A major weapon in the Left’s continuing campaign to “fundamentally transform America,” as Candidate Obama so memorably promised to do, is what I call the coercive diversity project. This is the ongoing effort to use federal power to impose proportional representation along race, gender, and ethnic lines in all aspects of American life. If women, for instance, constitute 50 percent of the work force, then 50 percent of engineers, doctors, accountants, etc., should be women. Ensuring that each group is represented in each endeavor in the correct demographic proportion would require a degree of government coercion incompatible with a free society. Yet, with strong support from the business community, the coercive diversity project has advanced steadily for decades. Little by little, race- and gender-based preferences and quotas have replaced the original affirmative-action goal of achieving colorblind and gender-neutral equality of opportunity.
Corporate America was present at the creation of the coercive diversity project. Business executives provided funds and political support and collaborated with activists in promoting “diversity.” Most significantly, they helped blunt opposition from principled conservatives.
In The Diversity Machine
, sociologist Fred Lynch details how corporations teamed up with progressives to fight the Reagan Justice Department’s attempt to end group preferences based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Attorney General Edwin Meese met strong resistance from the business community. The Reagan administration surveyed 127 chief executives of large corporations and found that 95 percent “planned to use numerical objectives to track the progress of women and minorities . . . regardless of government requirements.”
When Ward Connerly led a series of successful statewide referenda opposing the use of group preferences in education and employment, business interests fought him at every turn and poured money into the leftist campaigns to stop his efforts. After his successful initiative in the State of Washington in 1998, Connerly wrote: “The most significant obstacle we faced in the Washington campaign was not the media . . . but the corporate world. . . . Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, and Eddie Bauer all made huge donations to the [opposition]. . . . The fundraising was spearheaded by Bill Gates’ father, Bill Gates, Sr., a regent at the University of Washington whose famous name seemed to suggest that the whole of the high-tech world was solemnly shaking its head at us.”
In the most significant Supreme Court case on the coercive diversity project, Grutter v. Bollinger, in 2003, corporate America weighed in heavily on the side of mandated proportional representation and racial preferences. Sixty-five Fortune 500 companies (including Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, Sara Lee, Texaco, Microsoft, Eastman Kodak, Pfizer, and United Airlines) submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative-action admissions program, which was being challenged by Barbara Grutter, a white woman whose law-school application the school had denied. The majority (5–4) decision, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, cited the Fortune 500 brief as evidence that major American businesses had made it clear that they supported the diversity project.
I have been using the term “corporate America,” but this moniker is something of a misnomer in an age when executives are increasingly “post-American” and major businesses almost always identify themselves as global ventures. Not untypical are comments from the vice president of Coca-Cola, who said in a speech in 2005, “We are not an American company,” and from a top Colgate-Palmolive executive, who in 1989 said, “There is no mindset [at Colgate] that puts this country [the United States] first.”
Speaking to Atlantic reporter Chrystia Freeland in 2011, a U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds described an internal debate at his company. One of his senior colleagues had suggested that the “hollowing out of the American middle class didn’t really matter,” the CEO told Freeland, adding: “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and [that] meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade.” Almost a decade ago, Samuel Huntington identified this trend as the “de-nationalization” of American corporate elites. The new “economic transnationals,” he said, are the “nucleus of an emerging global superclass.”
Not surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce and leading corporations are currently supporting the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a treaty strongly opposed by Senate conservatives, who argue that UNCLOS would undermine American sovereignty and establish a global regulatory system in which the U.N. would receive direct tax revenues for the first time. Corporate elites approve the global regulations in the treaty because these regulations, they believe, would be good for business.
All too often, the interests of corporate elites overlap with those of high-profile Republican donors and lawmakers. The foremost example of this connection is Carlos Gutierrez, George W. Bush’s former secretary of commerce and the ex-CEO of the Kellogg Company. With fundraiser Charlie Spies, Gutierrez has founded a super PAC, Republicans for Immigration Reform, and through TV appearances and op-eds he has become a major spokesman for the push for amnesty and low-skilled mass immigration. Gutierrez fits Huntington’s “economic transnational” profile rather well. As Bush 43’s commerce secretary, he was the major proponent of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which sought to increase “economic integration” between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The SPP also called for the “harmonization” of security and customs regulations “in all three countries” in order to speed up border crossings – which would have made American border security dependent on Mexican and Canadian personnel and practices.
Today, Carlos Gutierrez is vigorously campaigning for the mass immigration of low-skilled workers. A few years ago, however, his goal was equally globalist: a transnational labor force for North America. Under Gutierrez’s leadership, the SPP in March 2006 included in its list of priorities the effort “to formalize a transnational technical labor force that could work in any North American country on a temporary basis.” Understanding the effect this would have on the standard of living of American blue-collar and white-collar workers was not then, and is not now, on the high-priority list set by Gutierrez and his colleagues in the corporate–Republican alliance.