The Reagan Adminstration justified its civil rights enforcement
by claiming an electoral mandate to reduce government. The
Administration employed an administrative strategy to fulfill this
asserted mandate, illustrating the conventional wisdom that the
strategy enhances political responsiveness. But responsiveness to
popular will is one democratic value, while protection of minority
rights another. In the case of the administrative strategy to
enforce the law protecting civil rights of the institutionalized,
career employees within the Reagan Justice Department reacted
forcefully to the change in policy direction, believing their
action was critical to protecting basic human rights because of the
powerlessness of the affected group.
Holt examines how the Reagan Administration implemented its
strategy of limited enforcement and the varied responses of the
career employees, including internal and external criticism, mass
departure, and even sabotage of some actions. A survey of
careerists and interviews with both political and career employees
provide detailed accounts of the clash that ensued. In addition to
providing valuable information on how and when an administrative
strategy can best be employed, Holt identifies some of the hidden
costs of a tightly controlled bureaucracy. An apparently successful
policy, which minimizes the involvement of experienced career
employees, can have an adverse long term effect. A valuable study
for all students and researchers of public policy formation and
implementation, the contemporary presidency, and civil rights.
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