Bush & Bakke: Déjà vu All Over Again

Many on the Naïve Right are exulting over the first paragraphs in President Bush's remarks on Wednesday siding against the University of Michigan for using a racial quota admissions system.

But (ahem!) didn't the Supreme Court already outlaw "quotas" 25 years ago in the Bakke decision?

Fat lot of good that did. And fat lot of good the Administration's "very narrowly tailored" brief to the Supreme Court will do either.

Here on the Realist Right, it looks very different: The Bush brief is a catastrophe for the cause of equal treatment under the law. Bush-Rove have almost completely caved in to Diversitycrats.

The President of the United States strongly endorsed the goals of the racial spoils industry. And he instructed it on more devious means to impose racial quotas.

Bush's speech was a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to play Lewis Powell's role in Bakke: craft a seeming compromise that will throw a rhetorical bone to anti-quota voters, but deliver red meat to the racial preference industry. The Divesitycrats will be allowed to carry on - just in a more surreptitious manner that won't be as obvious to their victims.

This is exactly what happened in 1978. Allan Bakke won! Quotas were outlawed! And nothing changed.

Here's what Karl Rove is trying to do:

  1. Get the headlines: "Bush Attacks Quotas." Racial preferences are unpopular with voters overall, especially the 81% who are unprotected whites (of which Bush won a measly 54% in 2000, compared to the 59% his dad won in 1988). The liberals will predictably howl, boosting Bush's popularity among the vast majority of voters who follow the news only casually.

  1. Appease the powerful Diversity Industry on the substance. The Bush-Rove Plan will entrench the industry and make it a more amorphous target ("Quotas? We don't need no steeenking quotas!"). As with Bakke, Bush's base (which is about 92% whites voters) will take a long time to figure how they wound up with the fuzzy end of the lollipop after all the President's brave words.

You think I'm over-reacting? Let's review:

First, in his statement Monday Bush endorsed the central issue in the lawsuit, the University of Michigan's goal of increased diversity. He said

"America is a diverse country, racially, economically, and ethnically. And our institutions of higher education should reflect our diversity. A college education should teach respect and understanding and goodwill. And these values are strengthened when students live and learn with people from many backgrounds. … We should not be satisfied with the current numbers of minorities on American college campuses. Much progress has been made; much more is needed."

Likewise, a "senior Administration official" anonymously briefed the press after the speech:

"The President strongly promotes diversity and made it very clear in his statement today that schools have to take serious, aggressive and honest efforts to promote diversity. … That means we want to have students who are white, who are black, who are Hispanic, who are Asian, who are rich, who are poor, who come from rural and urban areas, who are handicapped, who are physically able. We want genuine diversity. And a component of genuine diversity is racial diversity. … [The President] wanted to make clear, as he did in his statement, that trying to promote the broadest possible diversity, including racial diversity, is an important goal."

According to this shadowy Bush representative:

"What the government is going to argue in the brief is that any time there is a consideration of race, the Court has said you have to look to see if there are race-neutral alternatives. There are race-neutral alternatives here; we know that."

In other words, the Bush Administration is saying that universities are supposed to achieve their "diversity goals" (a.k.a., quotas). They should just do it in a more cunning fashion.

The briefer summarized the White House's stance with this inspiring statement:

"You should not be making decisions based on race without first trying race-neutral alternatives."

Helpfully, Bush outlined various schemes to jigger admissions systems to achieve the same results as straightforward quotas:

"Some states are using innovative ways to diversify their student bodies. Recent history has proven that diversity can be achieved without using quotas. Systems in California and Florida and Texas have proven that by guaranteeing admissions to the top students from high schools throughout the state, including low income neighborhoods, colleges can attain broad racial diversity. In these states, race-neutral admissions policies have resulted in levels of minority attendance for incoming students that are close to, and in some instances slightly surpass, those under the old race-based approach."

(It's worth noting that while the Bush Brothers' "X-percent solutions" in Texas and Florida are blatant schemes for achieving quotas, they are an even bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than the old-fashioned honest quotas. Quotas at least admit the highest potential students within each race. But the Bush Brothers' schemes discriminate against smarter minority students who get poorer grades because they attend integrated high schools. Harvard long ago virtually gave up on admitting applicants from all-black schools because their performance was so dire.)

Bush went on:

"University officials have the responsibility and the obligation to make a serious, effective effort to reach out to students from all walks of life, without falling back on unconstitutional quotas."

Similarly, the anonymous "senior Administration official" explained -

"And, indeed, what the President said very clearly is, he said university officials shouldn't just look to take the easy way out, they need to take hard steps -- to go out and recruit and increase the pool of applicants; make their schools more attractive to minority students; and come up with lawful and constitutional ways to increase the number of minority students. He strongly believes that we have made a great deal of progress, but we haven't made enough progress."

In other words, colleges prevented from discriminating explicitly by race are being told to keep up their black and Hispanic quotas by recruiting minorities more vigorously. Of course, this beggar-thy-neighbor policy can't work on the national level. It doesn't create any additional qualified minorities. It just ups the bidding for the existing ones.

And increasing demand without increasing supply of course leads to higher prices for those minorities. They are given more scholarships precisely due to their race.

Mr. Bush went on:

"Schools should seek diversity by considering a broad range of factors in admissions, including a student's potential and life experiences."

This is an endorsement of the method the University of California recently installed for subverting the Proposition 209 ban on racial preferences.

The "Senior Administration Official" recommended "a personal statement that people can make about whether they've overcome any hardship."

For example, at UCLA applicants are now told to write whiney essays on the "life challenges" they have suffered. The kind of hardships largely peculiar to preferred minorities (such as having been shot) are given extra credit.

Bush's speech is an unsubtle call to erect a photographic negative of the kind of nominally colorblind devices – for example, poll taxes - that Jim Crow states once used to discriminate against blacks.

Here's the harsh truth. The only way we could tell if we've actually eliminated racial preferences is if the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in elite schools falls sharply, and stays down for many years.  (But the ones who remained would perform as well as whites. And more minorities would complete courses at second-tier schools, rather than being mis-matched and burned out at elite ones.)

In all likelihood, the Supreme Court won't dare make such a sharp reduction happen. This will be despite the letter of the law - a measure of the diversity's distortion of our Anglo-American institutions.

It's time to start thinking about what can be salvaged from the wreck. Above all: to minimize the damage done by quotas, we must have immigration reform - to slow the growth of racially-preferred groups.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]

January 16, 2003