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Webb vs. “Diversity”

James Webb had a sensible op-ed in the Wall Street Journal [1] a couple of days ago criticizing “diversity” affirmative action which often privileges recent immigrants over working class whites:

I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about Webb’s article but it has provoked some interesting responses. Stephen Green of Pajamas Media [2] thinks that it is some sort of broadside against the White House. He asks, “Why now? Why write this column today? What brought this particular issue out at this particular moment?” I’m guessing that Green has little experience with real writing or publishing, or he would know that Webb didn’t simply get up one morning and and decide to post his thoughts at the Wall Street Journal. Editors make these decisions, and Webb’s article may have been written weeks ago. And I’m not really sure as to why it is a “virtual declaration of war on President Obama.”

Glenn Reynolds [3] quotes a reader’s conspiracy theory that can charitably be described as absurd. “Let’s not get so worked up over Sen. Webb’s comments on race and affirmative action programs. Its very likely that his Op Ed was calculated by the White House as an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of white voters and to bring enough of them back into the democrat party’s fold to rescue their candidates in November.” Of course, Webb appears the sort of spineless milk toast willing to attach his name to ideas that he doesn’t endorse because the president demands it.

Reynolds also links to a whiny screed from Moe Lane [4] who may still be smarting from Webb’s defeat of George Allen in 2006. Lane predicts that the Webb will be punished for committing a “thoughtcrime” and he linked to a mildly critical post from NPR [5]. It seemed like weak evidence, so I checked some liberal blogs and found sympathetic posts from John Cole [6] and Kevin Drum [7]. I’m sure that there are some leftist diversitycrats out there who disagree with Webb, but I see no evidence that they have the power to, as Lane puts it,  “utterly destroy Jimmy Webb’s career.”

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#1 Comment By TomT On July 24, 2010 @ 9:15 am

Picture me applauding. Excellent article Mr. Stooksbury.

#2 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On July 24, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

Wait a minute. John Cole isn’t your standard liberal blogger and he isn’t so much endorsing the op-ed as explaining “where Webb is coming from” (which is a very similar place as Cole himself). His bottom line is to defend Webb from over-interpretation: “I don’t think for a minute Webb meant to claim that minorities have not suffered.”

And the key point in Kevin Drum’s post is “for all the good it does, there’s no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well.” He modestly argues instead for class-based affirmative action programs. And sees a huge problem for any change from the status quo because of the GOP:

“One obstacle, I think, is the insistence of conservatives on refusing to even admit that racism is a problem anymore. It’s become practically a truism on the right that racism is a thing of the past, nothing more than a convenient whipping boy to be exploited by race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who prey on liberal guilt and federal largesse. This is just poisonous.”

I only found one [8], at Wonk Room. Actually the standard reaction of liberals so far is complete silence. Maybe there was a unknown liberal “skip day” already planned yesterday, or maybe everybody really is a coward when it comes to race (I have to deal with race TWICE in one week?!? It’s just so HARD!). Most likely, people are thinking it through and will comment soon enough.

If you’re looking for “interesting responses” from the right, by all means start and end with Pajamas Media. But I think more substantive writing could be found elsewhere. Hopefully both sides will produce some on this important topic.

#3 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On July 24, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

As for myself, I think Webb’s op-ed is from wrong to not-even-wrong. The first sentence: “The NAACP believes the tea party is racist.” Is this falsehood necessary to get published by Newscorp? It’s hard to take Webb seriously after that.

“a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers” Unfortunately this is CW, but wrong. Besides a few firemen, what white workers are marginalized by government policies? What policies? What programs? Webb mentions none.

“At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves.” or “The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone.” And your point about affirmative action is what?

“Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.”

This is the bedrock of the white victim. Setting aside a few contracts for minority-owned businesses, a few jobs on government contracts, a few spots in state colleges and universities – that’s picking winners and determining outcomes? As for winners and outcomes, if those are picked and determined in the favor of minorities, why are there less than 20 minorities running Fortune 500 companies? When do you expect that number to reflect the proportion of minorities in the population?

BTW, it is Net Roots Nation weekend, so there actually was a liberal “skip day” yesterday. Expect much more comment soon.

#4 Comment By Clark Stooksbury On July 24, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

My point isn’t that the left is lining up behind Webb, but that Lane’s notion that the left will be convening some sort of thoughtcrime trial for Webb is nuts.

#5 Comment By TomT On July 25, 2010 @ 10:55 am

To interrupt your love-fest, I am politically opposite from Mr Stooksbury (in possibly every category), but this was a GREAT article.

Your insult, “If you’re looking for ‘interesting responses’ from the right…”, while clever, certainly does not describe Mr. Stooksbury, if past articles and comments are evidenced.

We will continue (where allowed) to jump all over inaccuracies. But this post was informative and important, and I, at least, didn’t catch any bending of truth for agenda from Mr. Stooksbury.

The nonsense about white-victimology, and lack of substantive example, could only come from one who implicitly sees justice in some sort of “reparation”. Someone incapable of apprehending the absurdity of blaming 2010 white people for the actions of long-dead individuals, through anything except the prism of racial-simularity. And that, is the essense of the racism that characterizes you, and that you wish to blame on your political opposites.

#6 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On July 25, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

Clark, I agree that anything that uses the term “thoughtcrime” seriously is nuts – I took that for granted. I’m not arguing against your point, in fact, I didn’t really think there was much of one to argue with.

TomT, my extremely mild insult was directed at Pajamas Media. I am just suggesting there should be more genuinely interesting takes in the b-sphere. I’ll look around again tonight. There is no truth to bend. Clark is giving his opinion on other posts, which is great, I do it all the time.

Your use of reparation, whether in scare quotes or not, is ridiculous. In fact, like thoughtcrime, its mere mention usually means the writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The rest of the paragraph only cements this view.

#7 Comment By tbraton On July 25, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

“for all the good it does, there’s no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well.”

Even Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who voted to continue affirmative action programs when she was on the Court, acknowledged that they were violative of the U.S. Constitution, and that was why they would only be permitted for another 25 years. I guess such logic is understandable to a woman, which demonstrates conclusively why we need affirmative action for women, sort of like Title IX in college athletics.

Meanwhile, we have two Justices on the Court who have also voted in favor of affirmative action, Ginsberg and Breyer. In all likelihood, neither will not step down as an affirmation of their firm belief in affirmative action as the third Jewish Justice takes her seat, apparently seeing no inconsistentcy between Jews amounting to 2% of the U.S. population and 33% of the nine Supreme Court seats. I guess the principle of affirmative action only carries so far and should not endanger personal privileges. Which probably explains why President Obama has expressed a need for affirmative action to continue while nominating three Jewish nominees to the Governing Board of the Federal Reserve, which when added to the three Jewish Governors already on the Board (Bernanke, Kohn and Warsh) will give Jews six of the seven seats on the Board. After all, Greenspan and Bernanke have demonstrated beyond any doubt why only a Jew is capable of administering our monetary system.

In my case, I voted for Obama in 2008 only because I thought he was white. Although I was raised as a Christian (currently nonbelieving), I follow the Jewish law (and American Indian custom) that heritage is determined through the mother. But, having heard that Obama declared himself Black on his recent census form, I willl definitely vote against him in 2012, being the unreconstructed racist that I am—unless the Republicans nominate Colin Powell or Michael Steele, in which case I will simply stay home and pout.

If we are going to have affirmative action in this country, I think it is time for the Democratic Party to return to its ante-bellum roots and establish clear standards for its proper implementation, such as establishing the old categories of mulatto, quadroon and octaroon, so that no one can take unfair advantage of the racial spoils system. And the Democratically controlled Congress must act quickly before the inextricably difficult case of Tiger Woods’ children arrives to bedevil us. After all, it would require an Einstein to determine what would be the proper number of bonus points to allocate to the children of an uppity billionaire Negro who refuses to acknowledge that he is Black (something to do with his 50% Thai bloodline plus Black and White and American Indian blood) and his white Swedish ex-wife to be. I get a headache thinking about it. Since Einstein is dead, I think we need the services of Ken Feinberg, after he finishes with the BP oil spill claims.

BTW, getting back to the subject of the blog, Senator Webb’s attack on affirmative action, I would note that the uber liberal columnist for the NY Times, Maureen Dowd, noted in her column today that black Congressman Jim Clyburn (Dem.S.C.), the third ranking Democrat in the House, apparently made the following observation:

“I don’t think a single black person was consulted before Shirley Sherrod was fired — I mean c’mon, “ said Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black lawmaker so temperate that he agreed with an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on Friday by Senator James Webb of Virginia, which urged that “government-directed diversity programs should end.” [9]

#8 Comment By Jack Tracey On July 25, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

Race really is a distraction from the DC power grab that has been accelerating since 9/11. And why not? It still works.

#9 Comment By Norwegian Shooter On July 25, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

tbraton, WTF? If it’s sarcasm, what’s your point? Dowd is a single white woman living in Manhattan who writes for the NYT, but that doesn’t make her liberal. Read [10] on Dowd and Clyburn.

As for other discussions, I know nothing of the author, but this post on [11] is very specific and sensible. A die-hard liberal take is on [12]. I found this last one at [13] via NYT’s Opinionator. But the biggest storyline I see is that Webb’s op-ed has gotten plenty of coverage on the right, but has been basically ignored on the left. Not sure what to make of that. It’s been a crazy week.

#10 Comment By kushibo On July 26, 2010 @ 1:19 am

having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white,

When Californians voted to end affirmative action in state institutions, the percentage of White students at the University of California fell while Asian students rose.