2:00pm February 25, 2012

Countering Affirmation Action Counteractive for the Right


If conservatives and their candidates choose to elevate the culture war by including Affirmative Action, they may win the legal fight yet lose on two fronts: the race for the White House and the focus on smaller government.

As much as conservatives don’t want to say it and as much as they don’t want to hear it, the plain truth concerning Affirmative Action in 2012 America is this:

Now is not the time or the place in American history to chip away at it.

Never mind that it goes against the fundamental beliefs that we have as a nation. True, we do believe that “all men are created equal” and we fight for the promise of liberty and self-determination that makes up much of the “American Dream.” From a conservative perspective, the existence of the controversial policy that stems back to the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement seems counter-intuitive to all that we stand for as a nation.

Despite the hard right-wing and libertarian slants that are dominating the conservative perspective on Affirmative Action, there are two truths that conservatives are unable to ignore:


  1. There is only one culture within America in which its members endured systematic and authorized discrimination (and, usually, dehumanization) over the 17th, 18th,  19th, and 20th centuries, a reality that yielded harrowing effects for the sub-culture; and
  2. It is practically impossible to achieve the “smaller government”, “lower tax rates”, and “lesser national debt” goals of the modern day conservative movement if there is a permanent underclass engrained within America today as a result of the aftermath of those aforementioned centuries of economic, academic, and civic harm.


Talk about fairness all you want, but for the sake of true freedom from bigger government – and, perhaps, tyranny – the arguments for equality cannot take root as long as they attempt to stand on unstable economic, educational and social grounds. America the Free cannot exist if there is a growing class of Americans that are enslaved and choked off from the promise of a future.

From a completely self-serving perspective and from a societal standpoint, conservatives have no real patriotic choice other than to continue striving for the highest goals that Affirmative Action reaches for, at least for the foreseeable future. This seems to be the only way to address the growing disparities in wealth, health, and other social factors between Blacks and others in today’s America. The need to curtail entitlement spending, restructure Social Security benefits, and condense other government-funded programs rests on the ability to foster a nation where the public needs of the many are not as plentiful.

In some regards, the fiscal problems tied to these programs stem from our half-hearted attempt to address the lingering ills of racism with a philosophy that promotes “pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps”.  There is general ignorance around the fact that those who benefit most from Affirmative Action programs only have sandals for themselves as opposed to boots. A system to benefit America has become a bad adjective and favorite punching bag for conservative candidates and grassroots members on both sides of the aisle alike.

However, conservatives in 2012 must resist throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Conservatives may rightfully extol the questionable results of the “War on Poverty” via President Johnson’s Great Society Initiative. Yet, they are wrong to group together the government’s failure with the legacy of Affirmative Action.

Government cannot shrink unless more people are capable of playing a larger role in the elevation of their communities.  Affirmative Action provided a pathway to modern-day freedom by propping open the doors to two entryways often closed to Black people during the 20th century: education and employment. Without non-discriminatory access to quality education and meaningful work, no people can be truly free in this geopolitical environment. Affirmative Action opportunities in the fields of education, medicine, business, entertainment, and politics has aided the surge of a New Black Overclass, but it is foolish to believe that an inconsistently-supported policy for roughly 2 generations would be enough if the plug is pulled on the effort prematurely.

Despite the advances that Affirmative Action helped facilitate, progress for African Americans and the historically disadvantaged has been turbulent even during the best of times. Civil Rights-era momentum was scarred by assassinations both in the 1950s and 1960s despite the victories gained therein. The progress of the 1980s and 1990s was also seared with brutal beatings and incidents of “driving while Black”. The last decade has seen the rise of fatherlessness, school drop-out rates, and Black unemployment rates hit epidemic levels – even as the rise of the Black Overclass continues. Weakening a very fragile state of rebalancing and recovery within Black America would only serve to jeopardize the overall recovery of America.

From a political perspective, it makes sense for conservatives to leave Affirmative Action alone. Very politically blue urban areas – ones often noted for their bureaucratic-driven natures – will never become fertile political areas for Republican candidates and their ideas so long as limited opportunities from legacy social mores win over the day. Just look at a map. It is clear that as long as Republicans continue to campaign on smaller government spending platforms, they will also continue to lose races. If Affirmative Action is struck down, no change in voting patterns will result any time soon, only leaving this dysfunctional pattern of political behavior and social decay to continue to no one’s true benefit.

Regardless of whether conservatives want to see America win in the 21st century or merely want to win elections in 21st century America, they must collectively understand that pulling the plug on Affirmative Action at this point in time – in the era of New Jim Crow, the first Black president, and a people in severe crisis – contravenes their best interests for both the White House this fall and a stronger America moving forward.  In watching how this potential culture war plays out in the days ahead, it may be clear to see if people are more concerned with perceived fairness or actual justice – and actualized freedom.

LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 that can be found every Saturday with Democratic pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 Pacific.) He is regularly featured on CNN’s “Early Start” weekdays between 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM Eastern as well. Catch the radio show “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” live on LMGILIVE.com at 11 AM Eastern weekdays and re-broadcast on Politic365.

About the Author

Lenny McAllister
Lenny McAllister
Lenny McAllister is the host of the radio show “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” found on LMGILIVE.com and often re-broadcast on Politic365. He appears weekly on “CNN Saturday Morning” with host Randi Kaye and former DNC Communications Director Maria Cardona at 10:30 AM Eastern Time. He also regularly appears weekdays on CNN's "Early Start" at 5am - 7am and "CNN Newsroom" at 12:30pm Eastern. He also appears as a political commentator on multiple outlets including Sirius-XM Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC Radio in Australia, and Chicago Public Radio. Lenny has written previously for a number of publications including Rushmore Drive, Global Grind, and The Chicago Defender. In 2009, McAllister was a panelist at the 10th Annual State of the Black Union and the CNN panel discussion Young & Black In America: Empowering the Next Generation of African American Leaders. In 2010, Lenny was featured in the Studio 360 series “American Icons” in the episode, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He was also featured in the November 2010 Essence Magazine roundtable discussion “Race (Still) Matters” that featured the Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.


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  1. K Mosley

    Lenny, you and I rarely see things the same, but in this case, we are nearly on the same page. What also seems to be lost in the debate is who exactly has AA help the most…WHITE WOMEN!!! But that issue is never raised because it would demonstate the worthiness of program that in the mouths of many who call themselves conservative is a 4 letter word. When legacy admissions are abolished at largely white institutions of higher leaning, maybe then it will be time to end AA.


      And you? Complaining that AA helps whites? Tell us again who is racist?

      • K Mosley

        Obviously you misunderstood (or twisted my comment for your own purposes) because I am not complaining that AA helped white women. It's a fact that people who are opposed to AA tend not to talk about because as I stated in my previous comment, it would demonstrate the value of the program.

        • MgPTHOC

          Twisted? You use “WHITE” trying to justify an unConstitution program that was created based on “race” that had unintentional consequences. There is NOWHERE I. The Constitution to sport AA and the 14/15 prohibit such yet people still try to justify taking others money thru forced taxation to give to those who did not earn it!


    Only one race has endured discrimination ? Are you serious? The very word slave comes from Slavic where "whites" we're enslaved. And you are trying to justify someone getting privaliges specifically because of their COLOR over some that have ability, money, or yes even better education? You are truly reaching

    • Nipky Nurjoi

      "There is only one culture within America in which its members endured systematic and authorized discrimination (and, usually, dehumanization) over the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries"

      That comment was very specific: the only ethnic group in America that went through systemic discrimination continuously over those 4 centuries. And that group is Black Americans.

      I believe the author was going after how to successfully get those that have been discriminated against via American racism into the fold as stable, multi-generational contributors. If Black Americans have been set back multiple generations in their pursuit of the American Dream ONLY because of the color of their skin, how do you catch that group up afterwards? Or do you simply give up on them completely? Without something meaningful in place, YOU appear to be truly reaching if you think things will get better in your country anytime soon.

      • MgPTHOC

        Well, the “only race” comment is either a lie or ignorance on the “authors” part. Ignorance can be fixed, the other, well…. For ignorance, ever heard of Creek, Cherokee, Dakota, etc, etc, etc???

        The Cherokee sued the US govt and won the case in the Supreme Court and president Jackson still shipped them out. Ever heard of Paddy Carr, my ancestor? He was part of that. My wife’s ancestors were part of Cherokees. So get off your soapbox, grow up, stop the “Always Complaining People.”

  3. I for one do not like the term "White." I much more prefer the term "European-American." Like most U.S. citizens, my ancestry is European. I am of German, Italian, Irish and English ancestry. So my skin is white colored. U.S. citizens of African ancestry are called "African-American" and U.S. citizens of Hispanic ancestry are called "Hispanic-American," and so on. But us U.S. citizens of European ancestry are just called "White." That's not fair. The only place where the term "European-American" is commonly used is in academica. My people also have a heritage and a history. My people came from Europe. Please call us "European-American" and not "White." Thank you.

  4. I am Red,I am Black, I am White, I am yellow, I am Green, I am US Citizen, I am American.
    American love whole the world in general, this lovely American soil in particular.
    I would like to be sacrificed for the American vital interests and values.


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