Mini Racker, Time, November 30, 2022
When Nancy Pelosi this month announced the end of her historic tenure as the first female Speaker of the House, she set the stage for another historic shift in American politics: for the first time in U.S. history, the top ranks of House leadership for one party won’t include any white men.
“It has been with great pride in my 35 years in the House I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation,” Pelosi said in her retirement speech on November 17. “We have brought more voices to the decision-making table.”
House Democrats voted on their new leaders on Wednesday. The ascendancy of Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Pete Aguilar of California to House Democratic leader, whip, and caucus chair respectively will revamp the face of a body that has historically been controlled by old white men. And it will mark the first time ever for either party in either chamber of Congress to have no white men in any of the top leadership positions.
“The institution itself makes it difficult for non-white males to rise in leadership,” says Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “People tend to hang out with people who are like themselves. And I think that has always been part of the barrier for Latinos, African Americans, and women to rise in leadership.”
Jeffries, who will be the first Black leader of either political party, has served as caucus chair since 2019. Clark, who represents the suburbs of Boston, became assistant speaker last year. Aguilar, who is of Mexican descent, represents San Bernardino County and has already served as caucus vice chair, making him the highest-ranking Latino in Congress. Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old Black South Carolinian who is currently House majority whip, hopes to join them as assistant Democratic leader. On Wednesday, David Cicilline of Rhode Island announced a surprise bid for the same position.
Leadership has remained largely homogeneous in both parties in the Senate. Every Democratic leader in Senate history has been a white man. The same is nearly true for Republicans, with the exception of Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Nation who would become the nation’s Vice President under President Herbert Hoover after several years as Senate Majority Leader.