Why Chavez (Out of the Barrio, not reviewed) claims a liberal past is a mystery, when her memoir clearly shows she had conservative views—on affirmative action, language, education, immigrant assimilation—from the start.
Chavez is a blunt writer—and public figure, which made her an easy target—and she has held true to her basic instincts and opinions from the days she taught affirmative action students in California on through her stints with at the Democratic National Committee, the American Federation of Teachers, the Commission of Civil Rights, and the Reagan White House, all the way to her crash-landing during the Bush transition, when she was considered for Secretary of Labor. She believes in the strict interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any discrimination, a view that puts her at odds with the preferential treatment afforded through affirmative action: “My own experience suggested that double standards cast a pall on the qualifications of all minorities and women,” that they “rewarded ignorance” and indoctrinated minorities “with the notion that they were society’s victims.” As for politically active feminists, “it wasn’t just what I perceived as the elitism of the feminist movement that turned me off; it was the antagonism toward men and the disdain of motherhood.” Chavez is a staunch believer in assimilation and so championed the drive to make English the official language. She held these opinions when she was a Democrat, and she holds them as a Republican. She never pretended to exquisite sensitivity on any issue, though readers will find startling some of her naïve quips, as when she says she became a free-market enthusiast when she learned that the price of color TVs was going down, or that the value of diamonds, of all things, is a good example of natural supply and demand.
The sub-subtitle isn’t a joke. But it’s not much of an epitaph either. (Photographs)