With the announcement Tuesday night that President Trump’s Justice Department plans to sue colleges and universities over racially discriminatory admissions policies, affirmative action is back in the news.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy—which uses racial quotas and other methods to give preference to black and Hispanic college applicants—last summer after University of Texas applicant Amanda Fisher, who is white, sued the university for discrimination.
The Fisher decision came as a surprise to many affirmative action advocates. But another lawsuit, alleging that Harvard’s admissions process discriminates against Asian-American applicants, is currently making its way through the lower courts and may have a better chance of convincing a majority of the justices.
The end of affirmative action could be drawing near, which brings me to Jim Webb.
Remember him? He’s the former Virginia senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who never broke out of the single digits and grinned the creepiest grin of all time after heavily implying that he’d killed a man in Vietnam.
During the first (and only) primary debate in which Webb appeared, Anderson Cooper grilled him on his past statement that affirmative action is “state-sponsored racism.” In the days that followed, the liberal media piled on, accusing Webb of being “out of touch with his party’s base.”
On the debate stage, Webb answered that while he did support affirmative action for African Americans because of their “unique history,” he also felt that affirmative action policies were harmful to impoverished white people in communities like Appalachia.
“We’re not being true to the Democratic Party principle of elevating the level of consciousness… about the hardships that a lot of people who happen to be white have,” Webb said.
Webb may have been out of step with the Party, but the Party was certainly out of step with poor white voters. Trump won West Virginia, the heart of Appalachia, with almost 68 percent of the vote in November.
Maybe Webb was on to something. By rejecting the Party’s elevation of race and its dismissive attitude toward poverty-stricken whites, perhaps he might have avoided the disastrous defeats Hillary Clinton suffered in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Affirmative action is a complicated issue, but to most white, working-class families, it’s pretty simple. Their kid got rejected by a college that accepted black and Hispanic students with lower SAT scores. From that point of view, there can be no clearer indication that the squeaky wheel has gotten the grease, that blacks and Hispanics have won the Suffering Olympics and are being rewarded by the Democratic Party while impoverished white kids are left to wither on the vine.
If the Democrats ever want to win back the White House, they’ll need to change that perception, not laugh it off the stage.