Demise of Affirmative Action in
the Age of Diversity
“The Man from Hope, ” declared one of Bill Clinton's campaign slogans. Hope, Arkansas, was his birthplace, where his mother raised him, where he went to high school, and where he left for Georgetown University, then Oxford, and eventually Yale Law School. He returned to Arkansas with his wife, Hillary, and enough drive to be elected governor at age 33. Six years later he was stunned by Ronald Reagan's overwhelming reelection in 1984, and along with other moderate Democrats, such as Sam Nunn of Georgia and Al Gore Jr. of Tennessee, he began to think that his party would be doomed to more defeats unless it changed its focus from the left to the middle and made a strenuous effort to woo white voters back to the party. A year later Clinton was one of the founders of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of centrists, and the DLC began advocating welfare reform, a tougher stance on crime, smaller government, a middle-class tax cut, and a strong defense. Clinton embraced those themes in 1991 when he declared his nomination and presented himself during the campaign as a “New Democrat.” He was an energetic campaigner, a smooth speaker, and he fought off challenges from Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, and former California Governor Jerry Brown. The South's primary, “Super Tuesday, ” in March 1992 catapulted Clinton into the lead. He won his party's nomination easily, picked Al Gore as his running mate, and began his march to the White House.
The Clinton-Bush-Perot run of 1992 concerned mainly the economy, with civil rights issues taking a back seat. The Democratic platform supported affirmative action and pledged that the party “will continue to lead the fight to ensure that no Americans suffer discrimination, ” not