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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Asian Americans, Affirmative Action, and Election Politics

Nearly 18 years ago, 61 percent of California’s Asian-American electorate opposed California’s Proposition 209, a statewide referendum, which barred race and ethnicity as considerations in state university admissions, government jobs and contracts. Notwithstanding, their opposition, Proposition 209 became law. Fast forward to March 2014, when California’s Asian-American community helped blunt an effort in the state’s legislature to gut the affirmative action ban. This recent pushback by California’s Asian-American community is a reminder that upward mobility attained can reshape attitudes, and that the interests of the so-called Coalition of the Ascendant are not monolithic. ...

If 2012 is any indication, don’t bet on the Republican Party going there. First, it is immigration—not affirmative action—that has captured the GOP’s attention. For all of Mitt Romney’s support for self-deportation, Romney actually backed affirmative action. Presented with an opportunity to voice opposition to government sanctioned racial preferences during the run-up to the Michigan and Ohio primaries, Romney balked.
Second, as [Stanford Prof. Neil] Malhotra described, opposition to affirmative action resonates with the identifiably upwardly mobile, and that is not where the Republicans’ white working class base is today. As Ross Douthat trenchantly writes: “Some of the most religious areas of the country—the Bible Belt, the deepest South—struggle mightily with poverty, poor health, political corruption and social disarray.” Immigration and competition for jobs come first there. College? If only. And as far as the GOP donor class goes, can you say legacies? After all is said and done, the squabble over affirmative action will most likely remain a low-key Democratic Party family feud, with the courts being called in from time-to-time to referee.