This week, President Barack Obama made comments in which he advocated for an economy of shared prosperity, reminiscent of his comments during the 2008 campaign about “spreading the wealth around.” Paul Ryan, on the other hand, commented about how America is a society in which equality of opportunity — not an equality of result — is valued.
Nowhere is this difference in philosophy more evident than when it comes to race-based affirmative action in college admissions.
And this week, the Obama administration took sides in the Texas affirmative action case, filing a brief in favor of affirmative action. The friend-of-the-Court brief urged the Supreme Court to rule against Abigail Fisher, the white plaintiff who was rejected from the University of Texas due to — as she claims — her race.
According to Bloomberg News, the Obama administration “sought to make the issue one of national security,” arguing that the military, FBI and Department of Homeland Security must rely on “universities to produce a steady stream of diverse graduates.”
The University of Texas system, in order to accomplish diversity through facially neutral means, has a system in which the top-10 percent of students from each high school are admitted to University of Texas at Austin. Because minorities make up a majority of some of Texas’s neighborhoods and schools, this increases the diversity at University of Texas. About three-fourths of the students admitted to University of Texas are admitted under this program. For the remaining 25 percent of the students the university admits, the school uses a variety of factors and race is one of them.
Fischer’s argument is essentially that the university uses a plan that is race neutral, on its face, to admit the first batch of applicants and then explicitly uses race as a factor to admit the second batch of applicants. She argues this is in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“If any state action should respect racial equality, it is university admission,” Fisher’s lawyers argued in a court filing in May, according to Bloomberg. “Selecting those who will benefit from the limited places available at universities has enormous consequences for the future of American students and the perceived fairness of government action.”
The Supreme Court will hear this case in October, nearly a month before the November elections in which Obama needs to maximize his support among minorities — particularly Blacks and Hispanics — to eek out reelection.
This case will be a big campaign issue then, and it suits the Obama administration politically to go all-in for affirmative action.