A milestone on the Congressional scene came to our attention recently: Loosely speaking, you can say the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives is majority minority. Of the 200 House Democrats, 147 were either African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, women, or gay. A Latino man, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, heads the House Democratic Caucus.
The 113th Congress is also the most diverse ever over all, with 81 black or Latino members, of which 74 are Democrats. There are 98 women in Congress, again, mostly Democrats, and 7 openly gay members, all Democrats. On the Republican side, much has been made of a few stars, notably Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants. But, counting numbers, Republicans are far whiter and more male than the Democrats, and they have work to do if they want to more closely reflect the composition of the country. But then again, so does Congress.
Though the population of the United States is now more than a third minority, only 15 percent of the men and women in the two chambers identify themselves as other than non-Hispanic whites. Despite gains, women remain underrepresented, with only about 18 percent of the total in both Houses, even though they constituted about 51 percent of the national population in the 2010 Census.
Locally, as Councilwoman Theresa Quigley pointed out in a February meeting of the East Hampton Town Board, there are few Latinos on any of the town’s appointed or elected boards. She put forward a Latino man and an African-American woman for positions on the licensing review board, but politics interfered and the nominations foundered. Whether these particular candidates were right for the posts we cannot say, but the general idea of getting more minority representation in Town Hall is an important one.
As a whole, though, Americans can be proud of the progress in the House of Representatives and the example it sets for the rest of the nation.