This book evolved out of my interest in a question that may, in retrospect, be unanswerable in the space of a few hundred pages. That question is perhaps the one most often asked by political scientists: why? Why, I wanted to know, did so many nationally elected lawmakers bother during the sixties with the concerns of a racial minority group that was not only at a numerical disadvantage in an arena of democratic politics, but socially, economically, and politically marginalized as well? Increasingly cognizant of the enormous majoritarian pressures to which legislators are subject, this was and remains an intriguing question to me.
Initially blind to the enormity of the task, I pursued the “why” question and, in the process, stumbled upon yet another, even more probing, inquiry. Perusing the files at several depositories of U.S. senators’ personal papers, I found housed under “civil rights” as many and, in some cases, more boxes containing materials on Senate rules and procedures than those pertaining to the actual civil rights bills themselves. This finding was an eye-opener. It forced me to consider the obvious, namely, the special relevance of the infamous Senate filibuster rule for race-related legislative proposals. It seemed plausible to consider also the likelihood that race, in turn, proffered some unique implications for legislative procedure, in light of extensive evidence that the early rules reform efforts in the Senate were driven chiefly by a desire to enact civil rights legislation.
This book explores the relationship between race and institutional structure. It examines the impact that race has upon traditional institutional arrangements and, conversely, the effect of such arrangements upon race. Its