An Unlikely Conservative by Linda Chavez
IN I970, the Ford Foundation identified Linda Chavez-then a financially strapped graduate stu- dent with a husband (himself in graduate school) and a two-year-old child-as a finalist in a fellowship competition for minority students and flew her to New York for the decisive interview. The fellowship would have let her complete her Ph.D. without working. What Chavez feared, as she sat in the wait- ing room, was disqualification be- cause of her poor math scores on the Graduate Record Exam. It had not occurred to her that she might be disqualified because her scores were too high. But they were, and she was rejected. What the bureaucrats at the Ford Foundation wanted, it turned out, was another kind of His- panic: one who was darker-skinned, “educationally disadvantaged,” did not speak English so well, and in general showed no signs of assimi- lating into the broader culture. This moment and others like it in Chavez’s immensely readable new memoir do much to explain her steady drift away from liberalism and her eventual embrace of the conser- vative movement. Chavez’s public career has now spanned twenty years-a Nexis search brings up her name in 219 articles in the New York Times over that period-and has landed her in a wide range of inter- esting jobs, in almost all of which she has managed to be controversial.
About the Author
Dan Seligman is a contributing editor of Forbes.