William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Justice Kennedy’s controlling plurality revised the political process doctrine and ended the practice of affirmative action in Michigan. In this opinion, Kennedy followed in the Court’s tradition of invoking antibalkanization values in equal protection cases, making the empirical claims both that antibalkanization motivated the campaign to end affirmative action in Michigan and that the campaign itself would, absent judicial intervention, have antibalkanizing effects.

Using sophisticated empirical methods, this Article is the first to examine whether the Court’s claims on antibalkanization are correct. We find they are not. Support for the Michigan ballot initiative banning affirmative action arose principally from feelings of racial resentment, not a desire for racial comity. The ballot initiative did not mitigate racial divisiveness but did just the opposite, exacerbating racial division in the state. We conclude by considering what Schuette and these empirical findings mean for affirmative action, for the political process doctrine, and for the antibalkanization principle.