Race cannot be governed. It cannot be accommodated by existing institutional arrangements, nor can those arrangements produce policies sufficient to redress the more entrenched elements of the race problem. In short, race and American governance are incompatible. The driving force behind this strained relationship is the politics of race. Race is among the most divisive, controversial issues in American politics. And, it is this circumstance that renders the race problem unsuitable for governance. The main objective of this book is to illuminate the existence and underlying causes of what it contends is a fundamental misfit between race and governance.
The contention that race is an unworkable policy issue suggests more broadly that there is a dynamic relationship between political issues and governing processes. The manner in which government grapples with certain societal problems and also the extent to which such problems can be adequately resolved by government are variable. These things vary, moreover, largely as a function of the politics of the issue “at issue.” Traditional governmental processes are structured to facilitate resolution of matters about which there is some preexisting agreement in principle and/or in practice. There is, in essence, a measure of consensus that undergirds and enables normal government decisionmaking. Certain issues supply the preconditions necessary for normal functioning of the governance process and some do not. As a consequence, some issues are suitable to governance, while others are not. Race is best understood to be among the latter. Thus, while the analytic lens of this book is centered upon race, ultimately, it is a statement about the interplay between issue politics, procedure, and policy.