Every once in a while I post something off the cuff and find retroactively that I have tapped into a rich source of blogging material. Such is the case with my post a couple of days ago about technocrats on the left regretting loss of control of the statist institutions they created. In that article I cited examples of the left freaking out over a conservative-controlled FDA halting over-the-counter approval of the Plan B morning after pill and the injection of certain conservative dogmas (e.g. intelligent design) into public schools. The moral was that the left is lamenting the loss of control, when they should be reevaluating the construction of the regulatory state in the first place.
David Bernstein at Volokh brings us another example with the Solomon Amendment, the legislation that requires universities that accept public funds to allow military recruiters on campus. Folks on the left hate this act, many because they oppose the military at all junctures while others more narrowly oppose recruiting as a protest against the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell"
policy law brainchild. Eskridge and Polsby debate the pros and cons at the ACS Blog. I tend to be sympathetic to the private universities, who rightly don't feel like acceptance of federal money or research grants should negate their control of their institution.
But my point is not the merits of the Solomon Amendment, but to point out the irony, very parallel with the FDA and public schools examples previously: The Solomon Amendment is built sturdily on the precedent of Federal Title IX legislation, legislation that is a part of the bedrock of leftish politics in America. Title IX first established the principal that the Federal government could legally override the policy-making and decision-making at private universities if they accepted any federal cash. It was the left that fought for and celebrated this principal. The left ruthlessly defended the state's right to meddle in private universities in substantial ways, and passed legislation to shore Title IX up when the Supreme Court weakened state control (from the Bernstein post):
The Court's attempt to preserve some institutional autonomy for universities
from anti-discrimination laws caused uproar among liberal anti-discrimination
activists. They persuaded Congress to pass the "Civil Rights Restoration Act."
This law ensured that if a university receives any federal funds at all,
including tuition payments from students who receive federal aid, as in Grove
City's case, all educational programs at that university are subject to Title
The Solomon Amendment is modeled after the Civil Rights Restoration Act's
interpretation of Title IX.
In fact, in the linked articles, Solomon is being attacked by the left precisely because it does not allow universities the freedom to set their own anti-discrimination policy (in this case, banning recruiters judged discriminatory to gays), when the whole issue of Title IX was precisely to override a university's chosen anti-discrimination policy (or lack thereof). So again we have the case of the left building an government mechanism to control private decision-making, and then crying foul when their political enemies take control of the machinery.
In my naive youth, I would have assumed that this contradiction would quickly be recognized. However, the left (and the right too, but that is for another post) has been able for years to maintain the cognitive dissonance necessary to support the FDA's meddling in every single decision about what medical procedures and compounds a person can have access to while at the same time arguing that abortion is untouchable by government and that a woman should make decisions for her own body. In this case, it will be interesting to see if the left is able to simultaneously decry state control of discrimination policies at private universities in Solomon while continuing to support state control of private university discrimination policies as essential in Title IX.
Correction: You learn something every day. I called don't-ask-don't-tell a "policy, as I had assumed that it was merely an internal military policy. Apparently it is a law.