In the wake of the recent presidential election that showed a wide disparity in candidate preferences among female and minority voters, many Republican leaders expressed the need to increase the diversity of their party.
News out of Washington last week indicates that such a transition may take some time.
As the majority party in the U.S. House, Republicans get to assign the chairmen of all the House committees. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced the names of those chairmen. All were white men; no women or minorities made the cut.
Only one committee currently is chaired by a woman — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — but she is stepping down as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee because of term limits set by party rules. Two lower-tier committees — the Ethics Committee and House Administration — still are awaiting chairs but neither committee has any women or minority members.
Part of the problem is that committee chairs typically are chosen based on their seniority on committees and Republican women and minorities simply aren’t at the top of the seniority ladder. That’s not surprising given that only 20 Republican women and fewer than 10 minorities will be serving in the House next year. By comparison, Democrats will have 61 women in the House and, for the first time in history, women and minority members will make up a majority the House Democratic Caucus.
The House numbers, along with statistics from the recent presidential race, point to a trend the GOP should carefully examine. Based on exit polls examined by the Pew Research Center, President Obama drew 55 percent of the women’s vote compared with 44 percent for Mitt Romney. Obama also drew a whopping 93 percent of the black vote and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, compared with 6 percent and 27 percent, respectively, for Romney. Those numbers are particularly important because of the fact that combined minorities are expected to make up a majority of the U.S. population by 2050, according to Pew projections.
Certainly, women and minorities shouldn’t be appointed to chair committees if they lack the necessary qualifications or experience, but the fact that the Republican leadership of the House could identify no women or minority representatives to fill any of the chairs shows how much work the party has to do to broaden its gender and racial base.