The Impact of Presidential Policies
For presidents, civil rights policies are usually discretionary. The branches of government often cooperate on civil rights, but that is not to say that civil rights policies are bipartisan. Although not as political as economic policy, partisanship over civil rights is growing. Charges of reverse discrimination increasingly are dividing the parties and, thus, the nation ( Edsall and Edsall 1991). This situation has occurred with the president changing from a civil rights liberal ( Carter) to civil rights conservatives ( Reagan and Bush) and back again to moderate liberalism ( Clinton).
Almost immediately upon assuming office in January 1981, Reagan suspended Carter's affirmative action guidelines and reduced their enforcement. During the same year he decreased the number of contractors required to file written affirmative action plans, saying that smaller companies need not comply. Many companies cut back their equal opportunity offices ( Edsall and Edsall, 1991, 163). During 1985-86, the administration debated whether to overturn a 1965 executive order on equal employment opportunity ( Washington Post National Weekly Edition, January 27, 1986, 37, and January 11, 1986, A-3).
Reagan also abolished the merit selection panels for district court judgeships and reduced litigation efforts. Carter had targeted specific industries for compliance, but Reagan ended this practice. Reagan drastically reduced the budget of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and cut its personnel by 52 percent. One scholar charges that "the Reagan administration was more concerned with pro-