reverse discrimination, a necessary consequence of the positive sounding “affirmative action” policy in place there. The experience encouraged Gratz to become a civil-rights leader.
In her political activism since, Gratz has proven herself a clear-minded, patriotic American. Like Ann Coulter, she’s a smart one too. But instead of the typical stand-up-and-outrage-them Coulter schtick, Gratz counsels, when asked what advice she’d give young conservatives: “I’d give the same advice my parents gave: stand up for your beliefs. And I’d add that you really can do anything that you set your mind to.”
But her example is just as forceful as her words are. Gratz’s leadership stands in dramatic contrast to the misleading and hyperbolic rhetoric of her opponents. One of the ads, for instance, that dropped in the fall by the opposition declared:
If you could have prevented 9-11 from ever happening…would you have?
If you could have prevented Katrina from ever happening…what would you have done?
On Nov. 7th there’s a national disaster headed for Michigan…the elimination of affirmative action.
And on Nov. 7th there’s only one way to stop this disaster … by voting No on Proposal 2.
Earlier in the year, at Rosa Parks’s funeral, Al Sharpton denounced Prop 2 as modern-day Jim Crow laws.
Gratz has not gone in for such demagoguery. Ward Connerly, veteran of these civil-rights fights and leader with Gratz in the Michigan effort, has this to say of her:
Jennifer Gratz is an extraordinary individual. She has an innate sense of fairness, enormous courage and a profound appreciation for individual liberty – all qualities of a true conservative and the definition of a good American. I often find myself inspired by her.
The MCRI win was no easy thing. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (and a Michigander), wrote, in nominating Gratz for the award,
Along the way she was reviled by demonstrators and her integrity was probably questioned by a liberal judge, whose derisive words were used in the well-financed campaign against the MCRI Jennifer and Ward prevailed in spite of the opposition of most Republican leaders, including gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. I was completely impressed with Jennifer’s natural skill, maturity, good judgment, and courage under fire. No matter what was thrown at her, she never lost her poise and determination.
The conservative movement is grounded in ideas, not in antics. There’s no good reason why the face of conservatism on college campuses and cable news should be more Coulter’s than Gratz’s.