“an overwhelming 74 percent thought that race or ethnicity should not be a factor in college admissions”

Ray Teixeira

Democrats are very shaky indeed on the idea of merit today but that wobbliness goes back quite a way to the origins of affirmative action as a tool for allocating jobs and school admissions. As it evolved in practice, affirmative action became bound up with preferences based on race (later also on gender) that were used to override allocations based on conventional measures of merit. While these practices have been with us for a long time, they have never been popular. Voters have been stubbornly resistant to the idea that it’s fair to allocate sought-over slots on the basis of race rather than merit.

This is true today as the Supreme Court prepares to render a decision next month on affirmative action in higher education as practiced byHarvard and the University of North Carolina. The Harvard case turns particularly on whether Asians have been discriminated against in admissions to that college. Given the proclivities of the Court and the blindingly obvious pattern of such discrimination—denying it seems as plausible as professing one’s belief in the Easter Bunny—it is a safe bet that the Court will decide against the universities. In so doing, the Court will find itself on the good side of public opinion and Democrats, who will no doubt denounce the decision in histrionic terms, will find themselves very much on the wrong side.

In typical polling from Pew in 2022, just 7 percent of the public thought high school grades should not be a factor in college admissions and a mere 14 percent thought standardized test scores should not be a factor. But an overwhelming 74 percent thought that race or ethnicity should not be a factor in college admissions.