Posted on October 1, 2014

Obama and The Bell Curve

Steve Sailer, Takimag, October 1, 2014

October 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the most hated book in the history of the social sciences, the 845-page The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Herrnstein.


One of the less vituperative denunciations by the many reviewers who likely hadn’t actually read the book was by “civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.” The future president intoned on NPR in 1994:

The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. … With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell.

Of course, the irony is that Obama’s fabulous career epitomizes the prime subject of The Bell Curve: the rise of a “cognitive elite” facilitated by standardized testing.


The [racial IQ] gap that The Bell Curve documented nearly a generation ago is still the subject of Establishment obsession. In 2002, Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush got together to solve the gap by passing the No Child Left Behind law, which legally mandated that by the spring of this year every public school student in America would be above average.

Not surprisingly, NCLB instead brought about massive test fraud. So now American elites have pinned their hopes on the Common Core, which will close the gap by making coreness common. Or something. Nobody seems to agree on how it’s supposed to work, but it has to work, right? Otherwise The Bell Curve will be right, and that’s just wrong.


Both Herrnstein and Murray–the pride of Newton, Iowa–made it to Harvard in part because of standardized exams.

And much the same is true for our current president.

Indeed, until he was rescued by the Law School Admission Test, Obama had been floundering–encouraging recycling, copyediting a business newsletter he despised, failing to organize a public housing project community. Then, around 1987, he apparently scored high on the heavily g-loaded LSAT.

According to a clever 2012 analysis by Alan R. Lockwood, Obama likely scored in the 94th to 98th percentile range. This, combined with Obama’s black privilege and Harvard legacy status (Barack Obama Sr., M.A. ’65), allowed him the luxury of applying to only the top three law schools, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, with no need for a safety school.

Once at Harvard, Obama was instantly recognized as one of the few black students who were on the same cognitive level as the students who got in without affirmative action. (Nationally, the average black who takes the LSAT scores at only the 12th percentile compared to whites.) Obama’s ego blossomed as he became talked about as the First Black President. {snip}

But when Obama went back to Chicago’s South Side, his career got sidetracked once again. Even while he was being lionized by Chicago’s Jewish and WASP elites as a potential president, his political bandwagon was spinning its wheels because black folks didn’t much like him relative to other, more authentically black politicians. After a depressing defeat in 2000 at the hands of former Black Panther Bobby Rush, Obama realized that while black voters in his Congressional district considered him an overeducated Urkel, white voters in the larger world thought he was the one they’d been waiting for.

When Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention, the white public nationwide finally discovered a black state legislator with a high LSAT score. This was such an edifying find that within a half decade, they’d made him President.

In the White House, however, Obama has once again proven less than galvanizing. Why? As Herrnstein and Murray repeatedly cautioned 20 years ago, IQ isn’t everything.