At the heart of democratic theory is the idea that the people rule; that in the end, their wishes become codified in law and public policies. Put somewhat less flatteringly by H.L. Mencken, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
As such, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of American public life for which democratic theory fails--more precisely, where the gap between what the people have long wanted and what they have instead gotten has been largest--is racial preferences and quotas, in the sense that such practices have continued to spread despite having long been opposed by overwhelming majorities.
If anything, the flouting of public sentiment on such matters has accelerated in recent years due to the malignant "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" (DEI) movement, which seeks to disguise the unsavory quota/preference system behind pleasant, innocuous-sounding words that few would otherwise object to.
The "diversity" in DEI means in reality the goal of proportionate racial representation (equal outcomes), the "equity" the use of quotas and preferences to achieve that goal, and the "inclusion" the exclusion from institutional settings of anyone critical of the approach.
As a result, DEI is not just a euphemism for preferences and quotas (thereby succeeding the term "affirmative action") but an assault on merit and standards that could, if spread still further, as its practitioners (including in the Biden administration) fervently wish, turn American life upside down.
The impact on education and the professions alone will be enormous--preferences necessarily require a lowering of college admission standards to get enough admits to fill the quota (with standardized tests like the SAT and ACT now being pre-emptively discarded to circumvent an anticipated higher-court ruling against such practices).
Once admitted, rigor and expectations will be relaxed to keep poorly prepared students from failing and to thereby achieve the correct proportional racial graduation rates (it would make little sense, after all, to use preferences to admit students on the front end if there were no efforts to retain and graduate them on the back end, based on the same logic). The quality of college education will, of course, suffer accordingly.
Finally, professional standards will be inevitably sacrificed, with law schools discarding the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in the same way and for the same reasons undergraduate admission processes do away with the SAT and ACT as criteria, with the rigor and expectations thereafter during the law school experience also relaxed in similar fashion (read easier grading, less difficult exams and assignments, and thus less well-trained lawyers).
The weakening of professional licensing will be the final step in the assault on merit, as state Bar exams will be made easier so that less-qualified law graduates can pass them in sufficient (racially proportionate) numbers, to wit the state of Delaware recently lowering the threshold for passage of its exam to "make this community [Delaware] better suited for diversity in its professional class, including its lawyers," in the words of the president of the state Bar Association.
At every point along the way, and as with every other area DEI infects, merit will be sacrificed in favor of racial ideology. The end result will be not just the discarding of elemental fairness, but less competent lawyers, generals, doctors, and airline pilots.
There is thus, when considering all of this, great irony found in news reports informing us that employers who have taken their cue from academe's promotion of DEI and wish to attract a sufficient number of minority employees, finding an insufficient number with the required college degree, are dropping the degree requirement part.
The same DEI obsession that is destroying colleges and higher education thus infects the outside world in a way that comes back to bite colleges and higher education--what they have developed and exported (DEI) is now being picked up on by employers in a way that makes it less necessary to go to college at a time when colleges need all the students they can get to keep their doors open.
The expectation that employers would penalize colleges for increasingly turning out poorly educated prospective employees might still be realized, but perhaps only after equity/diversity ideology increasingly severs the once tight link between higher education and financially rewarding employment.
All of which makes it so remarkable that an Arkansas state Legislature dominated by Republicans recently failed to approve a proposal that would have banned racial preferences and quotas, thereby in effect upholding formal racial discrimination in our state.
Just as the architects of DEI try to hoodwink the broader public with misleading, cuddly sounding euphemisms, gullible Republicans are apparently hoodwinked by absurd Democratic claims that doing away with preferences and quotas would somehow do harm to Black history museums and disabled veterans.
We have now reached a point where a certain reversal in the use of language has occurred--those advocating discrimination on the basis of race (that is, quotas and preferences) call themselves the "anti-racists."
And the opponents of discrimination on the basis of race allow it to continue because they are afraid of being accused of racism.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.