Redistribute resources away from the richest, most exclusive schools

Matthew Yglesias

The Supreme Court seems very likely to deal a major blow to college affirmative action programs when it rules on the Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions case. 

In the controlling precedent from Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that “race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time … the Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” She was writing in 2003, 19 years ago rather than 25. But at the time, Day O’Connor was the median justice. When she retired, the median justice became the more conservative Anthony Kennedy. Then when Kennedy retired, the median justice became the more-conservative-still John Roberts. And when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the median justice became the even-more-conservative Brett Kavanaugh. Given this substantial rightward shift, we should expect some precedents to be overturned, and since even O’Connor seemed torn on this particular question, I very much doubt that Kavanaugh is. 

And the Court doesn’t need to fear backlash here. In public polling, overwhelming majorities say race should not factor into college admissions. In Blue Rose Research competitive message testing (previously seen on Slow Boring), affirmative action performs worse than cutting police funding in partisan framing and pro/con arguments.