California’s most recent battle over affirmative action has ended with a victory for representatives of the state’s Asian-American community, as Democrats reluctantly tabled a measure to allow race to influence admissions to state universities. The San Jose Mercury News reports that intense and unexpected opposition from Asian-Americans pushed the party to drop the law for the time being. More:
“This was remarkably bad politics on the Democrats’ part,” [Hoover Institute research fellow Bill] Whalen said. “I can think of few things more destructive than pitting one constituency of a party against another” […]One reason Democrats were caught off guard is that Asian-Americans have historically supported affirmative action. Indeed, many still believe race should be considered in college admissions. Some Asian organizations — including the Southeast Asian Resource and Action Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Filipino Advocates for Justice in Union City and Oakland — advocate such policies, noting that not all Asian ethnicities are well represented in higher education.But the scarcity of seats in UC provoked intense opposition among others — and Republicans pounced on the opportunity.
It’s unlikely that one battle will substantially undermine Asian American loyalty to the Democratic party, but it is a sign of the instability brewing across the blue coalition. Some California Democrats have said they intend to take up this affirmative action measure again, so we’ll likely see another fight of this kind before long. But generally, blues will continue to find it harder and harder to give all their constituents what they want, particularly when divisions of race and class pit them against each other. Whether in education, pensions, or elsewhere, blues will increasingly be be forced to favor one beneficiary over another.