COLLEGE PARK – President Clinton’s re-election with the help of black voters and the diversity of his first-term cabinet show that blacks have become more influential in policy making, said three black professors at the University of Maryland.
But the Republicans’ continued control of Congress could weaken minority representation on key issues during the next four years, the professors said in a forum on campus Wednesday night.
Although the black voter turnout Nov. 5 was about 35 percent – 10 percent lower than the turnout for all voters – Clinton received 84 percent of the black vote.
“Blacks have a policy claim to make,” said Ronald Walters, a professor of government and politics and Afro-American studies.
Walters joined Walter Broadnax, professor of public policy, and Sharon Harley, chairwoman of the Afro-American studies program, in predicting how blacks will fare during the second Clinton administration.
During Clinton’s first four years, the six women and five black and Hispanic members on his 23-member cabinet broadened the number of women and minorities appointed to government positions, Broadnax said.
But gains made by Republicans in the Senate could mean minority and ultra-liberal appointments could be blocked, filling the next cabinet with “middle-aged white men,” Broadnax said. The Senate gained two Republicans in the general election. The GOP now holds 55 of the 100 Senate seats.
“If you see the unfolding of a `traditional’ cabinet, it should set off an alarm,” said Walters, former chairman of the political science department at Howard University.
The White House has been careful not to speculate on who is leaving and who will be appointed to Clinton’s new cabinet, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.
However, Secretary of State Warren Christopher has formally resigned, and at least four others are expected to leave: Transportation Secretary Fredrico Pena, Defense Secretary William Perry, Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary and Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor.
Minority representation in the next cabinet also will affect the affirmative-action debate on whether the government should hand out contracts based on race or gender. The president will want to have women and minorities on his cabinet when he tackles this issue, Broadnax said.
Former Senate Majority Leader and defeated Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole introduced an anti-affirmative action bill that would eliminate race- and gender-based contracts. The bill died in the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, but it could reappear in the next Congress, which convenes in January. The placing of all government contracts in an open market for bidding would put minorities back where they started in terms of employment, Broadnax said. -30-