Diversity for Diversity’s Sake Is a Stupid Idea

A couple of recent submissions to our state’s newspapers have me thinking about diversity.

First this Grand Forks Herald op/ed from attorney Tim Lamb, a former member of that community’s School Board, which suggests that North Dakotans ought to elect more Democrats for the sake of diversity. “I believe a two-party system not only gives voters a choice, but also provides for the best possible governing system—one that protects against incompetence and corruption in our government,” Lamb wrote.

But North Dakotans have choices when it comes to political leadership. Lamb is simply wrong. We have more than a merely “two party” system. In addition to Republicans and Democrats our state also has an organized Libertarian party that, while short on election-day victories, does often field serious candidates who influence the political debate.

That North Dakota voters choose to vote mostly for Republicans is not an indication that we have a single party system. It’s an indication that Republicans seem to be giving voters what they want. Besides, anyone familiar with the ideological makeup of the NDGOP knows it’s quite diverse.

North Dakota’s Republicans hardly march in lock step, though that’s a popular belief among the lightly informed.

The other submission is this letter to the editor of the Fargo Forum today which argues that our state’s lawmakers are too old and too white.

“If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, check out The Forum’s Jan. 3 picture (page A5, top left) of the North Dakota Legislature,” Jeff Nyquist, of Moorhead, writes. “What comes to mind is, well, not diversity. Nothing against old, gray-haired white guys (I’m entering that group), but the photo of these shell-shocked Scandinavians (and likely other pedigrees) brings to mind what you don’t want to have happen when you elect a group of people to represent something as diverse as a state population.”

Nyquist would be derided as a racist were he to suggest that we have too many of any other racial/gender demographic in the Legislature, but under the perverse protocols of political correctness it’s always ok to hold the race and gender of white dudes against them.

There’s a common theme uniting these two submissions, though. Both seem to be encouraging society to embrace diversity – be it of party affiliation or gender or race – simply for the sake of diversity.

That’s absurd.

In politics, voters should pick the candidates they feel will most effectively advance (or impede, as the case may be) they policies they care about. Things like race or gender or even party affiliation really shouldn’t matter (though they do, unfortunately).

It’s specifically hard for me to understand what motivates someone to see a problem in the race or gender of a given political leader. Either that leader is doing a good job on policy in the eyes of the voters or they’re not. Nothing else should matter.

In fact, I’d argue that these attitudes are counterproductive to the priorities of those who hold them. Someone advocating that a female candidate (as an example) should be elected because she’s female removes some legitimacy from that woman’s election, I think.

I would hope that any given candidate would want the public to perceive them as holding office because of their abilities and accomplishments, not because they have a certain chromosomal makeup or skin pigmentation.

We’re supposed to perceive demands for diversity as enlightened. They aren’t.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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