Howard Dean is in hot water again, this time for calling the Republican Party “pretty much a white, Christian party.” “Pshaw!” shout the Republicans. “Look at all the minorities appointed to prominent positions in the Bush administration.” This is, of course, a point that can’t be argued.
However, it is less instructive to look at the unelected positions in the GOP, than at the Republicans chosen by the electorate. In this light, Dean’s comments carry a little more weight. For example:
- The Senate is 1% black (meaning you, Barak Obama)
- The House is 9.7% black
- All black members of Congress are Democrats
- There has been only one black Republican Senator since Reconstruction, and he left Congress in 1979
- The Senate is 2% Hispanic; one Democrat, one Republican
- The House is 6% Hispanic, and of those 26 members, 21 are Democrats
Overall, it looks bad for the Republicans, but the Democratic Party is no multi-cultural rainbow either. The bottom line is that all political parties in the US are by and large white, Christian parties because that’s what the majority of the country is.
The Democrats have always taken the minority vote for granted, and as the breakdown in Congress suggests, they have reason to do so. However, 40% of Hispanics voted for Bush in 2004, signaling a demographic reality that Dean and the Democrats are going to have to address. If his comments were an attempt to do so, he has obviously failed.
The biggest question raised by Dean’s remarks is one of strategy. What was he trying to accomplish? If what he meant to say was, “The Democratic Party is pushing an agenda that strives to be inclusive of minorities while the GOP is more and more defined by a specific set of conservative Christian values,” then he should have come out and said that. Instead, he comes across as someone who scorns white Christians (such as, it seems, himself). I don’t believe that’s what he intended, but it is clear that he has a problem keeping his foot out of his mouth, and nothing could be more deadly to the Democrats’ chances in 2008.
Other than running Kerry again, that is.