Saturday, May 3, 2014

In the demographic representation of the U.S. Senate, some things are more "relative" than others

CNN may not be talking about Cliven Bundy—probably because it might force them to depart from the Fox News script and demand (for once) that the Republicans they generally soft-pedal answer for themselves, instead of the disingenuous distancing. Instead, we have Candy Crowley—who would be a perfect fit on Fox News if she wasn’t, well, so rotund—bullying Obama administration spokespeople into conforming to her version of reality.

And now that it seems more interested in creating personality cults and tabloid fare rather than straight, objective news coverage, it is only natural that we have CNN’s stable of superstars-in-their-own-mind white female commentators talking about gender issues in self-congratulatory fashion. The other day it was about the need to elect more women to the U.S. Senate, and how it will change the political dynamics of that chamber. Personally, whether the Senate is 50-50 male-female or a 100 percent female makes no difference to me, since it won’t really change anything. The states of Washington and California have two female Senators, and frankly I am at a loss to discern any improvement in the way government functions, or in its ideological balance, or how those states benefit particularly.

Or how minorities benefit, whose votes are taken for granted. Red states will vote for right-wing women instead of right-wing men, and blue states will vote for moderate-to-left women instead of men. The fact of the matter is that 58 percent of white women voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, and Barack Obama’s election in both 2008 and 2012 would not have been possible had it not been for the minority vote. It is also true that Democrats would not have a majority in the U.S. Senate if not for the minority vote. But minority voters and their interests are routinely ignored regardless of the majority party in the Senate. The best that minorities can hope for from a Democratic majority is that things won’t get worse for them, not necessarily better.

One thing CNN didn’t allude to is that 19 of the 20 female Senators are white, and that there are only three minority Senators, one of them recently appointed to the seat and not yet elected to it. Obviously I don’t count Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are technically “Hispanic,” but are actually Caucasian Cuban-Americans straight through, particularly in their right-wing, Euro-elite racial world view; they don’t associate with or represent “those people.” Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Mazie Hirono are Democrats and the only elected minority Senators; Tim Scott is black and Republican, ironically temporarily filling the seat vacated by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, famous for using slave code in describing Barack Obama and his policies. Whether white South Carolinians can bring themselves to vote even for a black conservative as Senator of their state later this year is another matter altogether.

Looking at the 2010 Census demographic breakdown, it is obvious that white men are grossly over-represented in the U.S. Senate, although that is a matter for the voters in the individual states—at least half, of course, who are female. 20 female Senators are 40 percent of numerical equality in that chamber, although 19 white females are 53 percent of that demographic. The numerical equality number for minorities is 27 Senators, meaning that the actual total of 3 is just 11 percent of the numerical equality figure. So as under-represented as women are, minorities are far more so.

What does this mean? As I implied before, it doesn’t matter what variety of white is elected to the Senate; they will look after their own interests first, whether political or social. White women in particular will continue to seek and enhance their own profiles of power. But who will speak for minorities? One black Democrat, and one Japanese-American from Hawaii who has been presented as a feminist prodigy? Certainly they would be expected to speak for the citizens of their states—it is just that there is a shortage of people in the U.S. Senate who can at least speak from an under-represented perspective, and make certain that the majority doesn’t trample on their interests—as Republican-controlled states and the U.S. Supreme Court—dominated by right-wing extremist ideologues—have repeatedly done in recent years.

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