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Blue Civil War
Blue on Blue Race Politics in California's Academia

Since 1996, state universities in California have been barred from any admissions decisions that “discriminat[e] against or grant preferential treatment” to an applicant based on race or ethnicity. This past January a referendum on reversing this policy passed the state senate without controversy. Now, however, the San Jose Mercury News reports that three Asian-American state senators who originally supported the referendum—all Democrats—have asked for it be to tabled. Their request comes after broad-based opposition to the referendum from California’s Asian-American population:

The contention that affirmative action would create racial quotas in college admissions preys on Asian parents’ anxieties, said Henry Der, a former state deputy secretary of education who directed the organization Chinese Affirmative Action until the mid-1990s. “I think certain negative forces are trying to exploit it and stir up this fear,” Der said

Der said one of the culprits is Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, who argued at a packed town hall meeting in Cupertino last month that the percentage of Asian-American undergraduates across the UC system — now about 38 percent — could plummet if the ban was lifted. Der and Huff were both panelists at the meeting […]

“These Chinese families are not looking at the larger picture. We are not making the investments we need in higher education,” he said. “We need to expand opportunities for all students.”

The conflict between Asian-Americans (“these Chinese families” as Der puts it) and African-Americans over affirmative action pits two key Democratic constituencies against one another. This is another aspect of the ongoing blue coalition crack-up. For our part, we think the students most qualified on academic and achievements metrics should get contested spots. If that means colleges become predominately Asian-American, so be it. In the same way, we would have been okay with a vast over-representation of American Jews when they were the dominant group out-performing the general population. But whatever you think of this issue, Democrats are going to have a difficult time trying to balance out the competing interests here going forward. It’s going to be an increasingly important story in coming months and years.

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  • Kieselguhr Kid

    Maybe. But I also remember people said the same thing — back in 1996. It didn’t amount to much, politically. It’s not particularly surprising that the Democratic coalition has conflicts and potentially exploitable fissures in it, as do all large political coalitions. But claiming that this will lead to any kind of blue crackup would require Professor Mead to explain why it’s suddenly different from what it’s been for twenty years, and why the opposition is better able to exploit it (when, frankly, it seems to me that it’s worse.)

    • qet

      The reason why it is now and not 20 years ago that the Blue edifice is cracking is mostly a quantitative one: it is just now that it is becoming apparent even to the “man in the street” that all of the multifarious promises the Democrats have made over the years to the different identity-group subsets of their coalition cannot possibly–not practically, possibly–be met.

      • Mungo+Park

        That is not likely to stop members of identity-groups from seizing political power, privilege, and money when offered in exchange for votes. I suspect that the left will be less accommodative when it is in complete and permanent control.

    • Mark

      When the money runs out the blue groups will act like any other groups….the strong will feed on the weak.

  • BobSykes

    The real crack up happens when Mexicans finally take full control of California and the Californian Democrat Party. In a Mexicrat party there is no place for people like Pelosi or Feinstein nor for Jews, blacks or Asians.

    • Corlyss

      Possibly but we’re not even close to that yet. For the foreseeable future, Pelosi and Feinstein are useful idiots that do their bidding, and that’s not likely to change even with successors-in-office.

    • free_agent

      It certainly will be interesting when Mexican-Americans take control of Calif., though it’s not clear to me what that will result in. It’s not at all clear to me that they will become ethnically exclusive.

    • Mungo+Park

      Perhaps an ethnic Mexican-American majority in California will hold a referendum on returning California to Mexico just as ethnic Russians have voted to return Crimea to Russia.

  • Corlyss

    I want the popcorn concession for this fight.

    • Jim__L

      Could even turn California red again. 🙂

      Looks like Honda might not be succeeded by a Leftist after all. =D

  • free_agent

    You write, ” In the same way, we would have been okay with a vast
    over-representation of American Jews when they were the dominant group
    out-performing the general population.”

    Of course, the Ivy League had unofficial quotas against Jews for decades. And there seems to be evidence ( that admissions to the Ivy League are biased in favor of Jews today.

  • qet

    Two observations: first, when will people become impatient with the tired rhetoric about America/California not making the necessary “investments in higher education”? When it comes to investments in higher education, America exceeds every other nation on the planet by at least two orders of magnitude. American higher education is and has been for years educating half of the non-American world. Second, I am very disappointed in Via Meadia’s intellectual surrender to Number, so decisively criticized by the Frankfurt School among others. What would Hannah Arendt have said to this proposal? Via Meadia should see to it that its HQ–Bard College–serves as a laboratory of meritocracy and fully implements this constipated view of merit and promise before urging it onto the rest of the country.


    Asians are not a minority. They do too well in school and work too hard. Being a minority is more than just a number.

    • JustData

      Asians are absolutely a minority – look up the definition. Minority doesn’t mean pathetic nor does it mean destined to fail or doomed to live on welfare and food stamps or in prison. Americans of Asian descent are proof that minority status is not relevant any more to personal success. Dems often like to paint Hispanics as too pathetic and corrupt to come here legally and honestly but that’s just an excuse for pandering; just as their policies pander to Blacks instead of supporting hard work and sacrifice.
      We all deserve the equal protection under the law that is enshrined in our Constitution. No more quotas and no more affirmative action; anyone who wants to go to public colleges and universities must earn their way in on their performance using the same criteria for all.

      • BJOSEPHS

        it was sarcasm my friend

        • JustData

          Sorry. I should have known but I have actually had people seriously make that exact argument – no kidding.

      • rhadagastt

        Good LORD man! Can you not recognize someone being tounge-in-cheek?

        • JustData

          Thanks. I would have known except I’ve actually had people seriously try to make that argument.

  • christopher mahoney

    Classifying people by race and rationing government service by race is abhorrent to the 14th Amendment. The whole purpose of the Civil War was to make the Constitution race-blind. Given the unsuccessful racial policies of the German government in the 1930s, one would think that this lesson would have been learned.

  • WBC

    For liberals, “diversity” means increasing the participation rates of dysfunctional minorities at the expense of everyone else. They are obsessed by the notion that every college, company, workplace, and private organization match the demographics of the general population within three decimal places – regardless of culture, aptitude, or interest. The only exceptions allowed are the NFL, NBA, and NHL.

    • Mark

      Academia is not very diversity in the area of thought and ideas…it’s pretty consistent liberal across the board. We may need to apply the demographics of the general population to this group.

  • Snickersz

    We are 60 years past the enactment of the Civil Rights act and the affirmative action provisions. Bringing back racial/ethnic discrimination into the California university system would be a big step backwards. The three Asian-American Senators that voted in lock step with their party should be recalled. They clearly don’t have the best interests of their constituents at heart.

  • rhadagastt

    This sort of thing happens because the liberal worldview is an incoherent jumble of feel-good sentiment that contains very little grounding in reality or in the way of true principle. Simple deduction makes it abundantly clear that race-based preferences will inevitably lead to someone being left out on the basis of race. Yet it comes as a surprise to many on the left that groups who are not the beneficiary of the preferential treatment are going to be opposed to such inherently discriminatory laws. Typically these sort of things only impact white people, who fall into 2 categories: 1) white liberals who are so stricken with white guilt that they tremble at the very idea of raising some objection lest they be labeled with the most heinous of monikers: racist (oh the humanity!), and those not so stricken with trepidation at the thought of voicing their opposition to racist legislation (who the leftists attempt to marginalize as racist/misogynist/homophobe/Nazi/faux news watcher/etc.). The beauty of this situation is now that a new demographic (Asians, ever the foil for those who blame the underperformance of minorities on racism) is evincing the cracks in the egregiously flawed liberal dogma when it comes to race. I suspect soon enough there will be an attempt to lump Asians in with white people somehow. It’s the only way that Johnny Liberal can save his twisted worldview.

  • goodbyecountry

    I’m waiting until adult Hispanics comprise over 50% of CA’s population and vote themselves a larger chunk of white liberals’ livelihoods. Wait for it, it’s coming…affirmative action against whites and Asians is only the tip of the iceberg. How about playing around with that inheritance tax? It seems so ‘unfair’ that wealthy people can pass on to their kids such a head start in life. Good bye progressive dynasties. The Republican party is going to get a new life on the west coast.

  • Diriger

    When I attended MIT (1959-1963), the student body was about 40% Jewish–I joked that “most of my best friends were Jews”! There was no discrimination at all except to take a certain number of the best students from each state, under the assumption that just because the Honor Schools in NYC (Stuyvesant, Bronx School of Science, etc.) slanted the selection process toward NYC, other states had smart kids too. One guy from Oklahoma won the National Putnam Math Competition, so there was truth to this. Later, maybe in the 90s, many Jews were going into the professions more than into Technology and Asians (usually American citizens) were the new growing minority. This lasted until Asians represented about 50% of the student population and MIT for the first time began to discriminate to keep the ratio of Asians from becoming a majority. It wasn’t very strict discrimination, maybe keeping the lowest rated 10% of Asians, but it was there!

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