A t the heart of this book is a story about the surprising development of two of the great legislative victories in civil rights and immigration policy won by American liberal reformers in the 1960s. Both reforms were grounded in the liberal theory and constitutional doctrine of equal individual rights, and both were driven through Congress by essentially the same cadre of liberal elites. By 1970, moreover, both appeared to be achieving their intended consequences: destroying the racial caste system in the South and abolishing the national origins quota system. By 1975, however, it was clear that both reforms were leading to unintended consequences. In civil rights policy, enforcement methods shifted from nondiscrimination and soft affirmative action to the minority preference remedies of hard or race-conscious affirmative action. Immigration, both legal and illegal, soon surpassed pre-World War I levels in annual entry, with more than threequarters of the immigrants coming from countries in Latin America and Asia. Although the civil rights and immigration reforms of the mid-1960s were widely approved throughout the United States by 1970, even among southern whites, polls showed that by 1980, both affirmative action and mass immigration were unpopular in the eyes of most Americans. 1 Nevertheless, the civil rights and immigration coalitions showed skill and persistence in fending off attempts made during the Reagan presidency to curb immigration and hard affirmative action. Despite the political success of the conservative movement and the “Reagan Revolution, ” both statutory and regulatory provisions for affirmative action programs and legal immigration levels generally expanded through the 1980s and 1990s, as elected officials at national, state, and local levels in both parties proved reluctant to offend the well-organized constituencies of the rights revolution.
In response to the policy reversals seen by the 1970s, the national debate