An Edley Medley

We’ve encountered Christopher Edley, currently dean of the Boalt Hall law school at the University of California, Berkeley, a number of times:

  • here, describing him as a

    former White House aide, co-author of President Clinton’s “mend it, don’t end it” review of affirmative action policies, advisor to Clinton’s race commission, fervent advocate of racial preferences (he described Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom’s America in Black and White as “a crime against humanity”), and advisor to the 2000 Gore campaign…

  • here, noting enthusiastically and with approval that “the Supreme Court has the power to make social revolution and to force dramatic social change, even against majority opposition”
  • here, responding to Richard Sander’s argument that blacks would flunk out less and pass the bar more if they were not preferentially admitted to top tier schools by noting derisively that

    [l]ower-tier law schools tend to be in places like Montana and Wyoming, Edley said, “places that are remarkably – What’s the word I’m looking for? – white”;

  • here, creating the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at Boalt Hall to research and advocate “the legal limits on aggressive efforts to promote inclusion in higher education,” i.e., to circumvent Proposition 209;
  • and here here, predicting “appeals to racial bigotry” in the 2008 campaign against Obama, appeals that never occurred.

Now he’s at it again, explaining in Sunday’s Washington PostWhy elites do belong on the Supreme Court,” why, that is, why it’s no problem that Kagan’s confirmation would lead to all the justices being graduates of Harvard or Yale law schools.

That would be no problem, he maintains, because, you see, both Harvard and Yale have affirmative action. Because, in large part, of affirmative action, he continues, today “elite” isn’t bad because “Today, ‘elite’ doesn’t carry the old-boy, classist, midcentury sense.”

In other words, what was wrong with “elite” in the old, “midcentury” sense is not that elite was, you know, elite, but that it was white (or Asian or something). Now, however, because of “inclusive” affirmative action policies, elite is no longer all white and so no longer bad.

Along the way Edley describes these the effects of the new fetish on “diversity” that elites all its controversial aspects. Thus:

In fact, law schools strive for an elitism that is quite democratic in comparison with many other fields. As at Yale and Harvard, we at Berkeley seek to build a campus community that is as exciting and diverse as our nation. That means a New Jersey physics major who models underwear. A single-parent firefighter medievalist from Denver. A former Navy Seal, a software designer, a late-blooming high school dropout, a dancer with published poetry. And when they are here, they teach each other, they learn to understand each other, and then they remember each other.

This sort of “diversity” is, of course, highly and notoriously uncontroversial. And Edley goes on to to say, equally uncontroversially, that “We should prefer institutions that are elite in terms of excellence, while more democratic in terms of access.”

But who is it who opposes institutions that are “elite in terms of excellence … while more democratic in terms of access”? No one that I know or know of. But I do know lots of informed people who oppose what Edley strenuously avoids defending — lowering admissions standards, i.e., requiring less “excellence,” for members of preferred racial or ethnic groups. In short, he engages is the classic preferentialist bait-and-switch: you want more underwear-modeling physics majors (who doesn’t?) or single parent medievalists from Denver or former Navy Seals or software designers or dancers who are published poets? Then lower the admissions standards for blacks and Hispanics.

If this makes sense to you, then you’re a liberal.

Say What?