BOOKS

Governing With Words

The Political Dialogue on Race, Public Policy, and Inequality in America

Rather than considering political discussions and rhetoric as symbolic, inconsequential forms of politics, Governing with Words conceptualizes them as forms of government action that can shape institutions and societal norms. Daniel Q. Gillion refers to this theory as 'discursive governance'. Federal politicians' statements about racial and ethnic minority concerns aid the passage of minority public policies and improve individual lifestyle behaviors. Unfortunately, most of the American public continues to disapprove of politicians' rhetoric that highlights race. The book argues that addressing racial and ethnic inequality continues to be a tug-of-war between avoiding the backlash of the majority in this nation while advocating for minority interests. Even though this paradox looms over politicians' discussions of race, race-conscious political speech, viewed in its entirety, is the mechanism by which marginalized groups find a place in the democratic process. Such race-conscious discussions, the book argues, have ramifications both within and outside of government.

Winner of the 2017 W.E.B. Du Bois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

 

Findings referenced in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, Slate, Washington Monthly, and The Atlantic

Minority Activism and Shifts in Public Policy

The Political Power of 

Protest

This book demonstrates the direct influence that political protest behavior has on Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court, illustrating that protest is a form of democratic responsiveness that government officials have used, and continue to draw on, to implement federal policies. Focusing on racial and ethnic minority concerns, this book shows that the context of political protest has served as a signal for political preferences. As pro–minority rights behavior grew and anti–minority rights actions declined, politicians learned from minority protest and responded when they felt emboldened by stronger informational cues stemming from citizens' behavior, a theory referred to as the “information continuum.” Given the influence that minority protest actions have wielded over national government, the book offers a powerful implication. Although the shift from protest to politics as a political strategy has opened the door for institutionalized political opportunity, racial and ethnic minorities have neglected a powerful tool to illustrate the inequalities that exist in contemporary society.

Winner of the 2014 Best Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA)

Discussed in The Washington Post
Reviewed by Perspective on Politics, Journal of Politics, Law and Politics Review, Choice, and Journal of American History
Subject of Author Meets Critics (Midwest Political Science Association Conference 2015 and National Conference of Black Political Scientists 2014)

DO POLITICIANS LOSE POLICY SUPPORT WHEN THEY EXPLICITLY DISCUSS RACIAL ISSUES IN GOVERNMENT?

No. On the contrary, those congressional members who discuss race actually have a larger policy network and receive greater cosponsorship on minority bills.

ARE POLITICIANS SPEAKING LESS ABOUT RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITY ISSUES IN GOVERNMENT?

Yes. As the American public has aspired to move towards a "post-racial" society, fewer federal politicians have discussed racial and ethnic minority concerns and disparities that continue to persist. President Obama, for example, spoke less about race than President Bush in his first term in office, and President Bush spoke less than President Clinton.

DO POLITICIANS' DISCUSSIONS OF RACE HAVE TANGIBLE BENEFITS FOR AMERICAN COMMUNITIES?

Yes. One race-related statement on health issues by the president of the United States increases the overlap between the remarks the president makes and what minority magazines write by 52 words.