In the end, however they started, the Democrats’ race-based solutions have turned out rather less well than was planned. They did get more nonwhites into elite schools on a preference system, but many dropped out before graduation, victims of “mismatch,” having been pushed up just one notch or so over the level at which they might have excelled. Democrats did reap a quick fix of minority congressmen, but at the expense of raising a cadre of national leaders, making them spokesmen for one race and not for the others, and leaving them unprepared to appeal across group boundaries.

Democrats would have done better, as arguably would minority groups themselves, had the voters now concentrated in race-based districts been spread through several districts, in which they would be swing votes, if not the majority, thus making surrounding districts a lot less Republican. As Kraushaar noted after the 2010 midterms, “of the 75 black, Hispanic, and Asian-American Democrats in Congress and governorships,” only 9 won in venues that were majority white. Unfortunately, for the Democrats, almost all 50 states are majority-white, not to mention the country as a whole, and if and when this stops being true of the country, no one other race will prevail. Thus, this design has been a dead end for the Democrats: There are few new Obamas in the national pipeline, while Republicans have about six blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans who would make plausible national candidates.

That said, the Republicans have a problem, since, as the New Yorker has cogently noted, “getting Republicans to vote for a black candidate and blacks to vote for a Republican candidate” are two different things. As it turned out, the first part was easy: The GOP in 1996 tried to draft Colin Powell for president, welcomed his appointment as secretary of state, cheered the appointment of Condoleezza Rice to succeed him, gave her a standing ovation at the Republican convention in 2012 when she described her rise from her childhood in the segregated city of Birmingham, and would have been delighted had she been on the ticket as vice president. The Tea Party, routinely caricatured in the media as the KKK redux, has brought the GOP an influx of nonwhites and women, backing Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott against more establishment figures.