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Winning While Losing

Civil Rights, The Conservative Movement and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama

Kenneth Osgood

Publication Year: 2014

During the four decades separating the presidencies of Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama, the meaning of civil rights has become increasingly complex. Civil rights leaders made great strides in breaking down once-impermeable racial barriers, but they also suffered many political setbacks in their attempts to remedy centuries of discrimination and oppression as race and the ascendancy of conservatism in America became inextricably intertwined.

This pioneering collection of essays chronicles the ways in which presidential politics have shaped black experiences in the aftermath of the civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s, from the experimental and transitional nature of Richard Nixon's policies and the transformative aspect of Ronald Reagan's presidency to the constraints that Reagan's legacy placed on Bill Clinton and the continued efforts to disenfranchise black and poor people in the twenty-first century.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This volume explores the paradoxical nature of civil rights politics in the years following the 1960s civil rights movement in the United States. The book originated in the 2009 Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), which focused on the impact of the conservative moment on civil rights and the presidency since 1968. ...

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Introduction. The Paradox of Success: Civil Rights and the Presidency in a New Era

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pp. 1-25

A year before an assassin’s bullet claimed his life in April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. published his last and most prophetic book: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? King had just suffered a major defeat in Chicago, where intense northern racism and big-city machine politics thwarted a campaign against housing discrimination. ...

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1. Zigs and Zags: Richard Nixon and the New Politics of Race

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pp. 26-54

In the fall of 1970, Richard Nixon’s top domestic policy advisor, John Ehrlichman, found himself frozen out of the Oval Office. Nixon accepted no appointments and offered no responses to his memoranda. After ten days of silence, the president finally gave an indication of the nature of the problem: insufficient conservatism in key areas of domestic policy. ...

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2. African American Civil Rights and Conservative Mobilization in the Jimmy Carter Years

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pp. 55-81

In the late 1970s it was an article of faith among conservative Republicans that liberal bureaucrats in Jimmy Carter’s administration were enforcing racial quotas. One of the most controversial issues among conservative Christians was an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policy that denied federal tax exemptions to racially discriminatory private schools. ...

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3. Ronald Reagan and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: Battles Won and Wars Lost

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pp. 82-120

In the 1980s, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) appeared to have President Ronald Reagan on the run. For three decades, the LCCR had been one of the most important legislative advocates for civil rights in the United States. In the 1980s, the LCCR and its allies defeated Reagan and his congressional allies four successive times ...

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4. Rebuilding Institutions and Redefining Issues: The Reagan Justice Department and the Reconstruction of Civil Rights

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pp. 121-152

By the 1960s, issues of race and civil rights had provoked a lasting political realignment.1 Franklin D. Roosevelt had avoided the subject for fear of dividing his party, but when Hubert Humphrey successfully advocated a strong civil rights plank for the Democratic platform in 1948, those fears were realized. ...

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5. Civil Rights Policymaking in the Clinton Administration: In Reagan’s Shadow

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pp. 153-180

Bill Clinton was elected, and to some extent governed, in the shadows of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was a “reconstructive” president. That is, like FDR, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Jackson, he brought an end to one “political time” and started a new one that changed the terms or conditions of electoral competition and political debate. ...

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6. Old Vinegar in a New Bottle: Vote Denial in the 2000 Presidential Election and Beyond

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pp. 181-215

Wallace McDonald of Hillsborough County, Florida, did not vote on the day of the controversial 2000 election, though he had voted in many earlier presidential elections. McDonald, who had been convicted of misdemeanor vagrancy in 1959 (he had fallen asleep on a park bench while waiting for a bus), ...

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7. George W. Bush, Compassionate Conservatism, and the Limits of “Racial Realism”

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pp. 216-260

When President George W. Bush reflected on his eight years in office, his most painful memory stood out sharply. Surprisingly, the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the costly and contentious wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, and the sharpest collapse of the economy since the Great Depression did not top Bush’s list. ...

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8. Civil Rights and the First Black President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Racial Equality

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pp. 261-274

Ronald W. Walters wrote this paper in February 2009 for presentation at the Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency at Florida Atlantic University. Seven months later, Professor Walters died of complications from lung cancer before he could complete his revisions. ...

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Conclusion: More Equal and Less Equal since the 1970s

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pp. 275-286

In the ongoing struggle for racial justice over the last four decades, measures of victory and defeat were not always as clear as they tended to be in elections or on battlefields. Were civil rights advocates “winning while losing”? The answer depends on how one does the measuring. ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 287-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048604
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049083

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 867741168
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Winning While Losing

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Civil rights.
  • Presidents -- United States.
  • Racism -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Social conditions.
  • Conservatism -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations -- Political aspects -- History -- 20th century.
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