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What Is a Good American?

The president of the United States apparently believes that some people are less worthy of becoming American than others, especially those who come from countries he deems dung holes, to use a euphemism for what credible sources tell us he said. But the president's formula doesn't say much about what it means to be American, any more than his mantra "Make America Great Again" does. The question of what constitutes American greatness, indeed what makes one an American, is something that I have thought a lot about over the years as one who proudly proclaims American exceptionalism and believes that you don't have to be born an American to become a great American.

My old boss Ronald Reagan famously said: "You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won't become a German or a Turk." But, he said, "anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American." Of course, it is not quite so simple. There is a proper process, and to be fully American in every sense of the word, that process entails more than filling out the paperwork. So, what does a newcomer need to do to become an American, beyond the formalities? What are the ideals that Americans aspire to, the habits of mind and behavior that shape the American character?

First and foremost is the pledge of loyalty and fidelity to the country and its laws. These obligations are entailed in the citizenship oath: to abjure all loyalty to another country or its leaders; to protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear arms, engage in noncombatant service and perform work of national importance to protect and serve the country when required by law; and to do so freely and with no reservations.

But there are other qualities beyond those obligations that define what it means to be an American. Many of these are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Americans believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Founding Fathers said these truths are self-evident, but the belief that they are was a radical idea at the time and remains one today if one judges by the history of man through the ages to the present. No previous nation conceived that all people are equal in their rights -- and even our own did not live up to this ideal for nearly 200 years after these rights were delineated.

Yet even this formula doesn't take into full account how one becomes American in a full cultural sense, which is often the most contentious part of the debate over Americanism. Because we are a self-governing people, Americans, more than citizens of nondemocratic nations, need characteristics consistent with the duties of self-governance. We need to be able to communicate with one another. We need to be self-reliant but also compassionate. We need to be tolerant of others who are different from us and to tolerate dissent from others whose opinions we do not share. And importantly, because we are a nation whose people are not defined by birth, blood or soil, we need to forge a common identity -- one that the Founders understood when they adopted the motto "e pluribus unum," or "out of many, one."

Unfortunately, some on the left and the right give lip service to such ideals but violate them in practice. On the left, multiculturalists balk at the idea of a common language in the public square -- English -- or a common culture, preferring that newcomers and their American-born children retain their native language and denying that there is even such a thing as American culture. On the right, some refuse to believe the clear evidence that Latino immigrants -- and certainly their children -- are learning English as quickly as previous groups did and don't accept that American culture incorporates elements beyond our original white, Protestant colonial history.

Most Americans, thank goodness, fall into neither rigid left/right category. Those of us born here should be thankful of that blessing, but being a good American also means being open to those who weren't that fortunate. And President Trump would do well to heed that.

What Happens When the Social Web Unweaves

Senator Mike Lee's Social Capital Project turns its attention to the fraying fabric of society.

The rise of unwed childbearing began in the 1960s and continues still today, with 40 percent of children born out of wedlock. In this recent piece for The Weekly Standard I wrote about Senator Lee’s research on this and other aspects of “associational life.” Who can doubt that children of stable, married couples have better life prospects than children born to single mothers?  

Senator Mike Lee, the Utah Republican, is vice chairman of the little known Joint Economic Committee. Congress created the committee in 1946, its job basically to review economic conditions and recommend policy improvements. Economic concerns dominated in those post-war years, but today, Lee told me, it’s hard to get a “true picture” of the country without taking into account things that are much harder to measure than, say, gross domestic product. Those things involve “associational life.”

That term, for Lee, is shorthand for the web of social relationships through which people pursue joint endeavors—families, communities, workplaces, and houses of worship. It is through associational life, he says, that Americans form their “character and capacities” as they find “meaning and purpose.”

It takes no great reporting skills to say that all is not well with associational life in the United States. Lee believes it needs to be studied, just as the economy is. A year ago he started the Social Capital Project, a multi-year inquiry into the nature, quality and importance of associational life. Located within the Joint Economic Committee, it is run by Scott Winship, the scholar of social policy formerly with the Manhattan Institute and the Brookings Institution. Already the project has issued three reports: the first, on social capital trends, the second, on opiods, and the third, on “the rise in unwed childbearing.”

However, the project does not expect to propose any policies this year, and perhaps not even next. This is indeed a long-term endeavor. What seems more likely in the short run is the development of ways of measuring “social capital,” the sources of which are many, including education and the workplace. Lee is seeking what he calls “the metrics of happiness.” Necessarily, under such metrics, a person can be more or less happy, more or less advantaged.

The most important relationship that people have in their lives, says Lee, is “the one children have with their parents.” But since the middle of the last century, the two-parent model of child-bearing—the foundation of “a healthy associational life”—has been seriously compromised.

The project reports that in 1960, 5.3 percent of children were born to single mothers. But by 2008 that number had jumped to 40 percent, and it has been even higher for children born to mothers who are under 30. Today almost six in 10 first births to women under the age of 30 take place outside of marriage, and two in three first births are from nonmarital conceptions. It is well-documented that children of stable, married couples tend to outperform children of single parents.

The project is handling with care this matter of unwed childbearing. Thus, says Lee, increased sexual activity would seem to be the obvious cause of the jump in the numbers. But “our research found two even larger factors . . . [that] there are [more never-married] women, and [that] the cultural norm often referred to as the ‘shotgun’ marriage has all but disappeared.” Lee observes that those two trends are “very complicated” and—a startling point—“appear to be a result of an increase in affluence and opportunity” in society generally.

If the Social Capital Project winds up providing a truer picture of the country, that could inspire reforms designed to strengthen associational life. Lee has taken on a worthy challenge, and it will require patience and perseverance to see it through.

One Way the Justice Department Is Giving Power Back to Congress

"Guidance documents" are supposed to inform and explain. But Obama used them to regulate. Jeff Sessions is undoing that legacy, as I explained in an article published earlier this month at weeklystandard.com, which you’ll find below.

The Obama administration used “sub-regulatory” methods in a number of areas, not least school discipline. There the Education Department sent a letter to state and local education officials declaring that it would enforce “disparate impact” in school discipline cases investigated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thus, a policy resulting in disciplinary outcomes that were disproportionate by race and ethnicity could be judged illegal under the nondiscrimination provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That famous law mandates equal treatment, not equal results. That was the understanding of the law then and remains so today. If Congress wants to add disparate impact to Title VI, it certainly is free to do so. But the executive branch is not. 

CEO board member Jason Riley, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has written on disparate impact. And CEO president and general counsel Roger Clegg has worked on the topic for the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project. This Thursday at 12 noon both Riley and Clegg will be discussants on a Federalist Society Teleforum call on disparate impact.
  
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump admired President Obama’s willingness to go around Congress and make law on his own authority. So it was reasonable to think that Trump, too, might become a unilateralist. But, at least in one important context, that isn’t happening.

Consider, for example, the Justice Department’s new policy on so-call “guidance documents.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a memo prohibiting the department from using documents that have “the effect of adopting new regulatory requirements or amending the law.” Not all guidance documents do that. Those that explain existing law, for example, are fine. But ones that “purport to create rights or obligations binding on persons or entities outside the executive branch” are not.

The Constitution does not give executive agencies the authority to make regulations outside of the process required by Congress, which is known as “notice and comment.” Yet too often, Sessions said in a speech recently to the Federalist Society, agencies have forgone that process and made new rules through guidance documents, even by simply sending a letter to regulated entities. Thus did the Obama administration rewrite Title IX so that sex meant the gender you identify with, not just the one you’re born with—guidance the Trump administration has rescinded.

Sessions says that “the Justice Department and other agencies have blurred the distinction between regulation and guidance documents.” This means there is work to be done if that distinction is to regain its clarity. Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the third ranking officer in the department, will conduct a review of existing guidance documents at Justice and recommend which should be repealed or amended.

It bears noting that the Justice Department is not speaking for those “other agencies” guilty of distinction-blurring. They will need to advise their own staffs. Nor does the department have the regulatory work load found at some agencies. But the department has respect throughout the government and could lead in this area by example.

What’s heartening for those who care about constitutional self-government is that the Justice Department is seeking to enforce a basic principle: that agencies may regulate only within the authority Congress has delegated. When agencies exceed their authority, they do so at the expense of Congress and the people. They tread on the Constitution. That is what the attorney general rightly wants to avoid.


Why Is Trump Renominating Chai Feldblum to the EEOC?

President Trump has announced that he is renominating liberal activist Chai Feldblum to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Why in the world is he doing that?” asks Powerline, and that’s a very good question (my only quibble with Powerline’s analysis is that this is not exactly being done in the dark of night, because I first saw it on the White House website).

The EEOC enforces the antidiscrimination laws for the entire private sector, so it’s an extremely powerful agency, and all the more so because it operates largely outside of executive-branch control. I noted last summer that the administration has not recognized the importance of the president’s nominations to this agency, and Ms. Feldblum’s renomination is more evidence of that. Here’s hoping that whatever deal is being sought here doesn’t go through and that the president reconsiders this dubious decision.

The clincher is that last week Powerline noted that Ms. Feldblum has removed the standard-issue portraits of President Trump and Vice President Pence from her office. Maybe that will get the administration’s attention.  The administration should withdraw her renomination.

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The Trump Administration Bans “Diversity” – The Washington Post reported in a couple of stories recently that the Trump administration has directed some Department of Health and Human Services components to stop using certain words in the budget process, including “diversity.” Speaking just of the ban on “diversity,” I’d say this is a promising development.

Of course, the word has a legitimate meaning, but these days that’s not what it’s used for in 99 instances out of a hundred.  For a long time, rather, the word has been used simply to mask a pro-preference, anti-merit, anti-assimilation agenda that ill behooves any federal government agency. Indeed, the government is banned by the Constitution and civil-rights laws from using racial and ethnic classifications except in special circumstances, and so, for instance, when an agency is “striving for more diversity in hiring,” it is likely breaking the law in doing so. Either that, or the term belongs in that category of words “used so frequently that they were essentially meaningless,” to quote the Post. In academia, I’ve noted that the word should be replaced with the barnyard expletive to clarify its meaning.

So, sure, why not ban it?

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“How the News Media Distorts Black Families” – That’s the title of an op-ed the Washington Post ran a couple of weeks ago. Its main claim is that a recent study shows that the news media portray black families more unfavorably than white families; interestingly, it’s not asserted that the problem here is with conservative media, since among the worst offenders for television networks were Fox News andCNN, and the New York Times and Breitbart for national print and online news organizations.

But the op-ed also has a few paragraphs in the middle denying that the black family is in any sort of trouble. That’s silly, and so I posted the following comment (lightly edited here):

I’m skeptical about the media bias part of this, but the assertion that there’s nothing wrong with the black family is ludicrous.

Seven out of 10 blacks are born out of wedlock, and more than 6 out of 10 Native Americans, and more than 5 out of 10 Latinos — versus fewer than 3 out of 10 whites and fewer than 2 out of 10 Asian Americans. That’s a huge range, and are we really supposed to believe that the fact that it lines up perfectly with how well the different groups are doing is just a coincidence? And note that out-of-wedlock connections with crime, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and bad educational outcomes are present within racial groups as well as between them.

The only real “evidence” cited here is the 2013 Centers for Disease Control study and it does not stand for the proposition that black and white fathers spend the same amount of time with their children, because that’s true only if you control [as the CDC did] for whether the fathers live with their children or not, and of course a much higher percentage of black fathers don’t live with their children because they are not married to the mothers. Robert VerBruggen has written a couple of good pieces on the CDC study for RealClearPolicy.

Orwell said that some notions are so silly that only an intellectual can believe them, and thinking that big differences in out-of-wedlock birthrates won’t affect life outcomes among different groups falls into that category.

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More Bad PC at the University of Missouri – An interesting lawsuit was filed recently against the University of Missouri medical school, in which an administrator there says she was fired for having the temerity to suggest that the racially preferential policies being suggested might raise legal problems and ought to be reviewed by the school’s counsel.

Appalling. Such review is the bare minimum that any school engaging in such discrimination ought to undertake. Anything else is likely illegal, because the Supreme Court has warned that any use of race must be “narrowly tailored,” and whether that standard is met will ordinarily require a legal analysis. That someone would be fired for asking for school counsel’s opinion is disgusting policy and grossly unfair, whatever its legality.

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Listen to Jason Riley – That’s good advice generally, but today I’m referring to a podcast the Federalist Society has posted, in which I discuss a wide range of topics with the brilliant Wall Street Journal columnist, Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Fox News commentator — and member of the Center for Equal Opportunity’s board of directors. We start out with racial disparities in school discipline, but also cover a variety of other topics involving race and public policy, and discuss Mr. Riley’s excellent book, False Black Power?

Happy listening and Happy New Year!

The Future for Republicans

Senate Republicans breathed a big sigh of relief Tuesday night when Roy Moore went down to defeat in the Alabama special election -- even though it halved their already razor-thin majority. Alabama voters rejected a man who was totally unfit to serve as U.S. senator, not just because of numerous allegations that he preyed on young girls when he was a local district attorney in his 30s but because his reverence for the Constitution was as phony as his 10-gallon hat.

But the race might have turned out differently had it not been for the courage of my home state's junior senator, Colorado's Cory Gardner, who announced that the National Republican Senate Committee, which he leads, was pulling its financial support after The Washington Post printed stories detailing Moore's alleged abuse. The Senate Leadership Fund, run by former members of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's staff, followed suit, drying up funds for the Moore campaign and signaling to donors that contributing to Moore was toxic. The Republican National Committee briefly froze its joint fundraising efforts on Moore's behalf but jumped back aboard the Moore train after President Donald Trump, eight days before the election, tweeted, "We need Republican Roy Moore to win." Once Moore lost the race, however, Trump pretended he was never in Moore's camp, reminding everyone he had supported Moore's runoff opponent in the GOP primary, Luther Strange, because Moore wouldn't "be able!
to win the General Election."

Money can't always win an election with a bad candidate, but had the NRSC and other Republican political action committees poured the $5 million they could have into the race during the last weeks of the election, Moore might have squeaked through. Despite the serious and credible allegations against him, Moore still only lost the vote by 1.5 percentage points. White women overwhelmingly voted for Moore -- 63 percent, according to exit polls -- including a slim majority of college-educated white women. But as surprising -- shocking, given the allegations against Moore -- as those numbers might be, they reflect lower support than Republican candidates usually garner in Alabama. Had Moore done as well among all white voters as Republicans in previous elections, he'd be riding his horse up to the Capitol, which is why the decision by Sen. Gardner and other Republicans who put country before party mattered.

Gardner wasn't alone among courageous Republicans. The senior senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby, announced just two days before the election that he had cast his absentee ballot for a write-in candidate because he couldn't vote for Moore. Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Steve Daines of Montana, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah, John McCain of Arizona, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Gardner and Shelby in unequivocally coming out against Moore. Other Republicans said the allegations -- if true -- were disqualifying but fell short of saying that voters should reject Moore outright.

This was an important test in the era of Trump. The president is the leader of his party, but Gardner and others showed that they can make their own decisions based on the evidence and their convictions. For years, the GOP has presented itself as the values party. But with Trump's election, many in the party have been put in a bind. Trump's history -- including allegations of his groping and demeaning women, not to mention his own words on tape that he could "grab them by the (genitals)" -- has cast doubt on whether the Republican Party represents family values anymore. Maybe the courage of Republican senators who rejected Moore's candidacy will usher in a new commitment to character in the party.

Gardner represents the future of the Republican Party, not its past. If Republicans are to have any hope of winning young voters, women (outside of whites in the Deep South) and larger shares of Hispanics and blacks, it needs to turn its back on the Roy Moores of the party and follow the leadership of the Cory Gardners.

The Roller Coaster That Is the Trump Administration

We are not one week into the new year, and it's already a roller coaster. The Dow Jones industrial average is up, breaking 25,000 on Thursday; President Donald Trump is down and dirty tweeting about his, ahem, great big nuclear button; and Steve Bannon has taken us around the curve, ending his BFF status with Trump by hinting that the president's eldest son may be guilty of treason. How this particular episode of "As the Donald Turns" will end is anybody's guess, but it looks as if we're in for a thousand thrills. Meanwhile, the show must go on.

There is actual serious business to get done in the coming days and weeks, not least of which is a fix for the 700,000 or more young people who entered the country illegally as children and are about to lose work authorizations and their protection from deportation. Trump has been all over the place on the fate of these worthy young people, more than 90 percent of whom are gainfully employed, pay taxes and/or are enrolled in higher education or the military. He's said he wants to show "heart" to the kids, many of whom came as babes in arms. But he also has to contend with his own past statements to deport these so-called dreamers on day one of his administration. Most Trump voters -- 70 percent, by some polls -- support a solution that provides legal status, but a small minority of his supporters want them gone, pronto. Among the latter are some organizations that couldn't care less about this issue but want to use it to drive down legal immigration and hope for a bargain that would trade legal status for this small group if they could obtain long-sought decreases in overall legal immigration.

Chief among these groups are the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, all of which favor drastic reductions in the population of the United States by whatever means they can get away with. These groups, as I have documented over the years, are headed by population control extremists, who support abortion and coerced sterilization and who are driven by alarmist worries about the environment, viewing people (no matter where they hail from) as pollution personified. Unfortunately, these groups dominate the debate on immigration issues within the GOP, making strange bedfellows with pro-life members of Congress. They will push for any legislative compromise on the dreamers to include limits on future legal immigration, which any right-thinking conservative knows would hurt America's economy. But it remains to be seen whether President Trump will go along.

Trump's immigration whisperer, White House aide Stephen Miller, will be pushing hard to make the dreamers the last large group of foreign-born Hispanics to earn legal status of any kind. Miller favors legislation that would ensure fewer immigrants from Latin America and Asia and more from Europe. But Miller is becoming more isolated in the West Wing. His mentor, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for whom Miller worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Sessions chaired it, is on the outs. Even worse, his former colleague and fellow anti-immigration ally Bannon is not only gone from the White House but also now Trump's least favorite person (if you don't count Hillary Clinton). If Trump listens to his heart and those few people he truly trusts and follows the lead of House Speaker Paul Ryan, not Rep. Steve King, a decent compromise can be achieved.

I don't think a border wall makes sense; it would be a money pit, not to mention an ugly symbol of American fear. But if throwing up some more concrete and additional sensors along our southern border would allow nearly a million Americans to continue to live, study and work here and to serve in our military, I'd gladly accept that as the price of compromise.

The president hasn't been served well by his alt-right advisers and supporters, so why not try something else? There are still plenty of conservatives who agree with him on issues but want him to stop the drama and delete his Twitter account. He is heading into a second year with some accomplishments and plenty of embarrassments, but like it or not, he is president for the next three years, barring something catastrophic coming out of special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation. I will hold my breath as we chug up the next hill, hoping the president drives the roller coaster that is his administration safely into the station. And what better way to celebrate than with 700,000 young dreamers who can start on their path to becoming true Americans?

Center for Equal Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation

On Thursday this week, December 14, Center for Equal Opportunity research fellow Althea Nagai, along with CEO president and general counsel Roger Clegg (that’s me) and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, will appear on a panel at the Heritage Foundation.  The occasion is the publication of a new paper by Dr. Nagai on the topic of “unconscious bias.”  The panel discussion is on “Why Claims of Unconscious Racism Fall Flat: Debunking the Implicit Association Test.”

To elaborate:  Psychologists have developed a test that purports to uncover unconscious racism. Supposedly tapping into the subconscious, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures disparities in millisecond response times on a computer.  This test, and claims of widespread unconscious racism generally, have of course become commonplace on the Left in recent years.

While it has been hailed as “proof” of deeply seeded racism in American society, policymakers should consider the growing body of research suggesting the test cannot predict real-world behavior before enacting policies to counterbalance so-called unconscious bias. Academia, police departments, and corporate America are seeking to root out unconscious racism, and the IAT has started popping up in employment discrimination lawsuits.

So join us, in person or on the Internet, for a discussion with the panel in looking at problems with the IAT and why policymakers and employers should think twice before embracing these dubious claims of racism.  Here’s a link where you can RSVP or livestream the event.

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“Disparate Impact” in the News – The two worst ways the civil-rights laws have been twisted over the years are: (1) allowing, and even requiring, politically correct preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex (even though such discrimination is actually prohibited by the texts of the relevant laws); and (2) prohibiting actions that are not actually discrimination at all, but the neutral application of neutrally defined and neutrally intended standards that happen to have a statistically disproportionate result (this is also commonly done without a statutory basis).

On the first point, the Trump administration appears to be off to a good start, with its aggressive investigation of “affirmative action” in student admissions to Harvard. Like many selective schools, Harvard gives racial preferences to African Americans and Latinos over whites and Asian Americans. What’s more, the Justice Department this week filed a brief opposing a politically correct but racially exclusive election in Guam.

And there are good signs now on the second point, too. This “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement was much beloved by the Obama administration, but recent news stories suggest that the Trump administration may be rethinking it, in the context of school discipline and home insurance in particular. Threatening to sue people if they don’t get their numbers right is just another way to create pressure for racial quotas. Recommended reading on the topic by yours truly can be found here and here.

Really, when you think about it, the way forward from identity politics is to stop race-based decision-making of any kind. We’re all Americans, E pluribus unum, and all that. And this means no more racial preferences or “disparate impact” civil-rights enforcement.

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The Royal Box – Royal-to-be   Meghan Markle has gotten a positive reaction to this video she posted that discusses her biracial background. The climax comes when as a student she is confronted with a form that requires her to choose between checking “black” or “white,” and she decides to do neither. That night, her father vindicates her refusal to pick one or the other, telling her from now on to “draw [her] own box.”

I like that, too. And the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough boxes to choose from, but that we are asked to check these boxes at all, on college applications, employment forms, you name it. We should each have our own box, each labeled “American” — which is to say that we need no boxes at all.

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Finally, I thought I’d share with you this letter we sent to the relevant U.S. Senate Committee regarding the nomination of Kenneth Marcus, a long-time friend of CEO and the nominee to head the Education Department’s very important Office for Civil Rights:
Senator Lamar Alexander
Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

December 1, 2017

Dear Senators Alexander and Murray,

I am writing on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity to express our unqualified support for the nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.  The Center for Equal Opportunity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization that focuses on issues involving race and ethnicity, including civil-rights enforcement.

It is hard to imagine how anyone could be better qualified than Ken Marcus to be the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Education Department.  Begin with the obvious fact that Mr. Marcus has already held that position in the acting capacity during the George W. Bush administration and did an outstanding job.  He has also served elsewhere in the government in civil-rights positions, at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 
He was a lawyer in private practice and is a thoughtful scholar as well, teaching at the City University of New York's Baruch College School of Public Affairs, and authoring two books (one published by Oxford University Press and the other by Cambridge University Press). 

And he founded and currently heads the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Center for Human Rights under Law, which is devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and other prejudice on our college campuses. 
He is an outstanding choice to enforce the civil rights of all individuals in the nation's educational system.

On a personal note, I have worked with Ken on civil-rights issues continually since 2001.  I have never met anyone more serious, reflective, judicious, fair-minded,  and even-handed than Ken, in addition to no one with a better grasp of the civil-rights issues that he will face in his new job.

Thank you very much for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,
Roger Clegg
President and General Counsel
Center for Equal Opportunity

Happier New Year 2018

It's that time of year again -- to look back on the past in hopes that we've learned something we can apply to the new year. I'm at the age where there's a lot more past than future to look forward to, but that also means many more lessons have been learned. Instead of the usual New Year's resolutions, with promises to pass up desserts and exercise more or be nicer to those around me, I've taken the time to look back on my columns this year to plot a better way forward. So, here's my shortlist of do's and don'ts based on what's missing or overdone in my columns from this past year.

1) Spend less time venting. People have largely made up their minds about President Donald Trump, and my dozens of columns criticizing him probably haven't persuaded many fans to abandon him. It might be more fruitful to uncover what makes the roughly third of the country stick with him despite his faults, foibles and forced errors. So for every three columns attacking Trump I write in the next year, I will write one that tries to understand the concerns of his base, because you can't change minds unless you understand what makes them tick in the first place.

2) Get beyond the Beltway. At the moment, I live some 1,500 miles outside Washington, and I haven't lived inside the Beltway since 1998, but my columns usually dwell on what's happening on Capitol Hill or at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This year, I'd like to spend more time telling stories of real people I encounter and the concerns that preoccupy them. That will be quite a challenge this coming year because I'm busy planning a move back to the D.C. area. But it's not politics that brings me back but family: my three sons, two daughters-in-law and nine grandkids. Even though our family is more political than most, I expect there is a lot I can learn from the kids and grandkids, including what it's like to be a teenager today, what the job prospects are for new college graduates, how changes in taxes and health care play out in real families.

3) Pay attention to popular culture. Like most members of the chattering class, I don't spend a lot of time watching network TV, going to blockbuster movies or listening to hit songs. I never saw a single episode of "The Apprentice," which may be one reason I underestimated Trump as a candidate. Nor do I have much of a feel for what kids and even adults are taking in on their big-screen television sets -- or, more likely with the younger set, on their computers and phones. I spend little time on social media, had no idea who Meghan Markle is or why I should care, and have never played a game online or made a YouTube video. This coming year, I intend to get recommendations from friends and family to fill in the holes in my experience and hope to analyze what I learn, which should make for columns that are a little less stuffy and more fun to read.

4) Accentuate the positive. The old 1940s song may be corny, with its message to "ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive ... latch on to the affirmative (and not) mess with Mr. In-Between," but so much of opinion writing is driven by outrage that perhaps we need a little leavening. Even The New York Times has run series on "Family Stories That Bind Us" and "Modern Love," while The Washington Post puts out a newsletter called "Inspired Life," whose motto is: "For a better you, a better community and a better world." People crave positive news. Most people have enough angst and anger in their own lives; they could use a little uplifting. Next year, I will try to write at least a few columns that aspire to make readers feel better, not worse.

We'll see how successful I am at keeping these commitments -- and if I fail, I can always write a year-end column in 2018 that explains why. Happy new year.

Why Are Republicans in Bed With Anti-Population Groups?

A government shutdown has been temporarily averted this week with the passage of a two-week spending bill, but one group that may be left out in the cold when Congress takes up the spending bill again Dec. 22 is DACA recipients. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children -- more than half of them before they turned 7 -- temporary permission to stay and work, provided they met certain criteria, including enrolling in higher education or the military, passing a background check and paying any back taxes owed. But unless the White House and the GOP leadership embrace a solution for the more than 700,000 current DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. legally, we could soon see these young people lose their jobs and face an imminent threat of deportation. Some have already lost their status, and many more will do so unless Congress acts now.

The fate of so-called dreamers has been a political football for more than a decade, with many Republicans and virtually all Democrats once supporting legislation to give them a chance to earn the right to be here legally. But bills that passed one house of Congress died in the other, and the prospects for enacting a permanent solution for people who came here illegally as children seems elusive once again. Republicans who continue to block legislation that would fix the problem claim they are obliged to do so to honor their constituents' wishes and to curb illegal immigration. But the truth is that they are simply beholden to radical special interest groups that have made millions of dollars stoking anti-immigrant fears among a minority of Americans.

Here are the facts: The Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA are leaders in the anti-immigration movement and have grown in power and influence because GOP leaders treat them as natural allies. Republicans have invited these groups to testify as experts on immigration before congressional committees, incorporate their studies and findings as if they were gospel, and even allow the groups' staffs to help write legislation. It is an odd alliance, especially for pro-life Republicans, given the history of these groups, their leadership, their funding and, most importantly, their ultimate aim, which is to reduce population size in the U.S.

I have written about these groups at length over the years, in my book "Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation," in these columns and in articles in conservative magazines and online, including Commentary and National Review. All three groups were founded by John Tanton, who is a former president of Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan and former national president of Zero Population Growth. Their interlocking governing and advisory boards have included members who also serve as leaders in such groups as Negative Population Growth, Californians for Population Stabilization, and Population Connection, as well as in environmentalist groups. The current chairman of the board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform also sits on the board of the International Services Assistance Fund, which promotes permanent sterilization, including a highly controversial procedure that involves inserting the anti-malaria drug quinacrine directly into the uterus, which induces chemical burns, scarring and occlusion of the fallopian tubes. FAIR has also received funding from the pro-eugenics Pioneer Fund, as well as other foundations whose primary aim is to reduce population size.

These organizations want DACA protection to end and oppose any legislative solution that would allow DACA recipients to earn citizenship or be allowed to sponsor family members for permanent resident status. Why? Because doing so would allow the United States' population to continue to grow -- which they view as a threat. Tanton once admitted, "One of my prime concerns is about the decline of folks who look like you and me." But without immigrants, our economy would shrink and our social services net, including Social Security and Medicare, would unravel. We need the kind of people DACA represents -- educated and employed taxpayers who contribute to our country's greatness.

Why are Republicans listening to the likes of FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA instead of to voters, an overwhelming number of whom support a path forward for the dreamers? That's a question we should be asking House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before ICE starts showing up at dreamers' doors. There are ample votes to get a permanent fix for dreamers, but it will take a willingness to work across the aisle and to turn a deaf ear to the radical population control fanatics, who are no friends to conservative values of faith, family and freedom.