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Black Lawmaking in the U.S. Congress from Carter to Obama

Katherine Tate

Publication Year: 2014

During the height of the civil rights movement, Blacks were among the most liberal Americans. Since the 1970s, however, increasing representation in national, state, and local government has brought about a more centrist outlook among Black political leaders. Focusing on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Katherine Tate studies the ways in which the nation’s most prominent group of Black legislators has developed politically. Organized in 1971, the CBC set out to increase the influence of Black legislators. Indeed, over the past four decades, they have made progress toward the goal of becoming recognized players within Congress. And yet, Tate argues, their incorporation is transforming their policy preferences. Since the Clinton Administration, CBC members—the majority of whom are Democrats—have been less willing to oppose openly congressional party leaders and both Republican and Democratic presidents. Tate documents this transformation with a statistical analysis of Black roll-call votes, using the important Poole-Rosenthal scores from 1977 to 2010. While growing partisanship has affected Congress as a whole, not just minority caucuses, Tate warns that incorporation may mute the independent voice of Black political leaders.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Politics of Race and Ethnicity, The

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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1. Black Policymakers and a Theory of Concordance

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pp. 1-31

With the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States in 2008, and with Democrats as majorities in both houses in the 111th Congress, African Americans achieved their highest levels of membership in the dominant governing coalition to date—a phenomenon known as “minority political incorporation” (Browning, Marshall, and Tabb 1984). By 2009, there were 41 Black members of the U.S. Congress, including one U.S. senator and the nonvoting delegate for the District of Columbia...

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2. President Carter and the Old CBC

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pp. 32-48

Black legislators argued that they didn’t get what they wanted from the Carter administration, and some weren’t sorry to see him go. Carter was the first Democrat to occupy the White House since Lyndon B. Johnson. While Johnson endured the political turmoil caused by Blacks over their demands for civil rights and responded with major civil rights and voting rights legislation, Blacks were experiencing very tough times economically in the late 1970s...

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3. Black House Democrats in the Reagan-Bush Years

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pp. 49-70

The CBC won its most important victories during the Reagan-Bush years. There was the 1982 extension of the Voting Rights Act, which was strengthened by lawmakers in spite of President Reagan’s initial opposition. President Reagan also signed into law the Martin Luther King holiday bill in 1983, making King’s birthday a federal holiday. Furthermore, the CBC remained radical over South Africa, and in part through the group’s efforts over the decade Black political activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 (Tillery 2011)...

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4. President Clinton and the New CBC

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pp. 71-84

The 1992 elections brought a Democrat back to the White House after a long hiatus of twelve years. Arkansas governor Bill Clinton defeated President George H. W. Bush in his reelection bid. The 1992 elections also increased Black political power in the U.S. Congress significantly, as 13 new Black lawmakers were elected along with the first Black female U.S. Senator, Carol Moseley Braun. This new Democratic president, coupled with the enhanced political power of African Americans in the U.S. Congress, in theory could have been used to restore the nation’s domestic policies that had been assaulted during the Reagan-Bush years...

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5. President Bush and the New Black Moderates

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pp. 85-106

About a dozen Black House members walked out in protest as Vice President Al Gore presided over the certification of the 2000 electoral vote in a joint session of Congress. Federal law requires both a House member and a senator to object to congressional certification. But Black House members could not find a senator to register their objection. The controversy over the disputed 2000 election results was relatively short-lived. September 11, 2001, the day when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, however, changed the politics decisively as President Bush moved the country to war in Iraq in 2003. The war in Afghanistan had begun earlier, immediately following September 11, 2001...

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6. President Obama and Black Political Incorporation

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pp. 107-128

The election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first Black president represented a watershed event in American race relations. For many African Americans it was an emotional moment; their struggle for the ballot in the South had been bloody and lengthy, and participants in that struggle were living witnesses now to the election of this biracial U.S. senator who considered himself Black. During the 2008 Democratic primary, even as some remained undecided, more CBC members initially supported New York senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton than Obama for the presidential nomination (Murray 2007)...

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7. The Moderating Effect of Institutional Pressures

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pp. 129-142

Concordance holds that in winning incorporation African American Democratic lawmakers have moved closer to the political mainstream even as they have pushed their party to better represent their group’s interests. Incorporation, thus, is a two-sided process. In this chapter, I provide a more stringent analysis of the data to provide further support for my theory of concordance. I present data showing support for one side of this process—the ideological movement of Black Democratic legislators toward their party...

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8. The New CBC

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pp. 143-152

The data showing a trend favoring the political center for Black House members may not be welcome news for the CBC, which remains an important advocacy group for the economically and socially disadvantaged. This political moderation of Black elected officials, however, was inevitable for both institutional and organizational reasons. A generational change is taking place for sociological reasons, as well...

Appendix A. List of Black, Hispanic, Blue Dog, and Progressive Caucus Members by Recent Congress

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pp. 153-164

Appendix B. Tables of NOMINATE, Party Unity, Presidential Support, and Legislative Effectiveness Scores for the CBC and Other House Caucuses

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pp. 165-170


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pp. 171-172


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pp. 173-182


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pp. 183-194

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029563
E-ISBN-10: 0472029568

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Politics of Race and Ethnicity, The