May 11, 2010
Elena Kagan and the Yale-Harvard Nexus
On Monday, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to succeed John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Kagan's resume is incredibly thin. She was named dean of an Ivy League law school after only four years on its faculty. Kagan has never been a judge, and she had never argued a case in court prior to being named Solicitor General in 2009. But Kagan has one qualification that trumps nearly everything else: she's an alumna of Harvard, and formerly a faculty member there.
If it sometimes seems that the nation is governed by an elite liberal clique of college fraternity and sorority pals who are out of touch with average Americans, that's because it's largely true. Every president, and almost every presidential candidate for the last two decades has been a graduate of Harvard or Yale, and if Kagan gets confirmed by the Senate every member of the Supreme Court will have been a Yale or Harvard attendee, too.
The 1988 presidential election was a contest between Harvard law grad Michael Dukakis and Yalie George H.W. Bush. Yale Law grads Bill and Hillary Clinton came to power in 1992, beating Washburn alum Bob Dole in 1996.
The election of 2000 produced an interesting result: George W. Bush, a graduate of both Yale and Harvard (but according to his leftist critics the dumbest president ever) beat another Harvard grad, Al Gore, who is supposedly so brilliant he won a Nobel Prize. And in 2004 Bush beat fellow Yale grad John Kerry, whose grades at Yale were worse than Bush's grades.
The election of 2008 saw the ascension to the presidency of Harvard graduate Barack Obama, who beat Navy grad John McCain. According to his supporters like Michael Beschloss, David Brooks, and Colin Powell, Obama is "brilliant" and "transformational" -- yet oddly, he never published anything as first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and unlike Bush, Kerry and McCain, his grades have never been released.
On the Supreme Court, Justices Alito, Sotomayor, and Thomas are Yale Law grads, while Scalia, Roberts, Breyer and Kennedy all went to Harvard Law. Justice Ginsberg graduated from Columbia Law, but she attended Harvard before transferring there. The odd man out is the retiring Justice Stevens, who got his law degree from Northwestern, soon to be replaced by Harvard's Kagan.
What shall we make of this preponderance of Yale-Harvard grads in elite positions of our society?
First, we ought to ask what kind of places Yale and Harvard are.
In recent years, Yale has instituted an annual "Sex Week at Yale," in which the university invites porn stars and bondage and leather fetishists to lecture (in various stages of nudity) students on various sexual techniques and the use of assorted sex toys.
Harvard is home to "scholars" like Charles Ogletree, who advocates reparations for slavery, and "Skip" Gates, who caused a race-baiting stir last year after an incident with a white cop in which President Obama took Gates's side without "knowing all the facts." Prior to coming to Harvard, Gates testified on behalf of the1980s rap act 2 Live Crew in an obscenity trial over lyrics about "bustin' vaginas" and other assorted perversions. Radical black professor Cornel West used to teach at Harvard; when former Harvard president Larry Summers criticized him for passing off a rap CD as academic work, West left in a snit for Princeton. Summers himself was later forced out after offending campus feminists. And Kagan was a chief proponent of banning military recruiters from Harvard over the "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays adopted by the Clinton administration for the military.
Second, it is evident that for all the blather we hear about "diversity" from politicians and academics, the reality is that there's almost no diversity among our political elites. Somehow graduates of Howard and Grambling never make it onto the list of possible nominees when a vacancy appears on the Supreme Court, do they???
It seems there are never any graduates of West Point, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas, UVA, or Brigham Young considered for any of the top slots in the judiciary or for the presidency. Engineers, businessmen and military officers are notably absent from the candidate pool dominated by lawyers, career politicians and political activists. If Kagan's nomination is approved, only one member of the Supreme Court - Justice Alito - will have had any military experience. Obama (who spent much of his early life stoned on drugs) has no military experience, either.
Protestants, who comprise the majority of the American population, will be entirely shut out of the Supreme Court when Stevens retires. Catholics will constitute two-thirds of the Court while Jews, who comprise 2% of the population, will hold 33% of the seats on the Court.
If we contrast the educational backgrounds of the Yale-Harvard clique with some of the leaders of the conservative movement of the 1980s and 1990s, the differences are astonishing. Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College, Speaker Newt Gingrich obtained a Ph.D. in history from Tulane, and congressional leaders Phil Gramm and Dick Armey obtained doctorates in economics from the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma, respectively. During their tenure in office we had sane fiscal, defense, immigration and tax policies. The same cannot be said today.
If diversity is a positive good, it is the diversity of education, opinion and experience in an atmosphere of open debate, not the faux diversity of skin color and gender. True diversity has clearly been sacrificed among the most powerful members of our society, who have increasingly spent their formative years being educated in a left-of mainstream Yale-Harvard bubble.