New U.S. House: Women and Minorities to the Left; White Men to the Right

Halimah Abdullah, CNN, November 14, 2012

When the incoming U.S. House freshmen of the 113th Congress take their class photo, the image will reflect two very different visions of the nation.

On the Democratic side: Women and minorities—a coalition that, along with young voters, largely helped re-elect President Barack Obama—collectively will for the first time in the nation’s history outnumber white male Democrats.

On the Republican side: The majority of the House seats will be held by white men—a group which far outnumbers the now dwindled numbers of House GOP women and minorities after the losses of two minority members and about a half dozen women from that caucus.

“They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well the picture that you see before you is worth millions of votes, millions of aspirations and dreams of the American people for problem-solvers to come to Washington to get to the job done, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in welcoming the incoming freshman class to the Capitol for orientation.

“Today we officially welcome our Democratic freshmen to Washington. They are extraordinary leaders who will make our House Democratic caucus the first caucus in history, in the history of civilized government, to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus.”

It also symbolizes something else that is more troubling politically.

“It’s basically a sign that both parties are distilling to their core, and they are living in parallel universes,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

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Democrats picked up three seats in the election so far and lead in five others yet to be resolved. A sixth race will be decided in a runoff between two Republicans.

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Losses among moderate, white, male “blue dog” Democrats and Republican women and minorities further helped change the face of Congress, Wasserman said. House Republicans lost one African-American, one Latino and a net of six women, he said.

House Republicans lost one of their few African-American members when Florida Rep. Allen West appeared to have been defeated by Democratic businessman Patrick Murphy, although West refuses to concede and demands a recount. {snip}

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“We’re a country that has always presumed male leadership, has always been most comfortable with white male leadership and we’re watching the transition of that notion,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a cultural and Black studies professor at Duke University.

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