This is why you must always vote, always, even when your loudmouth brother-in-law insists that there’s no difference between the two parties. In yet another 5-4 decision, the John Roberts-led Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision, and upheld Michigan’s right to end affirmative action via ballot initiative. Aside from the ramifications for affirmative action policies, which are now sitting ducks for aggrieved white majorities, this ruling makes you wonder what this court will do next.
The list of effed-up Roberts Court decisions is too long to even get started on, but today’s ruling is of a piece with their gutting of the Voting Rights Act lat year. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that racism was no longer a serious enough problem to merit the protective cover of the VRA’s pre-clearance provision, and asserted their own primacy over the duly-elected Congress. Today, the court decide that, while racial considerations may be constitutional, this time, voters in the states know best. From Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion:
This case is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met is not being challenged. Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences.
Consideration of race in admissions is permissible, and constitutional, when certain conditions are met. Put a pin in that for a second.
Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues.
The freedom secured by the Constitution consists, in one of its essential dimensions, of the right of the individual not to be injured by the unlawful exercise of governmental power. The mandate for segregated schools, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954); a wrongful invasion of the home, Silverman v. United States, 365 U. S. 505 (1961); or punishing a protester whose views offend others, Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397 (1989); and scores of other examples teach that individual liberty has constitutional protection, and that liberty’s full extent and meaning may remain yet to be discovered and affirmed.
Yet freedom does not stop with individual rights. Our constitutional system embraces, too, the right of citizens to debate so they can learn and decide and then, through the political process, act in concert to try to shape the course of their own times and the course of a nation that must strive always to make freedom ever greater and more secure.
Here Michigan voters acted in concert and statewide to seek consensus and adopt a policy on a difficult subject against a historical background of race in America that has been a source of tragedy and persisting injustice. That history demands that we continue to learn,to listen, and to remain open to new approaches if we are to aspire always to a constitutional order in which all persons are treated with fairness and equal dignity.
Snipy at Wonkette has a sufficiently detailed, appropriately angry explainer on the history and ramifications of this decision, and as she correctly puts it, this is mob rule. I’m not a lawyer (Snipy is), but as a speaker of English, Justice Kennedy’s decision seems to at once acknowledge that issues of race are alternately “difficult and delicate” and “a source of tragedy and persisting injustice,” while concluding that “the concerns of a majority of the voters” take precedence. Now, for whom do you think issues of race are “difficult and delicate,” and for whom are they “a source of tragedy and persisting injustice?“
Affirmative action in college admissions is, surprise, surprise, opposed by nearly two-thirds of Americans, including 3/4 of white people, but is supported by a slim plurality of black people. The Roberts Court has just declared open season on affirmative action policies, and according to Justice Kennedy, again in contravention of knowing what words mean, has done so in the name of “debate,” and of remaining “open to new approaches.” How banning colleges from considering race as a factor in admissions equals “debate” and “remaining open” to anything is anyone’s guess.
This is why you vote, people, because if a few more of you had turned out in 2000, then we wouldn’t be dealing with this currently effed-up Supreme Court, and whatever coin Justice Kennedy flips in his head.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the decision during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One today. Here’s the transcript of that exchange (via email from the White House):
Q How does the White House view today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on — Michigan’s ban on affirmative action at universities?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re still reviewing the ruling, which just came down. So I don’t have a specific reaction. Generally speaking, as you know, the President believes that diversity in the classroom is important for students, campuses and schools. In an increasingly multicultural society and global economy, it is more important than ever that America’s students be exposed to a wide array of ideas and perspectives to prepare them for success.
As you know, the President has said that while he opposes quotas and thinks an emphasis on universal and not race-specific programs is good policy, considering race, along with other factors, can be appropriate in certain circumstances. But we don’t have a specific reaction to the ruling.