Time-bombs in the Democratic coalition

Asian-Americans have an interest in eliminating racial quotas in education, as quotas tend to set ceilings, rather than floors, on their acceptance to college. Black and Hispanics think (though it’s a matter of vigorous dispute) that their interests are served by maintaining racial quotas. (Count me among the doubters: Proposition 209 in California, the 1996 referendum that outlawed racial preferences, actually increased the number of black and Hispanic graduates at the University of California.)

Asian-Americans now constitute about 15 percent of California’s electorate. Since the 1990s, they’ve leaned toward the Democrats. They gave Obama 72 percent of their votes in 2012. This has confused some Republicans, who note that Asians tend to uphold the kinds of values Republicans champion: high rates of marriage, self-reliance, entrepreneurship and educational achievement. It may be that Democrats have done a better job courting them. Or it may be that Asians’ liberal views on gay marriage, immigration and abortion incline them toward the Democrats.

But recent moves by Democrats in California to reinstate preferences in higher education have met with a backlash. Writing in The American Magazine, Abigail Thernstrom notes that when a constitutional amendment was proposed that would have overturned Proposition 209, Asian-Americans rebelled and forced Assembly Speaker John A. Perez to table it. This is the first time Asians have broken with the Democratic Party over this issue.