R. R. Reno writes that when the demand for affirmative action first arose, colleges did need “a kick in the pants” to hire women, because it was too easy for the male faculty to be complacent about themselves. However, he does find the current push for female hires repellent, and he deplores how this “fetid atmosphere of moral urgency is so deeply compromised by careerism (getting good ‘diversity numbers’ is a key to advancement in academic administration), so plainly at odds with any reasonable sense of justice, so obviously insulting to the women who are being used in order to rack up points on the affirmative action score card.” This is a pattern we see often among good-hearted, conservative-leaning people. They concede the original necessity of the Left’s demands (and in Reno’s case, he even says the academy probably still needs this “kick”), and then they deplore the excesses to which these demands lead.
But the excesses are intrinsic in the original demands. Once we have conceded that the system is unjust, that there is no way to get fairness except through the left-wing activism that demands it, that the people in charge are incapable of fairness and change, we have yielded everything. We have said that there are no mechanisms within the liberal system to change and develop with the normal demands of progress. (A male mentor of a female graduate student putting his charge forward as an ideal candidate for a job, for example.) And once we say this, we have conceded the ground to the inevitable radicalism to follow. There is nothing left except to deplore the inevitable extremes, the extremes we ourselves have invited.