I have never been coy about how I feel about affirmative action. I am a battered old middle class white guy who believes we still need it. I am in favor of making Michigan government and our institutions of higher learning look more like America.
As a result, I voted against Proposal 2 last month, and would vote against it again. Unfortunately, my side lost. Decisively, in fact.
I am also a proud member of the American Civil Liberties Union, which I see as neither a liberal nor a conservative organization, just one designed to protect the constitution.
However, I have to say I oppose the lawsuit the ACLU and the NAACP have filed to attempt to allow the university admissions programs to continue. I think the courts should rule against them -- even though I also wish affirmative action could continue.
Why do I oppose that suit? Simply, because we lost, fair and square. The proposal on the ballot was completely clear. People knew what they were voting for. And it wasn’t even close. Fifty-eight percent of the voters wanted this.
It passed in every county of the state except three – the two major university counties, and the one that includes Detroit.
You can argue that the voters were wrongheaded, selfish, even racist. But democracy means majority rule. To try and overturn the will of the people by some legal trick in the courts is just wrong.
Think about this. Print out the officially certified results for governor, senator, and Proposal Two. The numbers in each case are nearly the same – uncannily so. Proposal Two won with virtually the same vote totals as Jennifer Granholm and Debbie Stabenow did.
What would you say if Dick DeVos filed suit saying the election should be invalidated and he should be governor instead? Or if the pro-dove hunters said never mind that we lost our referendum, we want the courts to let us shoot birds instead.
You would think that would be outrageous. And to my mind, the affirmative action lawsuit is too. That doesn’t mean those of us who believe in helping right old wrongs need to give up. There is a way that I think Michigan universities can achieve what affirmative action was designed to do without violating the new law. There is nothing that prevents universities from using affirmative action in admissions... if based on economic criteria. The U of M has in fact been doing that for decades. Most minorities are, frankly, poorer than most white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. That’s a large part of the reason we needed affirmative action in the first place.
Michigan State University never used the affirmative action criteria Michigan does, and MSU has historically had nearly as large a proportion of minorities in their undergraduate population. Those who were in favor of affirmative action need to study the reasons why Michigan State has been able to do that. And we need to realize that strategy beats sour grapes, every time.