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Finally getting it right on affirmative action

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Every once in a while a great, conflicted country gets an insoluble problem exactly right. Such is the Supreme Court’s ruling this week on affirmative action. It upheld a Michigan referendum prohibiting the state from discriminating either for or against any citizen on the basis of race.

The Schuette ruling is highly significant for two reasons: its lopsided majority of 6-2, including a crucial concurrence from liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, and, even more important, Breyer’s rationale. It couldn’t be simpler. “The Constitution foresees the ballot box, not the courts, as the normal instrument for resolving differences and debates about the merits of these programs.”

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