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The discrepancy between the Senate and America, by the numbers

The U.S. Senate is overwhelmingly rich, white, and male.

(L: Unite for Justice holds rally in Denver to oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's choice for the supreme court.; R: Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, conduct a news conference, with boxes representing roughly 1 million pages of documents to be submitted to the committee on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.)
(L: Unite for Justice holds rally in Denver to oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's choice for the supreme court.; R: Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, conduct a news conference, with boxes representing roughly 1 million pages of documents to be submitted to the committee on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.)

As Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, approaches Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday, we’re reminded again that civil liberties of historically marginalized identities are very much at stake.

Kavanaugh’s appointment will likely provide the swing vote to overturn key rulings that protected the right to an abortion, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and other racial justice decisions in housing, employment, and education.

The future of these historic gains now lies in the hands of the Senate. To secure the seat, first, the Senate Judiciary committee will hold hearings, where Kavanaugh will have the opportunity to answer questions posted by the committee. The committee can then recommend the nominee to the full Senate (or not), which will vote either Yes or No. Kavanaugh would only need to secure a simple majority of 51 votes in order to be seated.

Many Americans have planned protests this week against Kavanaugh’s appointment, demanding accountability from their representatives. It seems right that folks who might seek an abortion, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and allies would look to their senators to advocate for their interests.

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Taking a closer look at the U.S. population and the demographics in the Senate, which will confirm Kavanaugh, we might expect discrepancies in direct demographic representation. But just how large are these discrepancies?

First, the number of men in the U.S. senate is quite staggering, in relation to the general population.

 

More obtuse yet, the number of white men by comparison.

 

In fact, almost two thirds of U.S. states are represented by two men.

 

And over half are represented by two white men.

 

How about representation of people of color?

 

LGBTQ identifying folks?

There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans, but the number of openly trans candidates holding office is still lagging. In January, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature.

How does net worth compare?

 

Pretty bad all around.

In 2014, the Women’s Donors Network surveyed 40,000 state and local officials in a similar quest to understand how representative our democracy really is in terms of identity. They found that 90 percent of all office-holders nationwide are white, grossly incongruous with the percentage of white people in the country’s population: 63 percent. Men are 49 percent of the population, but hold 71 percent of all elected offices. White men are 31 percent of the population, holding 64 percent of elected seats.

So, in whose interest might we expect the 115th Senate to vote? It seems that the protesters demanding a no vote on Kavanaugh’s appointment understand well that they cannot afford to rely on the assumption of advocacy or reflective representation at this crucial time.

It’s estimated that by 2045, U.S. demographics will have shifted towards a non-white majority.  How long do you think it’ll take our Senate chamber to catch up?

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This piece does not take into account the successor of former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On Tuesday, it was announced that his replacement would be John Kyl, increasing the overrepresentation of white men in the Senate even further.