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Lani Guinier, an experienced voting rights litigator and a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, first came to national attention in the spring of 1993 when President Clinton nominated her to be assistant attorney general for civil rights. Labelled a "quota queen" by the Wall Street Journal, Guinier became the target of a fervent campaign to block her nomination. For several weeks, Guinier's law review articles on voting rights were the focus of a fierce national debate. Politicians and pundits expounded on her publications and spread snippets from her scholarship across the front pages and opinion columns of America's media. Although her writings and ideas received a volume of attention that many academics would die for, the soundbite commentary generated far more heat than light, with selective quotation, tendentious analysis, and ideological and partisan concerns typically crowding out balanced and dispassionate discussion.

As the Wall Street Journal's insidious appellation took root, so, too, did the perception of Guinier as an "extremist" who held views that were "off the deep end," "out of the mainstream," and "alarmingly radical." With a potentially explosive Senate confirmation hearing in the offing, President Clinton abruptly withdrew her nomination. In so doing, the President not only denied her a nationally televised forum in which she could respond to her attackers and defend her views, but added insult to injury by appearing to agree with her critics. Guinier, Clinton stated, "seem[s] to be arguing for principles ... that I think inappropriate as general remedies and anti-democratic, [and] very difficult to defend."




The Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy by Lani Guinier, New York: The Free Press, 1994, pp. xx, 324, $24.95.

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