Republican Party not just for old white men, includes diversityBy Andrew Parks | 11/11/2014 10:28pm
Last week’s midterm elections were a collective milestone in the history of the party of Lincoln. In direct contradiction to the notion that the Republican Party is predominantly older, white and male, this election cycle yielded a new crop of Republicans with a highly diverse array of backgrounds, experiences and demographic characteristics.
Take, for instance, the election of Mia Love, who will take office in Washington this January while laying claim to a number of historic firsts: the first Haitian-American to serve in Congress, the first black Republican woman to serve in Congress and Utah’s first black representative in Congress. In her victory speech, Love commented on how her election defies the claims of many in the national political scene, who suggested that there was no way an African-American woman could win office in Utah, a state where 91 percent of the population is white.
Tim Scott, who won election to the US Senate from South Carolina, echoed these sentiments following last week’s results. He claims a number of significant firsts in his own right: the first black candidate to win statewide office from any former Confederate state since Reconstruction and the first black representative ever to serve in both houses of Congress.
My home state of Texas offers another example of Republican diversity, this one from a longtime political family. George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Mexican-born wife Columba, won the race for Texas General Land Commissioner, becoming the second Hispanic to win statewide office in Texas history after Senator Ted Cruz. Many believe that this is the first step in what will evolve into a long and prosperous political career for the latest generation of the Bush political dynasty.
Republican Shelley Moore Capito will become the first female senator to represent West Virginia when she is sworn into office. Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst has become the first female to represent Iowa in any federal capacity, the first woman to win a statewide election in Iowa of any kind, and the first female combat veteran to serve as a member of Congress. Together, they have raised the number of Republican women serving in the Senate to six, the highest it’s ever been, which will comprise roughly a third of the Senate’s female delegation.
Also in West Virginia, 18-year-old Republican Saira Blair became the youngest current elected official in the United States and the youngest candidate to win state office in American history, when she won the race for the 59th District Seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
For so many years now, we have heard different elements of the national media and entertainment complex perpetuate the idea that the Republican Party is the “party of old white men.” And yet, the results outlined above completely counter such an assertion. In a single election cycle, Republican candidates from across the country shattered barriers regarding race, ethnicity, sex and age in American politics.
In light of these facts, the 2014 midterm cycle should result in a central conclusion among media personalities and political analysts alike: the Republican Party is not just old, just white and just male, and it doesn’t deserve that reputation any more than the Democrat Party deserves its traditional “bleeding heart” stereotype. Indeed, the Republican Party, true to its political nature, is an organization built around philosophical ideals, social values and economic policies, just the same as the Democrat Party is built around different sets of philosophical ideals, social values and economic policies. To reduce either to all-encompassing stereotypes is a disservice to American political discourse – one that is, based on these results, ignorant of the facts.
It’s time that those among us who would have the voting population swayed by vague, advantageous perceptions rather than articulate, substantive reasoning recognize this, and adjust their charged rhetoric accordingly.
Andrew Parks is a senior majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.