David Briceno: Mixed up houses are better
“That recently painted blue House over on the Hill that used to be red looks pretty impressive. The same people there seem different ever since quite a few of them got evicted and new tenants moved in. It’s funny, but they all have a certain je ne sais quoi. It’s gonna be hard to get used to having them all around for quite awhile. They seem like all good people that won’t cause much trouble. One thing’s for sure: They’re all gonna be a big improvement.”
The recently convened 116th Congress has several notable “firsts.” Its 435-member House of Representatives is new and improved. The House was dominated by Republicans who called all the shots. The balance of power shifted due to the results of the November election.
There are several “firsts.” The new Democrat House has more ethnic, religious and gender diversity than ever before in U.S. history. Also, all of Congress can now boast (or complain) that it consists of much more fresh younger faces than ever before. And what’s even more significant: far more women now hold office than any other prior Congresses. Obviously, women are here to stay and will be on the congressional landscape for the long haul and making more historical firsts like the fact that the first woman House speaker made history for the second time by regaining the speakership on Jan. 3.
What all this means is simply this: that the House of Representatives now more accurately reflects the actual demographic makeup of America than ever before in its entire history. It also means more diverse voices have been added to the “Great Conversation.” A direct result of these firsts is that women leaders will not only have even yet more influential voices in governmental affairs — because of the fact that more women now hold seats in Congress — but also because most pink Congresses typically focus more attention on women’s issues besides giving desperately needed female perspective on many Congressional policy issues.
For women from every walk of life, the present Congressional milestones show just how far women have come in nearly 100 years (99 actually) when for the first time in the nation’s history women were able constitutionally to vote in elections.
For an example, it would’ve been pure fantasy in the early 20th century to think even for a second, or for that matter even suggest at all, that women someday will be able to run for president the same as men. Women during the late 1910s who uttered presidents can be women were considered crazy or delusional or labeled dangerously fanatical by men and attacked. Why?
Mainly because during the suffrage movement the prevalent “norm” was that “a woman’s place is in the home” — the common attitude toward women shared by most chauvinistic men at the time (a view even shared by quite a few today).
Also, women were supposed to be “seen and not heard,” as the old saying goes. Male dominance over women continued. The feeling that they shouldn’t have the same rights as men was used as both a rallying cry and as a repressive political weapon in order to fight against the growing independence of women fighting for the right to vote.
So, in retrospect it’s easy to see that women today have come quite a long way in America since then — that is, political-wise (although there’s still quite a long way to go with respect to women’s rights). Today, that women vis-a-vis men are considered equals is common everyday knowledge. Its proof can easily be seen as more and more women move into powerful positions within government and in private enterprise.
Diversity rules. A Democrat-controlled Congress benefits minorities since, unlike the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has more people of color as its base (loyal supporters that vote nearly always for same-party candidates regardless of who’s running). The more racial minorities and women in the House, the better everyone’s helped. And the successful results will show at the polls. As a result, bases will flourish. It’s politically a win-win: the party benefits, minorities and women benefit, and the nation.
So, in pluralistic democracies like America, diverse legislatures work best at representing diverse societies. Women, minorities and non-mainstream religious groups are not only better served by having more of them installed, but mixed legislatures can improve the quality of life for many disenfranchised in society. So, diverse legislatures in pluralistic democracies always pay attention to the individual.
The Democrats do it pretty well — maybe too well. It’s just that simple.
David Briceno lives in Alta Sierra.
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