We took a giant leap forward in 2018. But we’ve got a LONG way to go.
By Cory Archibald
Sometimes seeing really is believing. We’ve all made jokes about Congress being out of touch because it’s “full of old white men.” But until you see the evidence stacked up in front if you, it’s difficult to understand exactly how true this statement is.
Last year I created a spreadsheet to help me understand how disproportionately white men are represented in the halls of American power compared to women and people of color. I’ve spent the last week updating that document for the incoming 116th Congress. Even I was shocked by what I found.
No doubt you read the same headlines I saw after the November election.
“Record Numbers of Women, Minorities Elected!”
“New Congress will be the most diverse in history!”
It’s not my intention to take away from these victories, because it is true: The number of women who ran for office, let alone those who won, in 2018 was completely unprecedented. And we should rightly celebrate the fact that minority candidates, whether people of color, religious minorities, or members of the LGBTQ community vastly outperformed expectations from traditional pundits.
Many of them won their races, and because of those victories we are set to swear in the most diverse U.S. Congress in history in less than a week’s time. That is huge.
And yet, every time we at Brand New Congress talk about why we prioritize women and people of color when we’re looking for candidates to support, people ask us why.
“Why are you playing identity politics?”
“Shouldn’t we vote based on which candidate is best on the issues?”
Of course you should vote for the candidate who is strongest on the issues you support — we have never suggested otherwise. That’s why BNC backed several progressive white men with impressive records of integrity and a demonstrated commitment to equality. Simply put, we thought these guys were the best candidates in their particular races.
We applied the same standard to every candidate on our slate. But we did prioritize, and even recruit, minority candidates for office — because representation matters.
When all the important decisions that govern our daily lives and define our future are made by a homogeneous group of people who don’t understand the struggles of marginalized communities, people get left behind by accident and by design.
We need people who understand and relate to the experiences of their communities to represent those voices in Washington. We need people who won’t ever sell out because they understand exactly what’s at stake. And they understand what’s at stake because they’ve lived under the consequences of bad policy their entire lives.
It’s one thing to say “We need a more representative Congress.” But it’s another thing to see it.
Why do we need a Brand New Congress? This is why.