Winning While Losing: Civil Rights, the Conservative Movement, and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama

Winning While Losing: Civil Rights, the Conservative Movement, and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama

Winning While Losing: Civil Rights, the Conservative Movement, and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama

Winning While Losing: Civil Rights, the Conservative Movement, and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama

Synopsis

"This remarkable study offers breakthrough findings and insights about the state of civil rights policies in the post-civil rights era."--Hanes Walton Jr., coauthor of American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom

"Eschewing easy absolutes, Winning While Losing presents a carefully nuanced interpretation of the subtle gains and losses experienced by liberals and conservatives, by Democrats and Republicans, and by proponents of racial justice and their opponents."--Harvard Sitkoff, author of Toward Freedom Land

"Insightful and fascinating. Sets an agenda for further scholarly debate about the puzzle of 'winning while losing' that defines the fortunes of civil rights and the stratagems of politicians over the past generation."--Robert Mason, author of Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority

"A comprehensive account of the links between racism, conservatism, and presidential politics in the post-civil rights era."--Greta de Jong, author of Invisible Enemy: The African American Freedom Struggle after 1965

During the four decades separating the death of Martin Luther King and the election of Barack Obama, the meaning of civil rights became 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. Complicating matters, the conservative turn in American political life transformed the national conversation about race and civil rights in surprising ways.


This pioneering collection of essays explores the paradoxical nature of civil rights politics in the years following the 1960s civil rights movement by chronicling the ways in which presidential politics both advanced and constrained the quest for racial equality in the United States.

Excerpt

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.

The volume’s core theme of progress in the face of defeat, or defeat in the face of progress, was first proposed by Mary Frances Berry, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. At her keynote address for the symposium, she spoke about how civil rights during the Reagan era followed a pattern of “winning while losing.” The other conference participants, who were exploring the civil rights policies of other presidents, agreed that her idea seemed to capture well, if imperfectly and unevenly, the larger trajectory of civil rights in the era that followed the landmark legislative victories of the mid-1960s.

Yet this was an odd moment to be talking about “losing” in the civil rights arena. The planning for the symposium had begun long before Barack Obama emerged as a contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. His victory in the primary and subsequent election to the presidency came as a surprise to the conference participants, who now found themselves discussing the connection between race and the presidency just weeks after the inauguration of the country’s first black president. It was a remarkable coincidence. Ultimately, Obama’s victory did not affect the historical judgments rendered on the four decades separating his inauguration in 2008 from Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. The intervening years saw highly visible achievements in the realm of political rights, as Obama himself demonstrated, but persistent setbacks in the quest for full socio-economic equality, as told in the ever grim statistics about black poverty and incarceration. Such a pattern of winning while losing seemed to define the post-1960s . . .

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