When Congress enacts a new civil rights bill, Sens. John Danforth, R-Mo., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., will probably get the credit. But we will always think of it as the Hill-Duke Act. Anita Hill and David Duke changed the public opinion environment in the nation in recent weeks, just enough to change the political perspectives and stakes in the debate over civil rights legislation.
President Bush vetoed the 1990 civil rights bill. He called each subsequent substitute version "a quota bill" and would not endorse any. Even if it were a quota bill in 1990 (and it was not, in our view), it certainly was no longer such by the time Senator Danforth and others had refined it and re-refined it and re-re-refined it.
But the president's political advisers calculated that the public would hate any civil rights bill labeled a "quota" bill, regardless of the truth. Some Chicken Little members of the business community preferred continued employment discrimination to even the slight possibility that the sky would fall on them in the form of law suits. These two forces kept the president in his unattractive position.