This Photo Shows the GOP's Race Problem
Updated: Will a new pick at least add gender diversity to 19 proposed chairs for House committees?
(The Root) -- Updated Friday, November 30: This afternoon it was announced via Huffington Post's Politics Twitter account that Rep. John Boehner, would appoint a woman, Rep. Candice Miller, chair of the congressional Committee on House Administration. That means the likely Republican congressional committee chairs will be filled by eighteen men, one white woman and zero racial minorities.
After the Republican Party's disappointing showing in the 2012 election, which included a convincing win by President Obama in both electoral and popular votes as well as the party's failure to reclaim the Senate, there was a lot of talk about "diversity" -- as in the GOP's need to get some. After all, President Obama won not only nearly all of the black vote in the presidential election but also an overwhelming majority of the Latino and Asian votes, two of the fastest-growing demographics in the country.
Even Sean Hannity, the conservative firebrand on Fox News, not known for his warm and fuzzy feelings about racial minorities or immigrants, changed his tune after the party's Election Day thumping, saying, "I've evolved on immigration." Now he doesn't support mass deportation of undocumented immigrants; instead, he said, "You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don't say you've got to go home." His reasoning? Sheer numbers: the growth of the Hispanic electorate and decline of the white electorate.
Ted Cruz, the newly elected junior senator from Texas who is of Hispanic descent, said in a recent interview that the GOP had done a "lousy job" of communicating to Hispanic voters, citing the tone that the party had used to discuss immigration and other issues. Yet Cruz also heralded the fact that the Republican National Convention had four keynote speakers of Hispanic descent who are statewide elected officials, while the Democrats did not.
But despite Cruz's attempts at framing the GOP as a more welcoming tent for minority elected officials, a photo of the party's likely House committee chairs (from The Rachel Maddow Show via Gawker) tells a different story.
All 19 of them are white and male. All of them. There is currently a Latina, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, serving as chair of a committee -- Foreign Affairs -- but Ros-Lehtinen, who is the most senior female Republican committee chair in the House, is stepping down because of chair term limits.
To be clear, as Cruz pointed out and Ros-Lehtinen confirms, the GOP does have minority members of Congress, among them Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is black. But the bigger issue is that the party has very few. It has so few that there is an incredibly small pool even to begin the selection process for leadership posts. (There are more women, and some of them will have leadership roles in the coming Congress, but likely not as chairs. Since President Obama also won handily with female voters, this also presents a problem for the GOP.) By contrast, for the first time in American history, the Democratic congressional delegation will not be majority white men, a watershed moment.
If the GOP expects to have any hope of maintaining its relevance in future elections, the composition and tone of its leadership must change. Those GOP presidential candidates looking ahead to 2016 already seem to know this.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has made his a message of diversity and a willingness to embrace a less conservative stance on immigration policy cornerstones of his political life. A co-founder of the Hispanic Leadership Network, he has a Hispanic wife and children. His son has also recently filed papers to begin his career in the Bush family business of politics. (George P. Bush is already being touted by some as a possible Latino rising star within the party.)
Then there is the former governor's likely 2016 opponent: fellow Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio, who has already visited the early-primary state of Iowa. The junior senator is Cuban American. As the party's woes with minorities mount, many are more likely to view Rubio as a great brown hope.