By Clarence Lusane
For all the talk of the increased diversity in the new Congress, you won’t find it on the Republican side.
For the first time in history, the majority of Democratic members in the House will not be white males. This is a good thing. Of the 200 Democrats in the House, 61 are women (including three nonvoting members), 43 African-American (including two nonvoting members), 23 Latino and 10 Asian. The Democratic Caucus truly looks like America, circa 2013.
But not the Republican Caucus. With the departure of Reps. Allen West (defeated) and Tim Scott (promoted), there will be no black GOP House members. And because there are very few other GOP women or men of color, as a consequence, the Republican Caucus is 89 percent white male.
Conservative white male
In the Republican-controlled House, the chair of every legislative committee but one is a conservative white male. And it was only after coming under intense criticism and ridicule, especially following the massive defection of women voters in 2012 from the Republican Party, did the GOP belatedly appoint Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., to head the House Administration Committee.
The racial fretting of the GOP explains the cheering by Republicans for the selection of Scott to keep retired S.C. Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat warm until an election scheduled for 2014.
Overwhelming and growing black and Latino support for Democrats has terrified some in the GOP who believe there is no future for the party unless it can recruit support from communities of color. Like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Scott is the counter to charges that the Republican Party (and its tea party engine) is lily-white and cares little for people of color.
But what you see is not what you get. Black and Latino support for black and Latino candidates is not simply based on color and ethnicity. What these voters want and support are candidates who reflect their consensus and promote their interests.
To the degree that Scott and Rubio maintain the Republican orthodoxy, they can expect to receive little more support among people of color than DeMint did — or Mitt Romney, for that matter.
Scott’s record is a case in point. As a House member, he threatened President Obama with impeachment, vigorously opposed the Affordable Care Act, supported radical anti-union legislation, was against efforts to increase voter participation and even proposed a bill to cut off food stamps for whole families if one member happened to be on strike.
The last black Republican in the Senate was the moderate Ed Brooke of Massachusetts, a political species within the Republican Party that has virtually become extinct.
Scott is no moderate. He likely will be the first black senator whose every policy position will be in opposition to the agenda of the vast majority of blacks. So Republicans can crow about diversity all they want. But to the extent that it exists at all, it’s just window-dressing.
Clarence Lusane is program director and associate professor of the Comparative and Regional Studies Program in the School of International Service at American University. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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