Cultural Revolutions

An Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court decision Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, issued last spring, upheld a 2006 citizen-approved ballot initiative in Michigan to amend the state constitution to ban reverse discrimination in public employment, contracting, and education, including at the University of Michigan.  The ruling ends a quarter-century battle that began when David Jaye, a state legislator of Polish ethnic heritage from suburban Macomb County, aggressively and repeatedly questioned the practice, much to the chagrin of Michigan’s political establishment.

In 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that the amendment, when applied to public universities, violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.  But in a 6-2 decision (Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting; Kagan not taking part in the proceedings), the Supreme Court reversed that ruling: The state may not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”  In essence, the Court ruled that the 14th Amendment cannot be used to uphold preferences when state electorates decide otherwise.

The ruling illustrates how a small group of conservatives from blue-collar areas can transform state policy.  Proposal...

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