The Tyranny of the Majority, by Lani Guinier
President Clinton’s decision last June to withdraw the nomination of Lani Guinier as head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division averted a public debate in which his administration would inevitably have been depicted as championing racial quotas for elected officials. Guinier, a Friend of Bill (and Hillary), had been a prolific proponent of racial parity for elected officials for more than a decade, first as a litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and then as a scholar. Oddly, however, the President seemed unconcerned about Guinier’s record in the political world, where she had won dozens of suits—including one against the state of Arkansas when he was governor—forcing local jurisdictions to rewrite election rules to guarantee racial representation. Instead, the President—and most of Guinier’s critics—focused on her theoretical writings.
What was odd about this was that many of the controversial remedies Guinier advocated in her law-review articles had already become accepted practice in voting-rights enforcement. The Justice Department—under both Republican and Democratic Presidents—now routinely compels local jurisdictions to modify rules to achieve racial parity in elective offices. It would thus seem that in her critics’ eyes, Guinier’s chief sin lay in providing a theoretical framework for what, thanks in part to her own efforts, had already become public policy.
About the Author
Linda Chavez, the author of An Unlikely Conservative (2002) and other books, is the chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity. She last appeared in Commentary with “The Realities of Immigration” (July-August 2006).