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The Color (and Gender) of Congress

February 1, 2011 - by Conor Kenny

Just what does the new Congress look like? A few weeks ago, we asked you to find photos for each of the incoming freshman members of Congress and you delivered. Volunteers located and uploaded headshots for each member and what we can tell you is… Congress remains overwhelmingly male and white. (See all the photos over on the OpenCongress wiki.)

To be sure, there were some changes in the traditional makeup. For example, there are two black Republican members of Congress, Allen West and Tim Scott, the first such members in more than ten years. While there were 32 black Republicans who ran in congressional primaries this year, as Tavis Smiley observed, “if two is the highest number of black Republicans to win since Reconstruction, it’s hard to call that a breakthrough.”

As far as the gender breakdown goes, 89 of the 535 members (16.6%) are women, according to our friends at the Swing State Project. “The percentage of women in the House Republican conference, the House Democratic caucus, the Senate Republican conference and the Senate Democratic caucus all went up, even as the overall number of women went down in the House and stayed the same in the Senate,” Joseph writes there. While 44% of the incoming freshman Democrats were women, only 10% of the freshman Republicans are.

One thing is clear, Congress as a whole, and the Republican party in particular, has a long way to go before any of their “big tents” are anywhere near reflective of the country as a whole.

See all the photos of the freshman members of the 112th Congress on the OpenCongress wiki.

Special thanks to users Tdratch0494, ZiZiJi3, Manatee1031, Joen40, Prismatic, Dmcarbol and Kjesse for contributing epic numbers of photos.

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  • drm 02/01/2011 9:23am

    Let me add my thanks to the users mentioned above for their help finding photos. Much appreciated! It’s all now available for the public benefit on the open Web.

  • fakk2 02/02/2011 12:10pm

    So, we should be upset that the people of this country voted for white males? Is that the point I’m supposed to come away with on this blog entry? I mean, it’s not like they were appointed their positions, they got voted in. So, if we’re supposed to be upset more ethnic groups or women aren’t in the congress, who are we supposed to be upset with? Them or us?

    *Side note, isn’t this tantamount to reverse racism if we say, “well, the male crackers don’t represent the demographics of this country, although we voted for them”?

  • nmeagent 02/03/2011 2:07pm

    “Congress remains overwhelmingly male and white.”

    This kind of comment (and this kind of article) really irks me. Here’s a meaningful statistic: the 535 members of Congress are entirely composed of individual human beings elected to represent another some 309 million individual human beings in the United States. Their gender, skin color, ethnicity, class, hair style, etc. are entirely irrelevant, yet articles like this constantly harp on them. Perhaps you should mention their shoe sizes while you’re at it? That would be just about as meaningful.

    From the MLK “I have a dream” speech:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    Maybe in a few more decades, eh?

  • CANDY2011 02/11/2011 2:59pm

    Manolo Blahnik Bottes
    Manolo Blahnik Pompes
    Manolo Blahnik Sandales
    Yves Saint Laurent Bottes
    Yves Saint Laurent Pompes
    Yves Saint Laurent Sandales

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