Recently, I raised the issue of the worldview of the Resistance to President Trump (“Resistance, in the Light of 1776”). I would like to delve further into the matter. It will take a few installments. Basically, what I hope to do is to put order in some readings, observations, impressions, and overhearings (I live in a university neighborhood, and one establishment I regularly eat at is the aptly named “One World Café”). This effort is neither scientific nor conclusive. Call it “political” in the sense Pierre Manent employs when he says les choses politiques arrivent en gros (“political things first come to sight in rough outline”).
The Harvard Law Review has announced that it has the most diverse intake of editors in its history when diversity is measured by race, ethnicity, and gender. In fact, according to an article in the Crimson, the demographics of the intake resemble the demographics of the Harvard Law School class. This development would indeed be a cause for celebration if it were not the result of preferences rather than merit selection.
Racial preferences began during my time at Harvard Law School and their first implementation occurred when I was an editor. My memory is that they were focused on African Americans and quite limited in number. Indeed, my impression was that they were used only when candidates were close to the cutoff in the writing competition. I say “my impression,” because like the very few other conservatives on the review I had no position of authority there.
But since then the number of “discretionary positions” to be potentially filled by preference has expanded first to ten positions and in 2013 when gender was added to race and ethnicity as a category to twelve positions or more than 25 percent of the intake. Moreover, last year in keeping with the student stirs on the HLS campus, activists complained about the review’s demographic makeup, no doubt putting pressure on it to make use of all the slots, regardless of performance.
This history at the Harvard Law Review illustrates three “laws” of preference.
Early in one of the best sports movies, Knute Rockne, All-American, the immigrant kid Knute learns to play football with the neighborhood boys, including a black one. The logic of the movie, following the recognition of Catholics in higher education, is that the opportunities will open up for blacks, too. 42, another biopic of baseball star and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson, takes the next step from that classic.
Frankly proclaiming Robinson’s importance for America, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey opens the movie by declaring to his assistant, “I have a plan.” In fact Rickey and Robinson deserve comparison with Martin Luther King. Claiming to be interested in winning and thus in profits, Rickey’s signing of Robinson exemplifies Tocqueville’s observation that Americans say that they are interested in profit but in fact often have higher motives. He is Tocqueville’s American, a self-professed Methodist focused on acting righteously, doing good while doing well.