Race and the Democratic Process: Replies

Race and the Democratic Process: Replies

The main points of Lani Guinier’s essay deserve vigorous assent and criticism. She links debates about racial justice with arguments about representation in ways that are theoretically powerful and ambitiously democratic. Guinier wants blacks to gain a fuller and more significant political role, and for overall political participation and democratic dialogue to increase. I share these goals but doubt her proposals will be effective in attaining them. I address three questions: Should we talk about race? Is it fair to lose? Do we need more proportional representation now?

Should We Talk about Race?

Guinier says that my article is a plea for avoiding discussion of race on grounds that such talk will endanger centrist coalitions. Here is what I meant to say. Clinton’s desire not to talk about race caused him to withdraw his support of Guinier’s nomination when it became clear to him that a significant part of his presidential coalition opposed it. These forces, mainly center and center-right Democrats, oppose racial preferences in public policy.