The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Affirmative Inaction

Peter Beinart thinks it would be a good idea for Obama to give a high-profile speech loudly opposing race-based affirmative action, and endorsing class-based affirmative action.

I would argue that there is a very clear reason that Obama only rarely mentions his qualms about race-based affirmative action, and praises class-based affirmative action, in very vague and brief terms. It is because his party, particularly the African-American base, largely supports race-based affirmative action, and regards class-based affirmative action proposals with deep suspicion.
When affirmative action was at its lowest ebb, Bill Clinton urged the country to “mend it, don’t end it.” And then… it wasn’t mended, it wasn’t ended. It just kept on going. Nothing changed.
That is the standard Democratic position when running for nationwide office. They must give a vaguely sympathetic nod to the 72 percent of Americans who oppose “giving preferences to blacks and other minorities in things like hirings, promotions, and college admissions.” But they must make no actual concrete promises or proposals — no action that affirmatively addresses the matter, you could say.


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