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Minorities in Congress

Powerful Essays
Minorities in Congress

In forming a government for the people, by the people, and of the people, our Founding Fathers developed the idea a bi-cameral legislature. This Congress, composed of the House of Representatives and Senate, thus became known as the people’s branch of government. American children are taught in schools that anyone can be elected to Congress, so long as they meet the qualifications of the Constitution. So long as you meet the age and residency requirements you are indeed qualified to be a candidate for Congress.

If we take a more in-depth look at the composition of Congress we see a body disproportionate with its Nation. Congress has maintained a fairly homogenous make-up since its founding even into the year 2001. This conclusion raises no eye brows as both the executive and judicial branches of government have also maintained a very white, male, Protestant resemblance. However, Congress was formed for a distinct purpose: to represent the people of the United States of America. The melting pot of America’s huddled masses has been slow in placing leaders that truly represent its demographics.

There are a number of simple and complex reasons as to why this under-representation of minorities has occurred. Who is the real minority in Congress? This is not a simple partisan question, though it seems partisanship is a factor. An examination of the composition of the current, 107th Congress will lend greater light on where Congress stands as a representative body. A quick laundry list of the minorities in the United States being under-represented might read as such: African-Americans, Women, Black Women, Hispanics, Gays and Lesbians, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, Indians (Native Americans). All of the above groups have a unique history in struggling for greater representation. We now examine some of those histories in trying to answer why America’s Congress does not look like America’s people.

While Voting Rights legislation had a great impact on changing the composition of Congress, other factors exist as barriers to minority representation in Congress. One of these is the use of single-member districts. Of great debate as to whether it is helping or hindering minority candidates is the establishment of minority districting and the use of racial gerrymandering. The question of constitutionality and these dist...

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...tion has focused attention on the problems of our current system of voting. With the disproportionate amount of minorities being represented in Congress today, a change in the voting system is inevitable unless the two parties make a concerted effort to draw larger minority support and offer up minority candidates.

Political reforms other than proportional representation may prove to favor minority candidates. Those looking to narrow the gap in Congress have looked at term limits and campaign finance reform. The idea that term limits would aid minorities comes from the fact that incumbents are so much more successful in elections. While there is always a call by reformers of government to implement term limits, the probability of this occurring seems quite slim. However, campaign finance reform is making headway this year in Congress. Supporters of reform argue that it would open access to greater candidates seeking election and not just those supported by the “big money” interests or soft money backing of parties. This augmentation of viability for a candidate would enhance the chances of minorities becoming candidates, thus enabling their representation in Congress.
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