Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Too Late for Conservatism?


In a Weekly Standard article with important implications for the affirmative-action debate, Noemie Emery criticizes what she sees as conservative purists in the Republican party who don’t understand that parties must appeal to a large variety of people on different issues. There is wisdom in this, but conservatives have lived to see unnecessary losses when Republican leaders have tried to appeal to more liberal elements.
For example, Ronald Reagan had the opportunity to nominate the brilliant, conservative Robert Bork as his first Supreme Court appointment in 1981, when the Republicans held the majority in the Senate and Bork would have had a good chance of beng confirmed. Instead, Reagan fulfilled his campaign promise — a totally unnecessary promise in the eyes of many conservatives — to appoint the first woman to the high court, who turned out to be the underwhelming and liberal-leaning Sandra Day O’Connor. Twenty-two years later, we saw the chickens come home to roost when O’Connor, herself an affirmative-action appointment, became the deciding vote in Grutter v. Bollinger, which placed color consciousness and racial preferences for minority groups in the Constitution, something many thought could never ever happen.     There have been other examples of this kind of compromise in Republican administrations, and if Emery is right, she is right in this sense: that it may now be too late. So many principles have been surrendered to liberalism that it may be next to impossible to recover them, and the United States may now be an irrevocably liberal country that cannot tolerate hearing conservative principles enunciated by its leaders. Affirmative action has now morphed into “diversity,” bolder than ever under Obama, with the idea that if the country were just, all racial and ethnic groups would have exactly the same outcomes. Since this idea is so contrary to nature and to what human beings can actually achieve, not to mention to American ideals of individualism and equality before the law, it has to be accompanied by constant reinforcement, propaganda, and coercion, further eroding our freedom.    And meanwhile, conservatives can’t help but wonder, if there had been more standing on principle through these recent years, rather than needless accommodation to liberal demands, if we wouldn’t be in a very different place today.  


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review