House Democrats will make history in the 2012 election, sending to Congress next January the first women and minority-majority party faction in U.S. history.
A new analysis by the Cook Political Report reveals a further progression of white flight from the Democratic Party, which is increasingly represented by women and minorities, while the GOP remains a party dominated by white men.
In 1950, white men constituted 98% of House Democrats—a percentage that fell precipitously to just 53% following the 2010 elections. Based on the makeup of candidates in the current congressional races, Wasserman projects that the 2012 elections will result in a House Democratic Caucus that will be 46%-48% white males when the next Congress starts in January—whether or not Democrats win a majority.
In contrast, white men continue to make up the vast majority of the Republican Party. In 1950, House Republicans were 97% white men, which fell to just 86% in 2012—a figure that Wasserman says will remain largely unchanged in the next Congress.
It also raises the question of how the diversity divide will affect how a male-dominated GOP in the House and a Democratic caucus dominated by women and minorities can work together next year.
Congress is already polarized, with fewer common threads uniting the two parties. “When you have parties so divergent in views, regions, and genders, the culture wars could escalate from conventional to nuclear weapons,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Wasserman. “Just like the book about men and women’s differences, Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus.”