We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era

By Robert C. Smith; Ronald W. Walters | Go to book overview

6
Blacks in Congressional Decision Making:
A Policy Consensus on Civil Rights, 1970-1994

Throughout the post—civil rights era black leaders—integrationists, nationalists and radicals—have held near countless conferences, conventions and meetings devoted to the development of the black agenda. In Part II I traced the twists and turns in this agenda-building process from the early black power conferences through the National Black Political Conventions and the Joint Center's quadrennial Institutes of Black Public Officials. These agendas focused largely on non—civil rights issues, issues of social and economic reform in areas such as employment, welfare reform and national health insurance. Except for the long struggle over busing and school desegregation in the late 1960s and 1970s and the more recent conflicts over affirmative action, civil rights has not been a major priority on the various black agendas. This is because by the late 1960s the traditional civil rights agenda had been enacted and to a large extent institutionalized. This process of institutionalization of the traditional civil rights agenda has been thoroughly documented by Hanes Walton, Jr., and Hugh Davis Graham in their books on the civil rights policy process. 1 Graham labels this process of institutionalization "quadrilateralism," the routinization of the civil rights regulatory process as a consequence of the "capture" of the relevant congressional committees, executive agencies and the judiciary by the civil rights lobby. 2 This process has historically characterized policy making in the United States. First, there is the initial controversy and debate about the law itself, then a period of consolidation and finally institutionalization, as interest groups, the bureaucracy, congressional committees and the courts work out a modus operandi in the day-to‐ day conduct of business. As this process unfolded in the early 1970s, black leaders began to shift attention from civil rights to broader issues of social and economic reform.

Blacks in the United States at least since the New Deal have always had a "dual agenda" which focused on narrow race-specific civil rights reforms as well as broader non-race-specific social and eco

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