Preferential treatment
Posted by aogMonday, 03 February 2003 at 07:07 TrackBack Ping URL
Peter Beinart lobs some shots at the Republicans over affirmative action. I don't think that he makes a very convincing case. His essential point is that Republicans campaign against AA while ignoring other, more pernicious or pervasive preferences. The big examples he gives are (pace Colin Powell) tax code provisions, other college preferences (geographic and parental), racial profiling and President Bush's hiring practices.

In terms of special provisions in the tax code, that really doesn't seem as pernicious to me as racial preferences. Beinart is making the common mistake of presuming that "rich" and "poor" are categories as fundamental as race, where as the set of citizens in these categories shifts rapidly and continually. More over, flat-tax supporters (who are basically all Republican) are in essence railing against these as well since a major point of the flat tax is to eliminate such provisions. It was Reagan who lead the most recent overhaul / simplification of the tax code.

Beinart's most bizarre argument is that no one complains that the University of Michigan has geographic preferences.

In fact, applicants from Michigan's rural, overwhelmingly white Upper Peninsula get almost as large a preference as blacks--although hailing from a certain region says as little about the content of an applicant's character as does her pigmentation. Geographic preferences may not be as constitutionally vulnerable as racial ones, but surely they are just as unfair. And yet I have never seen a speech by a Republican politician or read a column by a conservative journalist denouncing geographic discrimination.
I wonder if Beinart finds our geographically based voting districts as bad as racial segregated voting. That would be the logical implication of this argument. Geographical location is also, in aggregate, a result of choice and not a unchangeable accident of birth. Geography is also likely to be a better proxy for overcoming difficulty than race and far more objective (I've yet to see any AA supporter rigorously define "black"). Perhaps AA supporters should look into that and push for preferences for say inner city inhabitants. But that wouldn't provide any benefits to the children of the minority leadership class which I suspect is why it is not something we'll see anytime soon. The truth is that racial preferences don't benefit actual poor blacks but rather relatively priviledged ones because the latter is far better able to take advantage of them.

As for legacy preferences, I will confess that I just can't get worked up about that. It is to a large extent a fund raising tool. There is some correlation between having a parent who went to college and being a successful college student oneself, but that's a weak reed. If all legacy preferences were eliminated tomorrow I doubt that I would notice.

Racial profiling for crime prevention is something I have more mixed feelings on. The biggest difference here is that preventing crime is a core function of government, where as providing higher education is not. Protecting citizens is a compelling state interest in a way that college education isn't. Therefore I think it's reasonable to allow stronger measures in the former. However, these must always be held to "strict scrutiny" which means that racial profiling is prima facie suspect and must be conclusively demonstrated to be relevant. In the case of Calipharian terrorists I think there's a more than strong enough case to use racial profiling. Note, however, that contra Beinart, the call isn't to profile "Arabs" or "Muslims" but people who are (1) Arab (2) Muslim (3) young (4) male and (5) entering from a terror supporting country (e.g. the Saudi Entity). Not quite the same thing.

Beinart does score some points in my opinion when at the end he hits the Bush administration for fairly blatant racial preferences.

In the wake of Trent Lott's downfall, Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot earlier this month vowed to appoint more blacks to positions in the GOP
I'm not going to defend this, I'll just say that it's the kind of pandering I expect from politicians. I do think that we have been ill served by some of the results (Norman Mineta comes to mind).

Despite these flaws, I find the Republicans overall much better on race issues and much less hypocritical than the race-baiting Democratic Party, the party of Sharpton and Jackson.