Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Minorities and Affirmative Action

As a couple of commentators at the Volokh Conspiracy have noted, yesterday’s Schuette v. BAMN decision rambles across five opinions and more than 100 pages, yet mentions the word “Asian” not once.

The word “minority” appears more than 100 times throughout the decision, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a passionate, 58-page dissent highlighting the continuing difficulty of certain minority groups to get into the nation’s most prestigious colleges and graduate schools. But not Asian Americans. As minorities go, they apparently don’t count, at least when it comes to discrimination in higher education.
Asian Americans generally come out on the losing side of affirmative action, however, so Michigan’s ban might have served their interests. As George Mason University School of Law Professor David Bernstein put it in this post, ”had the dissent been the majority, the Supreme Court would have restructured Michigan’s political process to the disadvantage of Asian Americans.” If voters were unable to enact a ban on racial preferences, in other words, Asian Americans would lose the right to join with other groups to pass such a measure — exactly why Sotomayor said Michigan’s Prop. 2 was unconstitutional in her dissent.
One might also add that the residual category of "white" encompasses a number of groups -- notably Catholics and Jews -- who have historically been the target of religious or ethnic discrimination.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Family Structure and Inequality

At The Wall Street Journal, Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch write:
Suppose a scientific conference on cancer prevention never addressed smoking, on the grounds that in a free society you can't change private behavior, and anyway, maybe the statistical relationships between smoking and cancer are really caused by some other third variable. Wouldn't some suspect that the scientists who raised these claims were driven by something—ideology, tobacco money—other than science?

Yet in the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.
More than 20% of children in single-parent families live in poverty long-term, compared with 2% of those raised in two-parent families, according to education-policy analyst Mitch Pearlstein's 2011 book "From Family Collapse to America's Decline." The poverty rate would be 25% lower if today's family structure resembled that of 1970, according to the 2009 report "Creating an Opportunity Society" from Brookings Institution analysts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill. A 2006 article in the journal Demography by Penn State sociologist Molly Martin estimates that 41% of the economic inequality created between 1976-2000 was the result of changed family structure.
The authors identify three reasons why family structure is getting less attention than it should. First, some analysts do not want to give the appearance of taking the side of social conservatives.  Second, there is concern about the racial correlates of data on family structure.  Third, the problem does not lend itself to a quick fix.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Expatriation Act

At The Los Angeles Times, Richard Simon reports:
Daniel Swalm was researching his family when he came across a disturbing episode in immigration history. That discovery would lead to a move in the U.S. Senate to apologize for action the nation took more than a century ago.
Swalm discovered that under an obscure 1907 law, his grandmother Elsie, born and raised in Minnesota, was stripped of her U.S. citizenship after marrying an immigrant from Sweden.
Swalm had never heard of the Expatriation Act that required a U.S.-born woman who married a foreigner to "take the nationality of her husband."
The law, passed at a time of heightened anxiety over the growing numbers of "new immigrants" from eastern and southern Europe, came in response to a belief that U.S.-born women marrying foreigners were forsaking their allegiance to the United States, [UNC historian Candice] Bredbenner said.
"A citizen woman's marriage to a foreigner became vulnerable to interpretation as a brazenly un-American act," Bredbenner wrote in her book, "A Nationality of Her Own: Women, Citizenship and the Politics of Marriage."
At the time, magazines wrote about American women marrying European nobility in pursuit of titles. "For some Americans, a titled American was an affront to American ideals," Bredbenner wrote. But thousands who lost their citizenship were average women who lived in immigrant communities, she added in an interview.
After women pushed to win the right to vote — secured when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920 — Congress in 1922 acted to allow most, but not all, American-born women who married foreigners to be U.S. citizens. But those who married men ineligible for citizenship, such as Chinese immigrants, still forfeited their U.S. citizenship, until that restriction was later repealed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The President's Easter Message

In 2005, blogger Stephen Weissman objected to President Bush's discussion of the Resurrection in a weekly radio address:
Many - though by no means anywhere near a majority - who believe in these words will find it wonderful that the President has repeated them in the exercise of his public office. Mr. Bush and his political advisors know this, and clearly used the opportunity of his weekly radio address to further cement the bond between the President and those who want to turn America into "a Christian nation."
Nor does the president or his flock necessarly [sic] mean to hurt or exclude those of us who follow other paths - or no religious path at all. He is only bringing us the Word, and what could be a greater gift?
Well, thanks, but no thanks. The dangers are far too real. By so publicly rejecting the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state - and throwing off the good manners of millions of Americans who exercise their freedom of belief in private - Mr. Bush threatens to lead America down the road to open religious conflict. We've seen where that leads from South Asia to the Middle East, and in the bloody history of Europe's religious wars. Is that what we want for America? Is that what we want for the world?
Today President Obama offered his own Easter message:
And this Sunday, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will join our fellow Christians around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, the salvation he offered the world, and the hope that comes with the Easter season.

These holy days have their roots in miracles that took place long ago. And yet, they still inspire us, guide us, and strengthen us today. They remind us of our responsibilities to God and, as God’s children, our responsibilities to one another.

For me, and for countless other Christians, Holy Week and Easter are times for reflection and renewal. We remember the grace of an awesome God, who loves us so deeply that He gave us his only Son, so that we might live through Him. We recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds, the agony of the cross – all so that we might be forgiven our sins and granted everlasting life. And we recommit ourselves to following His example, to love and serve one another, particularly “the least of these” among us, just as He loves every one of us.
Note that the official White House transcript follows Christian practice in capitalizing several pronouns and possessive adjectives referring to Jesus.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lincoln on the Declaration and the Constitution

Here is a followup to a recent post on the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution.  In January, 1861, Abraham Lincoln wrote: 
All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all” — the principle that clears the path for all — gives hope to all — and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.
The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independenceof Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.
The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple — not the apple for the picture.
So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.
That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, volume 4 (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 1953), 168-169.

News Polls in Decline

As we note in our textbook, this trend complicates life for pollsters.

TOP TALKER – “As polls vanish, so do clues about 2014,” by Steven Shepard, editor of POLITICO’s new Campaign Pro: “The last reliable nonpartisan poll on the [Arkansas Senate] race was conducted in October … Good polling is becoming increasingly scarce, walloped by shrinking newsroom budgets and the soaring costs of conducting surveys. … FiveThirtyEight … launched with a clarion call: ‘Somebody Poll a Senate Race.’ … Over a 15-year period, the completion rate for Pew’s pollsters … fell from 36 percent in 1997 to just 9 percent in 2012.
The main reason is the migration to cellphones. It’s more expensive and time-consuming to call cellphones because they cannot be dialed by a computer, per FCC regulations. … Cash-strapped news outlets are increasingly turning to less-expensive survey methods — like automated-phone and Internet polling … And campaigns and partisan groups are more than happy to fill the void and constant news cycle with numbers that are often more favorable toward their candidate.” Free to Pros

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New York Goes for National Popular Vote Compact

Emma Roller writes at National Journal:
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that adds New York to the roster of states in the National Popular Vote compact.
The law allows New York to award its 29 electoral votes "in any manner it deems appropriate," under Article II of the Constitution. Cuomo has pledged New York to give those votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. Currently, New York awards its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state's popular vote.
So far, nine other states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the National Popular Vote compact. Unfortunately for popular vote advocates, this sort of legislation does not actually take effect until enough states—representing a majority of the Electoral College's 538 votes—pass similar laws. Ironically, popular-vote advocates have to win over the Electoral College before they can dismantle it.
At Jurist, William G. Ross writes:
The constitutional foundation of NPVIC is Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that states shall appoint electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." Advocates of the compact point out that the plain language of this text appears to provide legislators with plenary authority over the method of selecting electors, an interpretation endorsed by the US Supreme Court more than a century ago in McPherson v. Blacker in 1892 and again in 1969, Williams v. Virginia Board of Elections. Like all provisions of the Constitution, however, this section must be read in context and in conjunction with other provisions of the Constitution.
The principal constitutional impediment to NPVIC probably is the so-called "Compact Clause" in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, which provides that "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress ... enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State." Although the US Supreme Court has concluded that the Compact Clause does not require Congress to consent to compacts that affect only the internal affairs of the compacting states, it has indicated in US Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission that the Compact Clause requires Congress to consent to an agreement that "would enhance the political power of the member States in a way that encroaches upon the supremacy of the United States," or "impairs the sovereign rights of non-member states."
Some opponents of NPVIC also have warned that the compact might violate sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by diluting the votes of racial minorities and impeding their exercise of the franchise. Since African-Americans and Latinos are concentrated in populous states that have large numbers of electoral votes, these opponents of the compact contend that the election of a president by virtual popular vote would diminish the electoral influence of these racial minorities.
Many supporters of the measure think that the electoral college has a Republican bias.  But the opposite may now be true.  Nate Silver wrote last year:
President Obama won the Electoral College fairly decisively last year despite a margin of just 3.8 percentage points in the national popular vote. In fact, Mr. Obama would probably have won the Electoral College even if the popular vote had slightly favored Mitt Romney. The “tipping-point state” in the election — the one that provided Mr. Obama with his decisive 270th electoral vote — was Colorado, which Mr. Obama won by 5.4 percentage points. If all states had shifted toward Mr. Romney by 5.3 percentage points, Mr. Obama would still have won Colorado and therefore the Electoral College — despite losing the national popular vote by 1.5 points.