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The Congressional Black Caucus, Minority Voting Rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court

The Congressional Black Caucus, Minority Voting Rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court

Christina R. Rivers
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 213
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  • Book Info
    The Congressional Black Caucus, Minority Voting Rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court
    Book Description:

    Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) claim to advocate minority political interests, yet they disagree over the intent and scope of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as well as the interpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Whereas the Court promotes color-blind policies, the CBC advocates race-based remedies. Setting this debate in the context of the history of black political thought, Rivers examines a series of high-profile districting cases, fromRodgers v. Lodge(1982) throughNAMUDNO v. Holder(2009). She evaluates the competing approaches to racial equality and concludes, surprisingly, that an originalist, race-conscious interpretation of the 14th Amendment, along with a revised states' rights position regarding electoral districting, may better serve minority political interests.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-02821-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Law
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-16)

    In 1993, the Supreme Court held in the redistricting case ofShaw v. Renothat the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment entitles all voters to a color-blind redistricting process. On its face, this decision is emblematic of the Court’s landmark decision inBrown v. Board of Education.Indeed, theShawdecision was heralded as a pinnacle of objective, color-blind constitutionalism in the area of voting rights jurisprudence and as proof of the Court’s commitment to leveling the electoral playing field for all voters. Other observers lamented the decision as well-intended but profoundly misguided. In particular, the Congressional Black...

  5. 1 Competing Approaches to Law and Voting Minority Rights (pp. 17-33)

    The central premise of this book is that black voting rights and political representation are caught between conflicting approaches to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). These conflicts are illustrated by the contrast between the race-conscious advocacy of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Supreme Court majority’s color-blind jurisprudence. Extending the caucus’s position, the central claim in this chapter is that an exclusively color-blind approach to minority voting rights greatly oversimplifies the dynamics of race, representation, and political power. Moreover, it overlooks the race-conscious framing and original intent of the Fourteenth Amendment, along with the Court’s initial...

  6. 2 Foundations of Black Political Activism: Pushing Idealist Boundaries (pp. 34-63)

    This chapter offers an essential context for any analysis of contemporary African American politics and for this particular analysis of the approach taken by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Fourteenth Amendment: nineteenth-century black political thought. With respect to contemporary work on African American politics, this chapter attempts to fill in the gaps of what has been termed the “political context variable”—that is, an approach to representative politics from a black, or race-conscious, perspective.¹ This chapter also illustrates how African Americans’ “quest for universal freedom” has consistently sought to expand the scope...

  7. 3 The Congressional Black Caucus: Pushing Legislative Boundaries (pp. 64-101)

    This chapter explores the position of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in the institutional battles over contemporary minority voting rights. The caucus extends in important ways the traditions and efforts of early African American political leaders in general and of black Reconstruction-era legislators in particular. It also embodies the long history of blacks’ civil rights activism in Congress; in this respect, it functions as an internal civil rights lobbying group on behalf of black and other minority voters. The CBC’s symbolic and descriptive modes of representation are thus central to its substantive representation of its black constituents. In particular, the...

  8. 4 The Congressional Black Caucus: Pushing Constitutional Boundaries (pp. 102-125)

    Chapter 3 recounted the efforts of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to strengthen the Voting Rights Act (VRA) against new and continuing electoral problems. In so doing, the CBC has also sought to buttress the act against what it perceives as the Supreme Court majority’s retrogressive minority voting rights jurisprudence since the early 1990s. Whereas that chapter looked at the caucus in its legislative capacity, here I examine a little-discussed aspect of the CBC’s substantive representation of its constituents: its extralegislative efforts as amicus curiae in key voting rights cases. This examination analyzes the amicus briefs the caucus submitted to...

  9. 5 The Supreme Court: Pushing Back (pp. 126-149)

    Chapters 3 and 4 assess the position of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on the relationship of race, representation, and law through its legislative role in reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and as amicus curiae in key voting rights cases. This chapter reviews the Supreme Court’s decisions in those cases, thereby demonstrating one of the central claims of this book: The CBC’s role in strengthening the VRA in a way that allows for remedial uses of race when redistricting and later in endorsing such an approach to the Court effectively triggered color-blind judicial restrictions on such uses of race....

  10. 6 Reconciling the Present with the Past (pp. 150-168)

    This book has explored the cross fire between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Supreme Court majority over the role of race in redistricting, representation, and law. This cross fire is triggered by institutional debates over color blindness and race consciousness. What is the best method to eradicate racial discrimination and promote racial equality? Does color blindness guarantee equality? Under what circumstances is race consciousness constitutional? This book has emphasized the Court majority’s overreliance on color blindness in key redistricting cases. It has also attempted to illustrate the general confusion over both concepts. Even a cursory examination of the...

  11. Notes (pp. 169-190)
  12. Bibliography (pp. 191-202)
  13. Index (pp. 203-213)