For the one hundred and thirteenth time last week the United States swore in a new congress in the nation’s capital. With this new congress comes an immense and harrowing workload left by its predecessor that is no doubt in the forefront of most Americans minds. All of the words have been said and debated on this point and there is little to nothing more I could add to the conversation that would be of much use. Therefore, for this blog post I will not be discussing the “what, where, why, and how” of congress, but rather, the “who”. People often times refer to congress (as I am doing so myself at this moment) as a thing rather a group of individuals who are still just as human as the rest of us. The 113th congress provides a unique opportunity to reflect upon the United States Congress as it is now the most diverse legislature in American history. And as with all things there is the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
The good, as was stated previously, is that this congress is the most diverse in American history in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion. This means that laws passed and the members who create them will increasingly be representing the American population rather than the certain individuals who voted. Now, even within a single party, many different viewpoints can be presented (as was the framers intentions) which reduces the possibility of a single interest pushing through legislation in congress. The great ideas that have advanced this county have come from diverse backgrounds and fresh perspectives and there is no reason to think the same cannot happen in the nation’s capital. This ray of hope for progress however is dampened when one considers the fact that this sea of new faces was almost completely confined to the ranks of the Democratic Party.
The bad of this story comes from the majority in the House and minority in the Senate chambers. It seems impossible and yet, while the 113th congress has become the most diverse in history, the percentage of non-white males in the Republican caucus actually decreased from the 2010 election. 90% of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is made up of white males. This represents a growing trend I have noticed within the GOP since my introduction into the political world. Republican lawmakers (or potential ones) have valid and sensible ideas on a variety of issues. The problem comes when they tailor these messages to a specific group rather than the general populace. Quite frankly, many republican lawmakers simple do not have a grasp of the social graces and do not know when to simply shut up. This problem persists within the Democratic Party as well, however not to such a crippling effect as has occurred in the GOP ranks. Take for instance Representative Michele Bachman. During her presidential bid she made comments that HPV vaccinations cause mental retardation. What did this have to do with the election? Absolutely nothing, but because she was in her mind addressing only a select group of Americans, it seemed valid. The message and policies are there, they just come out of a single white male voice.
The ugly comes not from the freshman lawmakers who created this new diversity and subsequent blog. No the ugly comes from the sea of 456 old faces that came to take the oath of office. No doubt everyone is aware of the debacle known as the 112th congress and. It had the lowest approval rating of any congress in history and passed three times fewer laws than the “Do Nothing Congress” of the late 1940’s. I have heard nothing but complaints about that congress for two years and seen arguments, debates, and downright brawls over its failures. But remember that this is a REPRESENTATIVE government in which lawmakers are simply mirroring the public who put them in office. If the 112th congress was hated so passionately, why did we reelect 90% of them who ran for the 113th congress? This new congress is the most diverse and yet the most unchanged. I cannot understand. Should I be cheering or crying?