14 November 2012

Romney should have pushed the racial divide

Stephen Kershnar

Should the Election have been Racialized?
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 12, 2012

The recent Presidential election made clear some deep demographic fault lines: race/ethnicity and marriage. An interesting issue is whether the Republicans should have taken advantage of these fault lines by racializing the election. I should mention that there are many wonderful members of every demographic group and that this fact is irrelevant to this discussion.

Consider race and ethnicity. Citing a Reuters-Ipsos’ exit poll Reuters, VDARE writer Steve Sailer points out that the racial and ethnic voting divisions were massive. Sailer noted that only 3% of blacks voted for Romney. In comparison 58% of whites voted for Mitt Romney (59% on the Edison exit poll). The same pattern is true for Hispanics. VDARE’s Peter Brimelow, citing a CNN poll, noted that only 27% of Hispanics voted for Romney. This is roughly the same for Asians (26% voted for Romney).

Next, consider marriage. Sailer notes that 57% of married people voted for Romney versus 35% of single people. When we combine race and gender, the differences becomes starker. 62% of married white women and 65% of married white men voted for Romney. Because whites were 72% of voters, the election might be stereotypically characterized as a competition between married white voters and everyone else.

This difference is noticeably larger than the gender gap found in CNN’s exit polls. Women voted for Obama over Romney 55% to 44%. Men voted for Romney over Obama by 52% to 45%. These gaps are smaller than the marriage and race/ethnicity gaps.

The Republican establishment is currently pushing for amnesty. By amnesty, I mean making illegal aliens into citizens or legal residents. This clearly will not benefit Republicans. First, there are polling results suggesting that Hispanics don’t care much about amnesty. Writing in National Review Online, Heather Mac Donald points out that in a 2011 poll of California Hispanics, more than four times as many Hispanics were opposed to Republican economic policies than their position on immigration (29% versus 7%).

Second, a significant number of Hispanics are poor and depend on welfare programs. Mac Donald notes that U.S. born Hispanic households use welfare programs at twice the rate of non-Hispanic U.S.-born households. In California, she notes, Hispanic children are poor at much higher rates than other children. For example 70% of the poor children in the state are Hispanic and one in three Hispanic children are poor versus one in six for non-Hispanic children. They also have a relatively high percentage of the population that is low-skilled and poorly educated relative to other groups. Hence, it makes sense that they might be suspicious of a party that wants to cut welfare programs in order to lower taxes on middle class and rich.

Third, Hispanics have made it clear that as a group, they dislike Republicans and that this does not depend on the amnesty issue. While they gave Romney 27% of their vote, they almost never give Republicans that much more. In recent history, the high-water mark occurred when George W. Bush got 40% of their vote. Sailer points out that even when the Republicans ran someone who sponsored an amnesty bill, Sen. John McCain, he only got 31% of the vote, which is close to Romney’s 27%.

An interesting issue is whether the Republicans should have racialized the election, either by emphasizing issues that focus on racial differences or by making it clear that the issue is in part the groups whose preferences should be put in place.

White voters, especially blue-collar ones crucial to wining the Midwest and Great Lakes states, likely disapprove of amnesty and racial preferences. The Obama administration unilaterally imposed an amnesty (the executive order implementation of the Dream Act). It has also been quietly pushing race- and ethnicity-preferences (see its brief in Fisher v. University of Texas and some of its regulations). The Romney campaign should have trumpeted differences on these issues. It might also have challenged chain immigration. This policy, in effect, favors a flood of low-skilled-and-poor immigrants over a smaller flow of high-skilled-and-rich ones by making immigration depend largely on family relations. Mentioning these issues would likely have helped Romney attract more blue-collar white votes in states where he desperately needed them and would have done so on issues in which the Republicans are in the right.

One obvious objection to this strategy is that it is wrong to divide Americans by race or ethnicity. The objection rests on a false assumption. As long as the division focuses on legitimate policy differences, it is not wrong to bring these differences to the attention of voters, even when doing so has a divisive effect. This is especially true when the policies are unjust and inefficient. Even if it were wrong to divide people, this wrongness still has to be weighed against the wrongness of allowing the U.S. to sink under a sea of debt that is rising to dangerous levels.

A second objection is that such divisive policies wouldn’t work because Americans don’t care about immigration, race preferences, or a flood of low-skilled-and-poor immigrants. It is likely Americans don’t care about the issues only because politicians are wise enough to leave in place the status quo. When in 2007, Congress tried to rush through an amnesty bill without much discussion in Congress or the American people, the public reacted with fury. Since then politicians in both parties have largely avoided the issue like the plague. Obama barely mentioned race preferences both before and during the election. It is obvious why.

Also, there is no obvious reason that the country should continue to approve of the displacement of some demographic groups (for example, those with European ancestry) by others. This displacement occurred and continues to occur as the result of various bills (for example, Ted Kennedy’s 1965 Immigration Bill) that changed traditional U.S. immigration policy. Perhaps this is a good idea, but showing this takes an argument. Calling opponents of the displacement “racist” or “xenophobic” isn’t an argument, merely name-calling. And given that the replacement groups support policies that further socialize the economy and ratchet up taxes, the voting pattern of non-European immigrants should be part of the discussion.

President Obama won the election in a vote that had clear demographic fault lines. Assuming racializing the campaign to draw attention to the fault lines might well have made a difference, it is hard to see why it shouldn’t have been done.

01 November 2012

First Amendment: Campus Free Speech

Stephen Kershnar

Losing Free Speech in Academia
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 30, 2012

In higher education, state colleges and universities have a troubling tendency to restrict free speech far beyond what the Constitution allows or what is morally right. This is troubling because these institutions are central to the free market of ideas and to people freely shaping their own lives.

The right to free speech is the right that others refrain from interfering with you when you express your ideas. This right is crucial to the marketplace of ideas. The underlying notion here is that just as in a free market of goods, the best goods tend to win out, in a free market of ideas, the best ones tend to win out. Entries into the marketplace need not be intellectual treatises but can also include emotional appeals, art, and parodies.

In On Liberty (1859), philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that there are strong reasons to allow people to present and discuss disfavored views. First, such views are sometimes true or contain true ideas within them. Discussing them can bring out these truths. Second, even when such views are false, discussing them enables people to see why they are false and thereby gain a better understanding of what justifies their own views. On this theory, for example, by freely discussing the pros and cons of difficult issues (for example, Christianity, homosexuality, and promiscuity), people are more likely to have true ideas and to understand the basis for their own beliefs.

In addition to these benefits, more recent writers, such as Harvard University professor Tim Scanlon, have argued that people have more opportunity to shape their own lives when they are able to freely discuss ideas. Discussing ideas allows them to better decide what sort of people they want to be and how they should act. This is because they are better able to consider and assess different principles that might guide their lives.

Writing recently in The New York Times, Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), noted that 65% of colleges had policies that violated the First Amendment’s right of free speech. He further noted a 2010 study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities that found that 19% of faculty and 36% of students strongly agreed that it was safe to hold unpopular positions on campus. Administrations are chilling controversial speech and the people who are best in the know (faculty) are ones most chilled. Lukianoff argues that this chilling has resulted from the dramatic expansion in the number of administrators and staff as well as the culture of political correctness that wants to suppress what it takes to be racially insensitive speech and sexual harassment.

SUNY-Fredonia’s policies nicely illustrate the problem with its unconstitutional restrictions on free speech, although to be fair many other campuses provide just as good an illustration. The campus’ diversity policy prohibits “[Creating] a situation that results in the discomfort of, or harassment or excessive ridicule of a member of the college community.” This policy might be used to punish a faculty, student, or visitor who argues that because the Bible condemns homosexuality, gay sex is wrong, if gay activists claim that this causes them discomfort. Similarly, someone who argues that because modern Muslim countries trample on liberty, keep women down, and engage in endless sectarian fighting, Islam is likely bad and false, if Muslim activist claim that it causes them excessive ridicule.

This restriction does not fit into an exception to the First Amendment protection of free speech. It is not narrowly targeted toward fighting words because these words must be directed at individuals and tend to provoke violence. Nor is it narrowly targeted toward obscenity because it is not narrowly targeted at sexually explicit speech. In addition, the Supreme Court has held that indecent speech (sexually explicit, tasteless, or offensive speech) is stringently protected on campuses. See Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri (1973).

This restriction is overbroad in that it can be used to punish constitutionally protected speech as well as unprotected fighting words and obscenity. It is also vague in that faculty and students have to guess as to when such a rule applies. Both features make a state campus policy unconstitutional. See, for example, Doe v. University of Michigan (1989).

SUNY-Fredonia’s sexual harassment policy is also unconstitutional. It bans “[A]ny repeated or unwanted verbal or physical sexual advance, sexually explicit derogatory statement, or sexually discriminatory remark made by someone in the workplace or educational setting. … This behavior constitutes sexual harassment when … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.” A faculty member might run afoul of this rule if he argues (as did former Harvard president Larry Summers) that due to parental duties or genetics, women will be underrepresented in science and this deeply offends women’s groups on campus. A student might get impaled on this rule if he argues that the current hookup culture makes too many college women unclean in the eyes of God and this deeply offends women’s groups who are famously thin skinned.

Sexual harassment codes on state campuses must satisfy the First Amendment and the standard is narrow. To be banned, the conduct must be so severe, pervasive, and objectionably offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit. As FIRE points out that, this standard, from Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), has been relied on by courts, colleges, and legal counsel for more than a decade. In addition, it is the standard adopted by the relevant part of the federal government (Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights). Fredonia and far too many other campuses have not adopted such a narrow ban even though courts have consistently shot down broader bans. See, for example, DeJohn v. Temple University (2008).

SUNY-Fredonia’s internet policy bans content that is “vulgar, racist, sexist, homophobic …” This policy also wouldn’t survive constitutional challenge in part because vulgar is overbroad and vague and in part because in banning only some views (racist, sexist, and homophobic ones), the campus engages in viewpoint discrimination. Courts take a very harsh view of the state discriminating against certain viewpoints and this has been applied at the campus level (see, for example, Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)). Other Fredonia policies, such as that requiring orderly and dignified expression, also run afoul of the yet other protections of free speech. The courts have given strong protection of parodies even when they are neither orderly nor dignified.

Justice Robert Jackson famously said that “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” State colleges and universities should protect free speech rather than allowing the orthodoxy of political correctness to constrict the marketplace of ideas.