Bill Ackman and the Billionaire Class Anti-Woke Revelation

Is donor outrage enough to dismantle the DEI regime?

What’s happening: Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman had long been a loyal Democrat Party donor. But amid far-left antisemitism in many universities, Ackman, who is Jewish, has become an outspoken critic of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” on campus.

Wake-up call: Ackman is worth an estimated $3.8 billion and has given millions of dollars to Democrats and left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood. But his very public rebukes of antisemitism on campus — including calls for elite university professors to “resign in disgrace” — have morphed into a broader criticism of campus wokeness writ large.

  • The bigger picture: Ackman’s chief grievance is the antisemitism emanating from DEI offices. More recently, however, he has also emerged as an opponent of issues such as race-based hiring, anti-white racism, stifling conservative speech, and more.

Heavy hitters: The pushback against DEI-based antisemitism enjoys the support of a powerful coalition. Ackman’s foundation has given tens of millions to Harvard, and other left-wing donors have expressed similar criticisms of the campus left since the October 7 Hamas attacks.

  • Success: These donors have an enormous amount of influence within elite universities, as was evident in the recent resignation of University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill and the heavy pressure on other presidents to resign, too.

At a crossroads: Conservatives have an opportunity to leverage donor outrage to dismantle the DEI system — if they can articulate to left-wing donors that antisemitism is one of the many inevitable symptoms of DEI that can’t be solved without addressing the framework as a whole.

  • But, things could go the other way: If concerns about campus antisemitism are isolated and disconnected from various other elements of DEI, the end result could strengthen the “equity” bureaucracy — bolstering anti-discrimination protections against antisemitism while leaving the rest of the system intact.

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