From county officials and sheriffs to governors and senators, white male minority rule permeates politics in the United States, according to a new report released Wednesday.
White males make up 30% of the population but 62% of office holders, dominating both houses of Congress, 42 state legislatures and state-wide roles across the country, according to the analysis.
In contrast, women and people of color make up 51 percent and 40 percent of the U.S. population, respectively, but only 31 percent and 13 percent of public servants, according to the Reflective Democracy Campaign study, shared exclusively with the Guardian.
I think if we saw those numbers in another country, we would say there is something wrong with this political system, said Brenda Choresi Carter, director of campaigns.
We would say, how could this be a democratic system with this kind of demographic mismatch?
Two factors perpetuate white male control over virtually every lever of US government: the enormous advantage enjoyed by incumbents and Republican parties continue to focus on predominantly white candidates.
As the United States moves towards a white minority population within decades, some believe elected officials will inevitably become more diverse. But this logic is flawed: women have always been half the country, and they are still chronically under-represented in government.
Meanwhile, the politicians who are currently in office can make election laws and draw constituencies in their favor. This legislative cycle, lawmakers in Republican states have come up with a barrage of new electoral restrictions that have targeted left-wing communities, vulnerable voters and people of color.
It is no coincidence that the pursuit of undemocratic measures is happening at this time of truly profound demographic change, said Choresi Carter. That it is in this context that efforts to make the United States even less democratic that they are already happening is no coincidence.
But perhaps the biggest testament to America’s stark power imbalance is who can actually show up. Even with women vying for the post in record numbers, white men still overwhelm the candidate pool, despite primary candidates from all demographic groups winning elections at about the same rate, the report said.
In primaries for the National Office and the House, women and people of color outperform their white opponents, shattering a common myth about the eligibility advantage of white men that has often hampered high-profile women’s campaigns.
However, since women and people of color have been largely disenfranchised until relatively recent history, most of the rights holders are still white men, the report explains. And, in the 2020 primary elections, 96% of the incumbents won their race.
Last November, 96% of incumbents in Congress retained their seats, suggesting that officials who win their primaries have a similar advantage in general elections.
We have, you know, a political system in general which is not designed to include new voices and perspectives. It is a system built to protect the people and the interests already represented in it, said Choresi Carter.
It’s like all systems. Its built to protect the status quo.
Another obstacle to a more representative government comes from the Republican establishment, which does not present candidates who reflect the nation. In the 2020 primaries, 93% of Republican candidates were white and less than one in four were women.
The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, were 44% women and 32% people of color still shy about the country’s overall demographics, but far more inclusive than the GOP’s virtual erasure of entire communities.
This partisan divide and the issue of tenure reinforce a cycle where common sense policies supported by the majority of Americans make little headway, including popular solutions such as gun control, automatic voter registration and universal pre-K education.
We have this incredibly limited perspective represented in the halls of power when these decisions are made, said Choresi Carter.
And most Americans don’t share that experience, and actually, you know, want different results than they see.
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