At last...the public hearing she was denied...These essays reveal keen powers of analysis applied to some of the most obdurate problems that bedevil electoral politics. Anyone who cares about the mechanisms of democracy should be engaged by her tough-minded explorations. It doesn't matter where you think you stand: it's all here, to argue or agree with.
-- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Lani Guinier's fascinating book is a prophetic intervention into a public conversation we desperately need to rejuvenate. There is no doubt that her powerful voice will produce good consequences for our nation and world.
-- Cornel West, "Author of "Race Matters"
Intriguing and desperately needed...
-- "The San Francisco Chronicle"
The nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights who was dumped by President Clinton in the face of right-wing pressure offers the academic writings that were distorted into soundbites and led to her being labeled a "quota queen" by the Wall Street Journal and others. Guinier (Law/Univ. of Pennsylvania) proclaims herself a "democratic idealist," and in her introductory chapter she claims credibly that her ideas are not out of the mainstream. Unfortunately, as Yale law professor Stephen Carter (The Culture of Disbelief, 1993) states in a savvy preface, the withdrawal of Guinier's nomination deprived us of a chance at a "national seminar" on race and politics. Guinier's footnote-laden essays, aimed at academics, are heavy going, but her points are challenging. The Voting Rights Act, she argues, has been more successful in achieving the election of black officials than in altering the conditions of their constituents. She cogently suggests that winner-take-all voting systems that consistently exclude minorities are undemocratic. But she argues against remedy by gerrymandering, calling attention, in an example, to the status of blacks and Asians in New York City's new, geographically distorted "Latino" congressional district. Instead, she advocates cumulative voting, which is used in corporate elections. Thus, in at-large races for several seats, a minority voter can wield influence by clustering his or her several ballots for a preferred candidate. Yes, Guinier's view of the ideological homogeneity of African-Americans calls for debate, but her much-lambasted critique of who is an "authentic" black leader is actually fairly subtle, if murkily expressed. More an artifact than a full exposition of the issues involved, but a primary source response to a craven episode in nomination history. (Kirkus Reviews)