When the Marching Stopped: The Politics of Civil Rights Regulatory Agencies

By Hanes Walton Jr. | Go to book overview
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6. THE CIVIL RIGHTS
REGULATORY PROCESS:
PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

A dualism has heretofore characterized the study of civil rights in this country. Most observers of this persistent problem in American society have focused upon particular presidents and their efforts to get civil rights laws enacted by Congress. There are studies of Roosevelt, 1 Truman, 2 Eisenhower, 3 Kennedy, 4 Johnson, 5 and several presidents collectively. 6 Some of these works make heroes out of particular presidents and try to establish their places in history because of what they did in the area of civil rights. But as the Commission on Civil Rights and others have noted, these works have focused more on these presidents as originators of civil rights legislation and less on how the legislation was enforced once it was passed. In fact, if many of the presidents' civil rights enforcement efforts were factored into these volumes, reevaluation of some of the men would have to follow. For as the Civil Rights Commission has noted: "When Presidential leadership is lacking, civil rights enforcement suffers." 7 For the time being this approach to the study of civil rights persists, and studies in the same mold continue to pour forth. The reason for this is that "most domestic programs give out funds or services to state, local, or private groups. This makes it physically impossible or politically unfeasible for the president to keep up supervision. Evaluation—seeing whether programs really work—is a bureaucratic stepchild. It is rarely done and even more rarely heeded," by presidents. 8

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