Stuart Taylor considers the question in thought-provoking detail, kicking off from Sen. Obama's 2007 statement that his own daughters should be regarded as "folks who are pretty advantaged" by college admissions officers--and not as applicants requiring racial preference. As Taylor explains, if Obama is the Democratic nominee, racial preferences could become a hugely significant issue in the presidential campaign.
Here is an excerpt:
[Taylor hopes] to see Obama at least acknowledge that it's time to start phasing out racial preferences and replacing them with special consideration for promising low-income kids without regard to race. Indeed, Obama might need to go at least that far to win the general election if the Republicans are smart enough to shine a spotlight on the logical implications of his response to Stephanopoulos and of his post-racial campaign posture.
The Republican nominee could say during the debates, or Republicans could say in campaign ads: "Senator Obama, in May 2007 you suggested that colleges should stop giving racial preferences to affluent, advantaged African-Americans and instead give special consideration to disadvantaged kids of all races. But at other times you have supported the current regime of giving racial preferences to affluent black students, in many cases, at the expense of less affluent, better-qualified Asian-Americans and whites. Aren't you being inconsistent? Which is it? Do you want to continue favoring upper-income blacks over less affluent whites and Asian-Americans, or not?
"Also, do you agree with the suggestion made five years ago by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her four most liberal colleagues that racial preferences should be phased out within no more than 25 years? Isn't it already time at least to start moving away from counting by race? Or do you want to perpetuate preferences into the indefinite future?"
Republicans could also put a spotlight on the magnitude and social costs of the current racial-preference regime by publicizing recent studies that show how the double standard thrusts many supposed beneficiaries into academic competition for which they are so unprepared that they fail, drop out, or lose confidence.
Such a line of argument could put Obama in a tight spot. If he were to embrace the current racial-preference regime, he would forfeit his appeal to many whites (and perhaps Asian-Americans) who might otherwise vote for him.
If, on the other hand, Obama were to call the Republicans' bluff by saying that it's time to start moving from racial preferences to special consideration for promising poor kids of all races, he would infuriate many of his supporters. But he might also win far more votes than it would cost him.
Dare we hope that Obama might someday call for such radical steps? Not a chance. Not, that is, unless he is really, really serious about being the candidate of change and opening opportunities for the least fortunate among us.
Of course, if he did embark on such a program, there's no telling what his wife might say.