Pro-Life Democrat Lipinski Pulls Off Narrow Win in Illinois Primary

Dan Lipinski (campaign image via Facebook)

The Associated Press has just called the primary race in Illinois’ third congressional district for pro-life Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski, who narrowly defeated his progressive challenger Marie Newman.

Lipinski has represented the district in the U.S. House for over a decade, but this year’s primary threat from Newman — which was a nail-biter even as the last votes trickled in — gained traction as the result of his moderate stances on a handful of political issues, most notably abortion.

His win tonight was likely aided by his high name recognition in the district — Lipinski’s father, Bill, represented the same district for ten years before passing the seat along to his son in 2004 — and his continuing popularity with moderate voters who tend to favor Democrats because of their support for labor unions.

Newman’s campaign was buoyed in particular by abortion-rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, both of which have grown increasingly frustrated with Lipinski’s consistently pro-life voting record, especially as the rest of his party has grown more willing to support unlimited abortion-on-demand. Newman also received vocal support from progressive Democrats, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), along with Illinois representatives Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez.

Lipinski’s victory tonight is a win for the notion that Democratic politicians can be pro-life and survive within a party that’s swiftly becoming more radical on the issue — an important victory for the notion that defending innocent human life need not be a matter of purely partisan politics.

Still, he remains one of only a handful of Democrats in Congress willing to vote for anti-abortion legislation such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act or the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. So while the efforts of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List — whose volunteers knocked on more than 25,000 doors for Lipinski in the third district over this past weekend — were surely worthwhile, in the big-picture abortion debate, it’s a very small win, indeed.

Aside from possible ramifications for the pro-life movement, tonight’s results bode ill for the Democratic party, both this election cycle and beyond. While it might be seen as a sign of strength to field two candidates capable of receiving broad support, Newman’s ability to mount a nearly successful primary challenge of a six-term incumbent — with the assistance of prominent pro-abortion groups and progressive politicians — is a sign of growing dissatisfaction in the party’s more left-wing quarters with the agenda of establishment Democrats. That tension will surely be evident in the midterms this year and could very well weaken the party long-term if left unresolved.


Governor Rauner Defeats Conservative Challenger Ives in a Close Illinois Primary

The Associated Press has called the Republican gubernatorial primary race for current Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, who defeated his conservative challenger Jeanne Ives in a tight contest tonight. Ives conceded to Rauner around 11:30 p.m., saying, “We fell just a bit short.”

In spite of the close loss, the Ives campaign put together a remarkable effort in the primary, challenging Rauner to a difficult campaign season despite his massive spending advantage. When the race was called, Ives lagged behind the sitting governor by a little over three percentage points.

Meanwhile, Erika Harold defeated Gary Grasso tonight for the GOP attorney-general nomination. Harold, who was crowned Miss America in 2003, will face Democrat Kwame Raoul in November.

Politics & Policy

The Anti-Trump Effort Backfires

From my most recent NRO article, about the McCabe firing and the current state of the anti-Trump Resistance: “No one following the Russian-collusion and related dramas should be in any doubt about the steady flow of the balance of damaging evidence away from Trump and on to his accusers.”

Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are, as always, most welcome.

Politics & Policy

A Reevaluation of the U.S. Party System’s Stability

(Rick Wilking)

One victim of the 2016 presidential election, the conventional wisdom holds, was the stability of the U.S. party system. Democrats were said to be riven between younger democratic socialists and a more neoliberal old guard. Republicans, meanwhile, were split into those who found Donald Trump’s nationalist impulse appealing and those who found it repulsive. Whether mass defections from the GOP in particular would fundamentally alter the faces of both parties, the argument continued, was an open question.

But according to new research by Vanderbilt’s Larry Bartels, this line of thinking has it almost completely backwards. First, there has been no evidence of mass defections from either party to the other. Second, it doesn’t capture the real divisions within each party. Democrats, Bartels finds, are actually relatively united in their belief in an active government. They are less united on cultural issues, which are also less salient for Democratic voters. Republican voters, in contrast, both care more about and are more united on cultural issues, including nationalism, than Democratic voters. They are more divided and are focused less on the role of government.

So what does this mean for the parties? In the short term, Bartels concludes, there is little reason to believe that the reaction to Trump will alter the makeup of either party in any significant way.

In the medium term, though, the parties may continue to sort themselves according to cultural preferences and their beliefs about the role of government. Of those he surveyed, Bartels finds that 24.3 percent of Republicans were closer to the average position of Democrats on the role of government than the average position of Republicans. At the same time, 18.5 percent of Republicans were closer to the average position of Democrats on cultural preferences. In other words, the GOP’s libertarian bloc, consisting of socially liberal voters who favor smaller government, is outnumbered by what you might call its populist bloc. Among Democrats, meanwhile, the pattern is reversed. Only 11 percent of Democrats were closer to the average position of Republicans on the role of government, but a whopping 26.3 percent were closer to the GOP mainstream on cultural issues.

Now imagine two contrasting futures: In the first, the chief dividing line in our politics will be cultural, in which case the 26.3 percent of Democrats who, on cultural issues, lean toward the Republican party will switch affiliation, as will the 18.5 percent of Republicans who are more comfortable with the cultural stance of the Democratic party. Both parties would, in this scenario, be more internally divided on economic policy. In the second future, the 24.3 percent of Republicans who are in favor of a larger government, the raison d’être for the Democratic party, will defect to the Democrats while the 11 percent of Democrats who are in favor of a smaller government will move in the opposite direction. While the two parties would be united by their convictions on economic policy in this scenario, they’d be divided on cultural questions.

Needless to say, shifts on this scale would have all sorts of knock-on consequences that are impossible to predict. But crudely speaking, Bartels’s analysis suggests that while an emphasis on cultural issues redounds to the benefit of the GOP, an emphasis on the merits of active governments is a boon to Democrats. Right now, Democrats who insist that their party needs to be more open to anti-abortion voters, or to voters who favor more stringent immigration enforcement, seem to be fighting a losing battle, which could be a problem. Yet it’s just as true that Republicans haven’t done a very good job of accommodating its emerging populist bloc, which is surely part of why Conor Lamb fared so well in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, and why Democrats are expected to win many more districts like it.

Politics & Policy

March Mailbag

1. In response to this post, about the Fed and fiscal stimulus: “So are you saying that deficit spending is a free lunch because the Fed will keep inflation from happening? You say [extra government spending] won’t ‘raise economic output’ but what’s the harm of it if you’re right?”

I see at least three potential harms. First, higher debt means higher interest costs. Without those interest costs, the government could spend money on something useful or taxes could be lower. Second, higher debt means a higher risk of an unmanageable federal debt. Third, the argument of the post implies — although I should have stated it explicitly — that you end up with a roughly one-for-one trade-off between the private sector and the public sector. That is, if federal spending increases and the Fed keeps it from increasing inflation, the private sector will be smaller than it otherwise would be. There are circumstances in which that trade-off is worth making (for example, if the national defense is dangerously underfunded) but in general the market allocation of resources is vastly preferable to their political allocation.

2. This post, about a Democratic congressional candidate’s rhetoric on abortion, drew this response: “How is it not religious to say that a ‘human embryo or fetus is a living human organism?’”

Science is capable of telling us, with no need of help from specific divine revelation, that the human embryo or fetus is neither dead nor inanimate. Science is capable of telling us, as well, that the embryo/fetus is an organism rather than a functional part of another organism, the way a living human skin cell is a part of another organism. And science tells us, finally, that the organism is of the human species.

As I said, science can’t tell us what to make of these facts; it takes an extra-scientific argument to establish whether it means that we owe the human embryo legal protection because it is a living human organism. But about the fact of its meeting that description there can be no scientific doubt.

3. I am not sure what elicited this email; maybe this article.

“You conveniently overlook the main reason we don’t have commonsense gun laws. The Citizens United decision allowed the NRA to buy off too many politicians.”

Did you think we had common-sense gun laws before 2010, when Citizens United was decided? By that point, public support for a ban on handguns had already been falling for five decades. Our country was already home to hundreds of millions of guns. The ban on “assault weapons” had expired six years previously. A Democratic president with large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate made no move to reinstate the ban either before that decision came down or in the months immediately following it. Whatever effect Citizens United had on gun politics, it’s not a major reason that proponents of gun regulations have been unsuccessful.



This old wooden beauty of a Buick was parked on the streets of Manhattan recently. It is the dead-opposite of a skimption.

For your amusement, I hope, I’ve done a Jaywalking episode. It begins with a bit of the overture to Semiramide — a Rossini opera I reviewed from the Met last week. Then I get into Russia and, after a while, China. The Marriott company fired an employee for “liking” a tweet by a Tibetan independence group. Makes me think of Cole Porter: “and they’ll all kow-tow.” So I duly play that song.

I talk a little trade, a little Ben Stein (“Anyone? Anyone?”), a car (long, long wood-paneled Buick LeSabre wagon). I conclude with some Rossini, for symmetry’s sake.

In recent episodes and columns, I’ve been doing some regional speech. A reader from Utah writes,

In the early 1980s, we had terrible flooding from the Great Salt Lake. Our governor was Norm Bangerter, a man who grew up in rural Utah. He was interviewed on television about the impact of the flood, and I’ll never forget how he started his answer: “Is what the problem is is …” This is perfectly and wonderfully typical.

Another reader gives us a lesson from Trinidad:

“Yuh have a good hand,” or “I like yuh hand.” The speaker has just complimented your cooking.

Finally, put some South in your mouth (to steal a phrase from Bro. Jimmy’s BBQ). This is a note about an Alabama family.

If you noticeably lost weight, my grandmother would exclaim, “You fell off!” She also called Coca-Cola “dope.” Peanut butter: “goober salve.”

I met a small farmer once who responded, when I asked him his occupation, “Oh, I pea-patch a little bit.”

If you asked my grandad whether he wanted some more milk and he wanted only a little, he’d reply, “Maybe a skimption.”

I have frequently heard the more profane among us insert swear words right smack dab into the middle of verbs, as in “I guaran-damn-tee it!”

Salty indeed. And savory.


Washington Post Columnist Doubles Down on Defense of Down-Syndrome Abortion

Children with Down syndrome perform during a humanitarian concert for children with Down’s syndrome. (Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters)

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus has doubled down on her argument that it can be a good thing to abort a child prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome.

After her March 9 column saying she would’ve aborted her child if he or she received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, Marcus received well-deserved pushback, including from me. Apparently troubled by the criticism, Marcus wrote a second column on the topic last Friday, ignoring the critiques of her argument and instead compiling responses of readers who agreed with her. Here’s the conclusion of her second piece:

These emails reflect a silenced majority — silenced because, as I discovered, saying that you would terminate a pregnancy for this reason unleashes fury and invective. That these readers reflect the majority view is not proof that their attitude is correct; morality is not determined by popular vote.

But their voices do illustrate the agonizing complexity of the matter and reinforce my fundamental point: This is a choice that must remain with the individual who will live with the consequences, not with a government imposing its will on her.

Though she acknowledges that “morality is not determined by popular vote,” she attempts to wield supportive emails as proof positive that aborting a child diagnosed with Down syndrome is morally defensible — for the second time demurring on the serious questions such a stance raises.

Marcus appears to believe that mothers are the ultimate arbiters of whether unborn lives deserve to be exterminated, and she defends the particular devaluation of the lives of children with Down syndrome. To justify this, she argues that personal choice on abortion always trumps government interference, and gestures vaguely to Roe v. Wade as some kind of moral imprimatur.

But the scientific reality is that every unborn child — with Down syndrome or not — is always a living, unique human being. His or her humanity does not, as Marcus implies, ebb and flow based on the mother’s opinion of whether or not he or she is worthy of life. It is an intellectual failure on her part to argue that we can dispense with inconvenient human lives without also addressing what she herself calls the “creepy, eugenic aspects” of such a position.

Though she has now written two columns on this topic within one week, Marcus has yet to explain why her rationale doesn’t permit any and all abortions targeting fetuses with unwanted genetic characteristics. Perhaps that’s because it is impossible to draw coherent lines on selective abortion when one’s defining principle is that personal choice always trumps government intervention.

What if that choice is to abort a baby girl, or a child with unwanted eye or hair color, or a child with inadequate athletic or musical potential? Her logic could very easily defend infanticide and euthanasia, as well. But Marcus doesn’t bother to offer any consistent way to oppose these types of selective killing.

She has done an immense disservice to this incredibly grave conversation by twice glossing over these obvious questions raised by her argument. The personal choice she promotes is in fact a determination, based on arbitrary characteristics, about whether another human being is valuable and deserving of respect. For the fetus, this choice is a matter of life and death.

Marcus explicitly affirms the right to kill fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, and her logic justifies the arbitrary extermination of entire classes of human beings — and yet she all but ignores the eugenic impulse undergirding her claims. The choice to “otherize” entire classes of human beings has historically been used by the most powerful to exploit the weak, leading to immense evil. Abortion is just one example.

She is correct, of course, that the abortion debate can be “agonizingly complex.” But there’s nothing complex about the intrinsic dignity of every human person, and their right to life. If Marcus insists upon denying unborn children with Down syndrome that right, she simply must defend her position with more than a nod to individual autonomy — and a handful of reader emails.


Ives Not Resting: Great Interview on The Laura Ingraham Show this Primary Morning

The NR-endorsed Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate had an excellent interview this morning with Laura Ingraham. If you are a voter in the Land of Lincoln and still need motivation to get rid of Bruce Rauner, get motivated by going to Laura’s home page and clicking on the audio for “GOTV for Jeanne Ives.”

Law & the Courts

NIFLA Supreme Court Case Exposes Abortion Groups’ Opposition to Choice

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Supreme Court this morning heard oral arguments in the case NIFLA v. Becerra, which concerns the Reproductive FACT Act, a California bill that compels crisis-pregnancy centers (CPCs) to advertise for state-funded abortion services.

The abortion-rights lobby’s campaign in favor of this law has been particularly revealing. Leading up to today’s arguments, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List have boosted the law by conducting an all-out assault against CPCs, calling them “fake women’s health centers” and accusing them of luring women in with “deceptive” information.

In reality, pregnancy-resource centers are extremely clear about what they do. They’re operated by pro-life individuals, of course, but nearly all of them have doctors and other medical professionals on staff, and they offer a variety of resources largely free of charge, including ultrasounds and other medical care. And these centers are upfront about the fact that they don’t offer abortions, because to do so would conflict with their mission, which is to enable women to choose life for their babies.

Primarily, these centers exist to counsel and assist women facing crisis pregnancies, whether they aren’t sure what choice to make or feel unable to choose life. Often, a woman will specifically seek out a CPC because she wishes to keep her child but feels unable to do so, whether because the child’s father or her own family wants her to abort, or because she doesn’t have enough income to support herself and her child.

The resources at CPCs enable women to choose life. And they support pregnant women every step of the way, referring them elsewhere for medical care as needed and usually offering extensive support after the child has been born, too. Abortion groups have made it very clear that they disapprove of this type of assistance.

For all of their talk about the ultimate importance of the “right to choose” and “female autonomy,” Planned Parenthood and NARAL can’t stand the idea that women might freely choose to keep a pregnancy — and that they might be aided in that choice by groups that tell them they don’t need to abort their children in order to be free.

This animosity toward CPCs is evident from the fact that Planned Parenthood collaborated with California legislators to craft the very text of the FACT Act. The bill is an explicit effort to cripple CPCs and force them to direct their clients toward abortion, which is antithetical to the mission of CPCs and unhelpful to women who wish to keep their pregnancies.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that “pro-choice” groups don’t actually support any choices other than abortion. After all, abortion providers have a vested interest in forcing CPCs to direct clients to abortion rather than helping them keep their babies — just take a look at the way abortion procedures contribute to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

No matter how the NIFLA case is decided, it has been invaluable in exposing these groups for being affirmatively pro-abortion, not truly “pro-choice.”


Tuesday Links

Spring is here — The vernal equinox is on March 20th at 12:15 p.m. EDT. Here’s Vivaldi, science, myths, “spring spheres” and more.

Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand. Related: Google founder’s flying taxis secretly tested in New Zealand.

100 years later, the question remains: What happened to the USS Cyclops?

A TED video classic from 2005: How To Tie Your Shoes.

“Since sixt week j learn the Englich and j do not any progress”: While imprisoned on St Helena, Napoleon started learning English.

These Cows Wrote a Message That Could Be Seen From Space.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include Saint Patrick’s Day, some guys changing tires while driving, the linguistic evolution of “dagnabbit”, and the difficulties inherent in coastline measurement.

Science & Tech

The Real Deal With the Tech Giants

(Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

A bit of dialogue from the old television series Person of Interest, where a reclusive billionaire programmer and a former CIA agent use a giant supercomputer to predict crimes and save people:

FINCH: Hester’s living off the grid. No photos online and nothing on the social networking sites.

REESE: I’ve never understood why people put all their information on those sites. Used to make our job a lot easier in the C.I.A.

FINCH: Of course, that’s why I created them.

REESE: You’re telling me you invented online social networking, Finch?

FINCH: The Machine needed more information. People’s social graph, their associations. The government have been trying to figure it out for years. Turns out most people were happy to volunteer it. Business wound up being quite profitable, too. Unfortunately, Jordan Hester seems to be more cautious than most, but I was able to run a credit check.

If you’re really disturbed by Cambridge Analytica and what campaigns or corporations can do with the information about you on social media . . . maybe it’s time to get off of social media. Even if Facebook institutes new rules about the sale of data or access to users’ personal data, there’s little reason to think that the company and its clients will forever resist the temptation to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Information about you and access to your eyeballs are Facebook’s primary products. (I did not make up the “floating sticky eyeballs” jargon from The Weed Agency. People actually talked like this during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.)

Despite my skepticism that Cambridge Analytica really figured out anything qualitatively different from previous targeted messaging, it is fair to ask if the general public understood the terms of the agreements when they started using these social-networking sites or other high-tech web-based services.

“Hi, I’m Facebook, and I’ll let you keep track of long-lost friends and relatives, let you see who got fat from your high school class, and peruse vacation pictures, baby pictures, and all kinds of information from everyone you’ve ever known. Of course, all the data you voluntary put on our site, and all of the information we gather about you, can be sold to anyone we want.”

“Hi, I’m Twitter, and I’ll give you near-instantaneous communication with almost any other user — basically free texting with anyone online — and let you reach a nearly-unlimited audience. In exchange, I’ll allow any lunatic in the world send any kind of message to you, including profane, hateful, threatening, and generally unhinged; groups of lunatics may get together to ensure you’re constantly receiving vile insults and menaces for long stretches of time.”

“Hi, I’m Google, I’m willing to provide an email system that’s easily accessible through any web browser and way better than Hotmail. Of course, in exchange, we get access to scan all of those emails, and to track everything you search for on our site.”

“Hi, I’m YouTube, and I’ll allow you to show videos to anyone in the world. In exchange, we’ll provide a comments section underneath the video that will obliterate your faith in humanity.”


Viva l’Italia?

Italy has just had elections, with very interesting results. I wanted to talk with Alberto Mingardi, which I have. He is one of the leading classical liberals in Italy — the director general of the Bruno Leoni Institute, in Milan. (Mingardi himself is Milanese.) He is also an authority in arts and letters.

In our Q&A, we do indeed talk the elections, and politics. But we also branch out — into demography, which is related to politics, true. Have Italians stopped having babies and families? No more cugini, nipoti, zii, and so on? Will immigration make up for this? What will this do to Italy?

We further branch into books, music, and, crucially, food. You can understand Italy through its food, says Mingardi. Italy is a federalist and pluralistic place. What the Lombards eat will be a lot different from what the Calabrians eat.

Anyway, a nice little discussion, all’italiana. Alberto Mingardi is worth listening to, on any number of subjects.


Bruce Rauner Deserves to Lose

I don’t know whether Jeanne Ives will pull off the upset, although there is buzz about it:

But I do know that Bruce Rauner deserves to lose. When you are the incumbent governor who has betrayed your voters, failed in your major policy goals, are almost certain to lose in November, and are massively outspending your primary opponent and trying to pound her into the ground with disgracefully dishonest attacks that don’t come close to passing the laugh test, it is time for the voters to send you into retirement. Here’s hoping Republican primary voters do it tomorrow night.


Primary Eve in Illinois: Fire All of Your Guns at Once

Bruce Rauner during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2014. (Jim Young/Reuters)

As they head to the voting booths tomorrow in Illinois, conservatives might want to consider a smattering of things about the incumbent and very non-conservative Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. (Rauner is being challenged by conservative state representative Jeanne Ives, whom National Review has formally endorsed.) Such as . . .

1. The reason that there are overwhelming Democratic numbers in the state legislature may have to do in some part with the fact that Rauner and his wife have raised big bucks for pro-abortion groups such as Personal PAC, which, per this Ives ad, has spent millions to defeat conservative Republicans and elect pro-abortion Democrats.

Last year, in just one donation, the Rauners gave $50,000 to Planned Parenthood of Illinois for its “Generations Celebrations” gala (“generation” being a strange term to use for an entity engaged in stopping life which has been generated).

2. In August, Rauner signed what infuriated conservatives have labelled a “sanctuary state” law (it protects illegal immigrants from being detained due to their immigration status). Of course, the Ives campaign has a commercial on that.

3. Rauner, as governor, is not in charge. Hey, he said so.

4. Ives wrapped up her final day of campaigning with a Chicago press conference. Her statement (read the entire thing below) begins, “Bruce Rauner is a disgrace. As treacherous and dishonest as he has been as governor. . .”

Wow. Here’s the video of the press conference. What follows is her charged statement, in full (provided by the Ives campaign). All guns were fired. The West Point grad has no intention of taking prisoners. Suggestion: Don a helmet before reading (and maybe play some Steppenwolf).

Transcript of Ives Statement:

Good afternoon.

Bruce Rauner is a disgrace.

As treacherous and dishonest as he has been as governor, he has been worse as a candidate for governor.

He’s entire campaign and the tens of millions of dollars behind it is predicated on a cynical lie to cover his betrayals.

Rauner has such a low opinion of GOP primary voters, he thinks he can scam them with lies about me so brazen even his supporters admit they aren’t true.

His latest about the DGA is the stuff of Area 51 conspiracy theorists.

By Rauner’s tortured logic, he is in cahoots with JB Pritzker who is running ads in the closing days attacking Bruce Rauner.

That’s good for Rauner to be attacked by Pritzker, right? So I should be claiming that Rauner should have to file an in-kind donation for the ads Pritzker is running against him.

Except I won’t do that because I am not a pathological liar.

Except I won’t do that because I have dignity.

Except I won’t do that because it would be so obviously untrue I couldn’t look myself in the mirror.

Bruce Rauner doesn’t suffer from the possession of dignity, self-respect or honor.

The truth is: Rauner has been aided and abetted by the leftist groups he’s financed, like his $50,000 check to Planned Parenthood, or whose policies he’s supported from the outset of this campaign.

It started when Personal PAC posted a video attacking me.

Now it’s the DGA on TV and NARAL in mailboxes attacking me.

That’s why my campaign responded with an ad pointing out the truth that, in fact, it is Rauner and the DGA who share the same policy positions on abortion, sanctuary state, Chicago bailouts and the like.

I’m endorsed by my conservative legislative colleagues here today and others because I’ve been a conservative reformer in Springfield.

I’m endorsed by, among others, the Susan B. Anthony List and National Review, the leading conservative opinion journal in the country for the past 50 years, because I am a tried-and-true conservative.

That’s the truth.

Rauner lies to cover up his betrayals. I tell the truth to drive policy solutions.

That’s the difference between us.

That’s the choice for GOP primary voters tomorrow.

Thank you.


The Truth Hurts at Penn Law

Professor Amy Wax (image via YouTube)

One of the chief criticisms of affirmative action is that it devalues credentials that minorities could otherwise use to distinguish themselves. If college admissions were purely merit-based, employers would have no reason to discount an impressive degree just because it is held by a black or Hispanic applicant. Under our system of racial preferences, however, it is not merely understandable but rational to suspect that minority applicants are less qualified than their paper credentials imply. For some proponents of affirmative action, the response to this problem is simple — ban those rational thoughts! Everyone must act as if we have a purely merit-based admissions system, even though everyone knows that we do not. The success of affirmative action depends on it.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax refuses to go along with the charade, and now she’s in trouble for it. As part of a critique of race-based admissions, Professor Wax observed that black students at Penn Law “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. Her observation is almost certainly correct, but Penn Law dean Ted Ruger declared it false without providing any evidence. (And he has access to the evidence, so his failure to reveal it is telling.) Worse, he forbade Professor Wax from teaching any mandatory first-year courses. His reasoning:

In light of Professor Wax’s statements, black students assigned to her class in their first week at Penn Law may reasonably wonder whether their professor has already come to a conclusion about their presence, performance, and potential for success in law school and thereafter. They may legitimately question whether the inaccurate and belittling statements she has made may adversely affect their learning environment and career prospects. These students may also reasonably feel an additional and unwarranted burden to perform well, so that their performance not be used or misused by their professor in public discourse about racial inequality in academic success. More broadly, this dynamic may negatively affect the classroom experience for all students regardless of race or background.

This is almost Orwellian in its blame-shifting. All of the problems listed by Dean Ruger are the direct result of Penn’s affirmative-action policies. Those policies generate a racial skills gap in Penn’s first-year law class, and Professor Wax has merely voiced what every rational observer already knows. Imagine an alternative ending to The Emperor’s New Clothes in which the truth-telling child is told to shut up, that the emperor’s clothes are beautiful, and that the only way his clothes may not be beautiful is if people keep mentioning he’s not wearing any.

As an aside, Amy Wax’s name has been in the news a lot lately. “In recent months, Wax seems to have turned her public statements about race and culture into something of a brand,” according to the Washington Post. That’s misleading. Professor Wax has been an outspoken conservative for years. Her book Race, Wrongs, and Remedies, which delved deeply into the issues she’s in trouble for now, was published in 2009. Her “brand” has surfaced because, for whatever reason, she is now in the crosshairs of campus activists who scour her public statements for anything that might spark controversy. Thank goodness for tenure.

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