Emerging Influentials in State Legislatures: Women, Blacks, and Hispanics

Emerging Influentials in State Legislatures: Women, Blacks, and Hispanics

Emerging Influentials in State Legislatures: Women, Blacks, and Hispanics

Emerging Influentials in State Legislatures: Women, Blacks, and Hispanics

Synopsis

This study is the first to provide a detailed analysis of the extend to which representation of women, blacks, and Hispanics in state legislatures translates into actual political power. It also shows how factors such as party affiliation, opportunity and incentives, region, religion, employment, and cultural differences affect the political fortunes of each of these groups. Based on systematic comparisons of recent elections and legislative records, Nelson's work contributes significant new information on the operation of the democratic process.

Excerpt

Thus far, I have assessed incorporation as a process including representation affected by the incidence of minority turnover in state legislatures. These are important factors, but one more step in the process of incorporation is essential. Minorities, to be effective, must occupy positions of influence within legislative chambers. They must become party leaders or committee chairpersons. in doing so they will obtain greater control of a chamber's political agenda and have a greater effect on policy making.

After minorities achieve positions of authority, one may expect minority policy preferences to be written into law, if, and this is extremely important, they are members of the dominant party. the control of a chamber's agenda and policy substance is largely determined by the majority party, although divided government ought to increase partisan compromise of policy preferences. For this reason, it is very difficult to suggest that, for example, "women's representation" or "Hispanic representation" should predict certain policy outcomes. Because Democratic women have recently achieved parity with their sisters, it also means that they have increased their representation within their party. Their position within a majority party also enhances their policy influence. Unfortunately for Republican women and Hispanics, the Democratic Party controls most of the legislative chambers in this study. Republicans are likely to be left out in the cold, but ideally, black, Hispanic, and other female Democrats' representation within their party should predict their political influence as committee chairs and party leaders. This is not the only reason to differentiate minorities by party. Minority Democrats and Republicans may have the same societal goals, but they may disagree . . .

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