Based on their consistent behavior in recent years, and specifically again in their presidential debate last Thursday, it is fair to ask whether there is any race-sensitive situation Democrats will not exploit for political purposes.
The Supreme Court’s decision last week involving the public schools’ use of race to achieve diversity was just too tempting to pass up. The respective candidates’ reactions spawned a grotesque competition among them to see which was the best demagogue.
These candidates surely understand that the Court’s ruling in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 et al, did not — let me repeat — did not overrule the Court’s landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
In Brown, the Court held that forced segregation of the races in public schools violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the Parents case, the Supreme Court did not reverse itself on the issue of segregation, which was not even at issue.
The Parents case involved two separate school districts, in Seattle, Wash., and Jefferson County, Ky., both of which voluntarily adopted student assignment plans that allocated children to different public schools based solely on their race. The Supreme Court held that such plans violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee.
Unfortunately, current Supreme Court precedent permits governmental discrimination on the basis of race in exceptional circumstances. But is only in those cases where the government can demonstrate a compelling interest and that the discrimination — as in the use of racial classifications — is “narrowly tailored” to achieve that compelling state interest.
Thus, the Court has permitted the use of racial classifications to remedy past discrimination, since the government is deemed to have a compelling interest in “remedying the effects of past discrimination.” This is one rationale for race-based preferences in college admissions, for example.
But there was no past discrimination to remedy in either the Seattle or Kentucky school districts. The Court found that “the Seattle schools were never segregated by law nor subject to court-ordered desegregation, and the desegregation to which the Jefferson County (Kentucky) schools were previously subject has been dissolved.”
The Court’s ruling should please all interested in moving toward a color-blind society. As Justice Thomas noted in his concurring opinion, the school districts’ approach disfavors “a color-blind interpretation of the Constitution,” and “would give school boards a free hand to make decisions on the basis of race — an approach reminiscent of that advocated by the segregationists in Brown v. Board of Education.”
Of course, this politically incorrect reference to Brown v. Board of Education, rendered by a member of one of the most politically incorrect groups of people: black conservatives, incensed liberals and their water carriers at the highest reaches of the Democratic Party. So did Chief Justice Roberts’ pronouncement, in his majority opinion, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Democratic presidential candidates immediately fell all over themselves pandering to African-Americans and shamelessly employed that tactic they pretend to abhor: the politics of fear.
Hillary Clinton couldn’t resist another opportunity to bring up Katrina. “You can look at the thousands of African-Americans left behind by their government with Katrina.” And, “They have “turned the clock back on the promise of Brown v. Board of Education.”
Sen. Joe Biden said that if the rationale of the Court’s majority had been applied the past 50 years, “we would have never, never overcome the state’s effort to ignore Brown versus the Board.” But Bush’s newly appointed justices, “have turned the court upside down.”
Sen. Edwards, as if auditioning for “Saturday Night Live,” seized the moment to adapt his “two-Americas” theme to the public schools. “We still have two public school systems in America.”
Sen. Dennis Kucinich talked about a constitutional amendment to undo the Court’s damage while Sen. Chris Dodd promised that “as president” he “would use whatever tool is available” to reverse the decision.
Democratic Party honchos have long since calculated they cannot allow a level playing field on race and still preserve their 90 percent lock on the African-American vote. To have to compete for votes with Republicans based purely on a comparison of the values and policies each party represents would result in a significant exodus of African-American voters from the Democratic Party. They know that just a slight percentage shift in voter identification would be devastating, so they have to keep stirring the racial cauldron.
Some might argue it is unfair and hurtful to claim that Democratic politicians engage in race-baiting, to which I respond it is not unfair if it is true. But it is extremely unfair and damaging for Democrats to fan the flames of racial suspicion, distrust and alienation.