Corrupting the Conscience: The Congressional Black Caucus and the Constraints of Black Politics

University of California - Berkeley

Abstract

It is well-known in political science that there are often trade-offs between having people that look like you represent you (descriptive representation) and having policy outcomes that are aligned with your views (substantive representation). For Black communities, this trade-off is even more acute. But while it is known that Black representatives across institutions at the federal and state level are more attentive to issues relevant to Black constituents, it is also the case that Black politicians have been complicit and/or responsible for some of the most catastrophic policy occurrences in American history, including but not limited to the Congressional Black Caucus sponsoring and supporting Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986 (Taylor 2016). My dissertation thus attempts to empirically chart the trade-offs between the CBC’s representation of Black views in Congress, for which the literature describes them as quite effective, and protecting Black interests, which historical data has shown them to be quite inconsistent and, at times, oppositional to. Through analyzing their activity and cohesion as a voting bloc relative to other Congressional caucuses, their relationship to financial institutions and donors such as ExxonMobil and McDonalds, and their relationship to organizations like the National Black Council of State Legislators, I aim to situate the Black Caucus within the broader galaxy of Black politics, showing that as the Black community got more diverse in terms of money and geography, the task of representing the race becomes more vexing and perhaps out of step with the realities of contemporary Congressional governance.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Christian Hosam

PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

  • Bio ▾

    Christian Hosam is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Berkeley. Broadly, his interests are in race and politics, with particular interests in Black politics, coalition and conflict between communities of color, public health, and the politics of representation. His dissertation project, "Corrupting the Conscience: The Congressional Black Caucus and Constraints of Black Politics," looks at why, even in spite of increasing influence and seniority, the Congressional Black Caucus does not account for corresponding gains for Black communities around the country. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Sociological Foruma and Politics, Groups, and Identities. He is also the author of Latino Politics, 3rd. Edition with Professor Lisa Garcia Bedolla.

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