Quotas -- racial, sexual, ethnic, or whatever -- are generally agreed to be both undemocratic and un-American. The Democratic Party is proudly American and, according to its own sworn testimony, has absolutely no use for quotas. Of course, the Democrats will admit to the occasional use of "affirmative action representation goals" to encourage the selection of blacks, women, Hispanics, and native Americans as national delegates.
Through six party commissions on presidential nominations, the latest one chaired by North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt, Democrats have audibly assaulted quotas and then meekly accepted them under aliases like "priority of consideration " or "representation goals." A cynic might simply classify these devices as nothing more than quotas out of context. But to avoid being at all inflammatory, we shall herein refer to all such party rules and procedures as kiwis, after the New Zealand bird that cannot fly.
Not surprisingly, the supporters of kiwis come largely from the activist ranks of the groups whose representation was being "encouraged" and from their political allies, mostly Democratic liberals with a fondness for BMW autos and Gucci- Pucci accessories. Anti-kiwis were concentrated in the "unencouraged" groups, in organized labor, and among some party regulars and traditionalists who confessed to a hang-up over the matter of individual rights, as opposed to group rights. Their wardrobes were more apt to be domestic than imported and so were their cars, but not always. Those were and have been the opposing sides on the question of quotas--oops, kiwis-- within the Democratic Party.
Now to the Hunt commission where can be heard charges that the party rules changes of the last 12 years (including the kiwis) have discouraged Democratic members of Congress from serving as national convention delegates. The numbers are persuasive: of the 333 Democrats then in Congress, only 45 of them were delegates to last year's New York convention of 3,331 delegates.
It now seems likely that the Hunt commission, early next year, will agree with the position of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic state chairmen, among others, and set aside 30 percent of the next convention's delegate seats for elected Democrats and party officials. That single change, its proponents argue, would bring to the party's deliberations knowledge, judgment, and savvy, all of which are frequently in short supply at national conventions of any kind.
That rules change would also, I reluctantly point out, be one more big kiwi in the Democratic delegate selection process. Only this kiwi would not be based upon gender or nationality, but on occupation. Where, you ask, are the past courageous foes of kiwis now? Many of them can be found championing it. Apparently the elected-officials-and-party-leaders kiwi would not be a mis- quota.
If we now learn that some kiwi-quotas, specifically those of profession, are acceptable and not the work of satan, then the Democrats had best set enaside more delegate places in 1984 for another category--large donors.
During the last election season, the Republicans reported contributions from 1,930,000 individual American citizens while the Democrats could list the names of only 75,000 contributors. It should make no difference to the Democrats whether the potential delegates are taxidermists or assertiveness specialists just as long as their checks are good. The Democrats clearly need contributions and if some convention delegate, then why not?
After all, the only visible opposition to the elected-officials-party-leaders kiwi, within the Hunt Commission, has been from the ranks of those who fought most effectively for kiwis for women and others. As for me, I do not like quotas for anyone or any groups irrespective of job or national origin. But I'm beginning to think that I'm the only one who feels that way.