Friday, January 4, 2013

"The Most Diverse Congress Ever"

Yesterday, the 113th Congress of the United States of America was sworn in, with all 535 members - 435 Representatives and 100 Senators - taking their seats in what is, arguably, the world's most successful democracy. The world's most successful democracy... with possibly the most hated representatives. The last poll taken for Congressional approval ratings was a grand 18% positive. Not exactly a vote of confidence, even if its a lot better than the single-digits it was in the past.

Anyways, it has been told that this is apparently the most diverse Congress ever. There are a record-breaking number of women in the Senate (20), 101 women overall in both Houses; 7 LGBT members, including the recently elected Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the first open lesbian in the Senate and the first bisexual member of either House, respectively; the first black Senator from the Deep South since Reconstruction in Tim Scott (R-SC); the first Buddhist Senator in Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and the first Hindu in Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI); and demographically, 43 African-Americans, 31 Latinos, and 12 Asian-Americans. The Democrats are also the first party to have a majority of non-white members in their Congressional delegation.

All in all, its a Congress that, despite the fact everyone will likely hate it, is more representative of the American people than in the past. That's something to be proud of America, good job.

Of course, as a Canadian, I need to point out that we're better... or are we?

Sadly I can't find a lot of studies on this front. The obvious ones are that we have 108 female members of either the House of Commons or the Senate - 75 and 33, respectively. We probably have about 20ish Asian members in the House, only one black member of the House (that being Tyrone Benskin), and I think only one black member of the Senate (that being Don Meredith), and so on. From the research I've done, 30 members of the House of Commons are from an ethnic minority. I have no clue about the Senate which is, paradoxically in a way, probably more diverse.

Those kinds of demographics, however, never really mattered to us - we've always focused on how many francophone members we have (its around 75 in the House, and I'm not simply counting how many Quebec MPs there are, as some of the NDP's Quebec members like Ruth Ellen Brousseau or the aforementioned Tyrone Benskin aren't francophones; and around 20-25 in the Senate). In reality, I doubt we're all that much more representative than the US Congress is of their citizens. Our history differs so much that our "diversity" counts more along the lines of how our country was maintained, with the language division.

No one seems to have really looked into how diverse our representatives really are though, despite our crowing about how awesome our multicultural society is. Hm. I think that needs to be changed.

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