Will Asians Kill Race Preferences in California?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

Overlooked: ‘Coalition of the Ascendant’ Goes to War–With Itself; If you’re looking for moments when tectonic issue shifts seem to become visible–like the moment when Dems realized they had to give up on gun control, or the (coming) moment when there are enough charter school parents to defeat teachers’ unions–here’s one:  the moment when California Democrats abandon a push to reinstate race preferences because of constituent-driven opposition from Asian Americans in their own ranks. 

Background: California passed Ward Connerly’s Prop. 209 in 1996, which banned race preferences in admission at public colleges like the University of California.  This latest push is an attempt by the state’s Democrats to advance a constitutional amendment that would undo this aspect of 209. …

Meanwhile, the state’s Asians, who have done fine in the admissions game without preferences, now constitute about 11 percent of the electorate–bigger than the state’s black vote, though still smaller than the Latino share  (which was 22% in the 2012 exit poll). Asian communities seem to worry, not without reason, that preference-aided admissions for blacks and Latinos will mean fewer slots for Asians. …

Larger Meanings:  1) California is now more-or-less a one-party state, run by Democrats. If Dems can’t pass an affirmative action bill even when they are in full control, what does that say about the future of affirmative action?2) One-party government seems to sometimes make local Democrats more responsible. If there were a powerful Republican faction to be beaten, state legislators might choose to promote affirmative action if only to paint the GOPs as bigots. That is no longer necessary in California. ….

The Forward Lean:  Even though the  San Jose Mercury News says the initiative is on “life support,” I suspect the Dems will eventually patch up their differences and get an anti-209 amendment on the ballot. Too embarrassing for the party ideologists otherwise. But the cracks are now out in the open.

Mandatory Immigration Angles: 1) Do Republicans really need an Amnesty First immigration reform to appeal to the fast-growing Asian vote (which Mitt Romney lost by a bigger margin than he lost the Latino vote)? How about campaigning against race preferences? …. 2) The growing Asian vote is often lumped with the black vote and Latino vote in MSM descriptions of America’s “majority-minority” future. But if Asians can split with the new majority-minority coalition on preferences why can’t, say, blacks split with the coalition on immigration? … It’s every identity for itself! …

Scariest quote for affirmative actioners: “Do we really want to go back to a closed chapter …”

P.S.: You would think the L.A. Times might be paralyzed by the difficulty of coming up with a triumphalist PC line to take in this controversy, and therefore ignore it. You would be right. A search for “affirmative action” produces basically nothing in the LAT news pages.  No pressing need for readers to know these things. … Meanwhile, aptly named NPR affiliate KPCC performed better than expected. …

3/17/14 Update: The Democratic effort to restore race preferences has officially been halted, blocked by a seemingly spontaneous Asian-American backlash.  Three Asian-American Dem state senators who voted for the measure were apparently taken by surprise and have now asked that it be shelved. … One of them, Ted Lieu, is a frontrunner for the Congressional seat being vacated by Henry Waxman. Is the issue a potential vulnerability for him? He was for it before he was against it. Now he’s dancing. …[Thanks to alert reader P.]

Mickey Kaus