The Myth About Congress …

The United States Congress.  A diverse body of people from every state in the nation who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, to represent the people in their state/district, right?  Maybe on paper, but the reality is that these days I think most of us have the feeling that we are misunderstood and misrepresented not only in the executive, but also the legislative branches of our government. CongressI speak from my own experience with the ‘representative’ for my district, Warren Davidson.  His values and priorities are so far away from my own that I wonder how he ever got elected.  He annoys me on a daily basis, and I let him have it back, tit-for-tat … not that he likely ever reads my tweets or emails, but I try.  Now, I do realize that within any district, not everyone will have the same views, however an elected official is supposed to represent ALL the people, and in truth, far too many represent only the people who have a lot more money in the bank than anybody reading this blog.

Our friend Scottie posted something interesting yesterday and threw out a bit of a challenge for me to follow up on it, take it a step further.  Never one to turn down a challenge, I took the bait.  The question:  How demographically representative is Congress of the nation as a whole?  Turns out, not very.  This is the chart Scottie posted that piqued my interest:Scottie-chart

The 116th U.S. Congress took office in January, with Democrats taking control of the House while Republicans maintain an edge in the Senate.  The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever.  The number of women in Congress is at an all-time high.  The share of immigrants in Congress has ticked up but remains well below historical highs.  Seems a step in the right direction, but …

Before I get into the demographics comparison, I found this cool interactive that will take you only about 20 seconds to see how well, based on five simple criteria, you are represented in Congress today.  Check it out and see where you stand.  My own result was that there are 0 people in Congress like me.  Hey, I’m unique!!! I’m also unrepresented in Congress. So, how did you fare?

Let’s start with women.  There are currently 131 women in Congress, an all-time high.  131 out of a total of 535 is 24.5%.  So, 24.5% of Congress are women, but 50.8% of the population are women.  See the problem here?  Granted, one does not have to be a woman to understand women’s issues, but it helps, especially today when more and more male-dominated state legislatures are passing laws stripping women of the right to make their own reproductive health decisions. Men-women-dem-rep Interestingly, among democrats in Congress, there is a significantly higher number of women, but among republicans, only 10% are women.  Think about that one. women-blacks

Next let’s look at African-Americans.  There are 58 African-Americans in Congress, comprising 10.8% of the total.  Comparatively, African-Americans make up 13.4% of the population.  The disparity here is, perhaps, not as wide as the gender gap, and is much less than it once was, but is still there.  Again, note the difference between democrat and republican.women-blacks

What about age?  The average age at the beginning of the 116th Congress was 57.6 years for Representatives and 62.9 years for Senators.  How does that compare to the population as a whole?  13% of the population are between 55-64, and 16% are over 65.  Seems rather like younger people are under-represented, wouldn’t you say?  On the upside, however, the average age of incoming members of Congress this year was 47, so we are seeing some younger blood … perhaps it’s time for some of those crotchety old men (Mitchell McConnell) to retire?

One of the big dividers is religion.  While there is a disparately higher number of most every religious group, it is interesting to note that not one single member of Congress is ‘unaffiliated’, while nearly a quarter of the nation’s population are unaffiliated with any organized religion.  I fall into that category, as do many readers of this blog … we are not even a blip on the radar of Congress.  To me, this is a problem, for in the past two years, many of the barriers between church and state have been breached and we seem to be on our way toward a theocracy of sorts, which would leave nearly a fourth of the population out in the cold.  More than 99% of republicans identify as Christian, compared to 78% of democrats.religion

While there are many more categories we could look at, I will wrap it up with one very important one, a group of people who are frequently misunderstood and subjected to discrimination, even state-sanctioned discrimination, the LGBTQ community.  This category is the most misunderstood of any, and they are the most likely to face discrimination.  Of late, even our own government, thanks to Mike Pence and the evangelicals who have a hold over Don Trump, are passing laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.  There are a total of 10 LGBTQ people in Congress today, as compared to an estimated 4.5% of the total population.  A disclaimer is in order, however, for the number of LGBTQ people is likely underestimated, since many choose not to make public their gender orientation.  The fact that there are more men than women in Congress is disturbing, as is the fact that minorities are under-represented.  But LGBTQ is one group whose problems and issues are unique, and frankly if you aren’t a member of that group, you don’t understand.  Period.  You may empathize, but you cannot possibly understand.   And if you and I cannot understand, what makes anybody think our illustrious members of Congress understand?  They don’t.LGBTQ

One other area in which Congress has little, if any, connection to the real world of the U.S. is wealth, as you saw in Scottie’s chart.  It is a pertinent topic, but one that I must save for another day, as I have already spent some six hours doing research, double-checking facts, creating charts, and writing this post.  Suffice it to say that the members of Congress are far ‘above the madding crowd’ when it comes to wealth, and I think this may be one of the most relevant reasons that they cannot possibly relate to “We the People” in any meaningful way.  I hope to do a separate post within the next week assessing the wealth of various members of Congress, how they came to be millionaires, and how that may be influencing their decisions.

I note, overall, a disturbing trend regarding democrat vs republican.  Democrats have nearly 5 times as many women in Congress as republicans.  Republicans have a measly 2 … count ’em … two African-Americans, compared to more than 50 of the Democratic Party.  Republicans have zero diversity in religion, and there is not a single LGBTQ republican in Congress.  People tell me that I shouldn’t judge all republicans on the basis of what some do, but … as far as Congress goes, they seem to be a fairly narrow-minded group of old, white, Christian, straight males.  Think about it.

I end where I started … thank you, Scottie, for throwing me this challenge.  I think it is a worthwhile topic, and I learned quite a bit tonight, including why I sometimes feel that I am left behind by those men & women we think are looking out for our best interests.

59 thoughts on “The Myth About Congress …

  1. When it comes to my respect for any politician it’s what comes out from the inside that matters most. Nonetheless, these are startling statistics about how unrepresentative our Congress tends to be from those they represent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While I am not in the US, I have no one representing me either.
    I have read every political manifesto available for political parties is in the UK (something I don’t think many people do). While I can pick out things I like about each party (and believe me, some of the policies are identical), there are a greater percentage in each party that I don’t agree with. It leaves me in a voting limbo of dammed if I do and dammed if I don’t.

    I recently got involved in a bit of a Twitter slanging match with a Forida Republican called Jeremy M Brown, who is running for Congress in the 2020 elections against Cathy Caistor the current 11-yr congresswoman in the 14th District of Tampa, Forida. Cathy is the Chair for the select Committe on Climate Change (I started following the select Committee to see the recommendations they are making, because we so need the US to support mitigation strategies).

    The interchange started after this tweet…

    “Did you catch our hearing on creating a climate resilient America this week? We have a recording and tons of interesting resources from witnesses right here.” (link: https://buff.ly/2HIR8L9) buff.ly/2HIR8L9

    Jeremy slandered Cathy and also shamed the committee for hoaxing climate change when they should be honouring fallen war Hero’s on the holiday weekend.

    “I asked him if he was dumb, or if it was just his strategy for running for Congress?”

    The interchange now only has my refuting tweets in place, because Jeremy M Brown has now obviously done something to get his account suspended so his tweets are unavailable. (Nothing to do with me, I might add).

    During our interchange, he did withdraw one of his own tweets. He had aggressively asked for a showdown with me to bet on whether the Forida Coastline would see a large increase in sea level rise in 12 years, or not. He told me to name my terms and throw anything I liked at him. Honestly, you would have thought it was a boxing match instead of a potential crisis we were discussing. I responded with “Sheesh! So you are a gambler! That doesn’t look so good for someone running for Congress…” He back peddled rather quickly.

    He made the most ridiculous claims… despite me throwing verified research by respected scientists at him.

    What is scary about the interchange, besides the fact that Jeremy Brown made himself look ridiculous, is that he and his supporters avidly support the recent anti abortion laws spreading across various States. These people are turning back the clock on scientific knowledge and plunging America into the dark ages. And Jeremy M Brown is not old… He is part of a mid range aged group made up of people (regardless of sex, creed, or colour) who think that they can govern a country without proper education or knowledge of how the world really works. Worse, they believe only in their own egotistical position in life. They have no empathy, no philosophy and no ability to provide for everyone. This is the role of Government, and it is being ignored so badly, it begs the question, If Government is failing the people so badly, why on earth is the system not completely changed? Certainly, the young need to educate themselves before books are banned. They need to break out of the Luddite mentality that is gripping governmental institutions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PS Jeremy Brown is so dumb, he did not notice my location (in the UK) clearly marked on my Twitter page. He said that I should come to the Townhall meeting (likely so he could shout at me face to face), and then invited me for a beer??? Then he accused me of not using a bicycle to go to work. He knows nothing about me!
      I don’t own a bicycle (or a car for that matter) and I am retired. He is a dangerous loose Canon on deck.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you have access to LinkedIn, this is Jeremy Brown’s profile.
        https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremybrown176

        It reads beautifully to a Republican Audience. The man is a decorated (disabled?) war veteran (most notably the Iraq war). It will appeal to people who do not see the venom that is spat through his disarming smile. I noted that on Twitter (before he was suspended), that women in particular seem to fall for his strong man, family values, protector image. People need to wake up to what they are voting for. People caught up in the front lines of conflicts are conditioned to become killers, believing in their own self righteousness. We do not need war veterans in Government, they only serve to prolong hatreds and suspicions. They do not move on to peaceful cooperation or allow any consideration for the idea that they might be wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heh heh … not the brightest bulb in the pack, is he? Yes, he is a dangerous loose canon, but the more frightening thing is that he isn’t an anomaly, but his sort seem to be gaining ground. Sigh.

        Like

    • WOW!!! Quite a jackass, isn’t he? I went in search of some info on Mr. Brown, and frankly I don’t think he is actually a candidate at all, but perhaps rather a troll who just likes to stir up sh*t. I cannot find anything on a Jeremy M Brown in the 14th district except an obituary. I may be wrong, and if so, it’s too bad that people like him are even allowed into politics. His archaic mentality will get us all killed. Sigh. They walk among us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • His Twitter page (still suspended) is

        @JMB5girlDaddy
        “For US Congress in 2020 Florida’s 14th Congressional District against a 13 year Incumbent Democrat. Lifetime of Leadership NOT Politics. (DoD does not endorse).”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, great post and thanks for sharing the comparative graphics provided by Scottie. We need Congress to look like America, but clearly there are two groups that are greatly underrepresented – women and unaffiliated religious people. Increases in both will help us, especially with healthcare, environment and dinner table budget issues. The unaffilated group will also help with clarity around separation of church and state. Since I am one, what frustrates me about so many white men in the GOP is they tout the government not interfering, then promote them interfering in women’s health and other’s lives. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Keith! You’re right … at least we need them to be better able to relate to the issues that concern us. The rich old white men that have been in Congress for decades, such as Mitch McConnell, really need to move on and make room for new blood, for they have stagnated and their self-interest trumps our interests. So much these days seems so unfair that I wonder where we are headed … and I wonder how, until these last few years, I failed to realize the inequities in our government.

      Like

  4. Hello Jill. Thank you ! Thank you again. You have done a grand job as always. I also have no one representing me by that interactive chart. What I found fascinating was what caused it to go to zero. For me that was religion. I found it interesting there were openly gay people in congress. I thought Barney Frank was the only one and he retired. I live in Florida and when Charlie Crist was our governor it was widely suspected he was gay. He started dating a woman when he thought he might get picked as McCain’s running mate. I have wondered about Cory Booker. I wish no one needed to hide being LGBTQ in 2019, but then I look at the power of Pence, pompeo, and their ilk. I think the biggest thing that holds this country back, puts us in the regressive past instead of a progressive future, is the age of the people in congress. Why should the majority be subject to the ideas of the past minority? The times change, and we as a people need to move with them. However if the morality, the social understandings, are stuck 50 years in the past how can that represent the current people in the country? I already mentioned things like marijuana use and the propaganda against it in the 1950’s /60’s /70’s. Jeff Sessions is known for his anti-marijuana stance gained during a time when “reefer madness” was widely promoted. He is known for stating he stopped supporting the KKK because he found out some of them used pot. Not that they were violent racists who hurt black people & even killed them, but using weed as recreation instead of booze was a step too far! He was both a congress member and the AG! How can we move forward on race, on accepting others, on limiting religious demands on politics, on saving the environment, on prison reform, and so much more if we are stuck with the mentality of those who will not move off ideas of 50 years ago.
    I look forward to your post on the wealth disparity. Can a wealthy person who doesn’t need worry about loss of income or sudden expenses understand the panic and feelings of those of us who are not wealthy? Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank YOU, my friend, for the suggestion and for your kind words! Religion was also the thing that caused me to have no representation in Congress. Pretty odd, given that we have a secular government, contrary to what the evangelicals would like us to believe. Here is a link to the list of openly gays in Congress and it includes some from the past, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LGBT_members_of_the_United_States_Congress I’ve also wondered about Cory Booker. It is a sad statement about our society that people have to hide who they are in order to survive. When do we learn to simply accept everyone as they are, take them at face value, and if one must judge, judge on how that person treats others, rather than such narrow criteria as skin colour, gender orientation, or religion? Sigh. To me, Pence, Pompeo and the rest of the evangelicals who believe they are superior to the rest of us, are horrid people. The more I hear of their beliefs, their actions, their bigotry, the more I despise the very word ‘evangelical’. Yes, I remember covering Sessions’ relation to the KKK back when Trump first nominated him for AG, and I was simply amazed that people kept electing him to the Senate, knowing what a blatant racist he is. And yet, I came to almost feel sorry for him when Trump turned on him like a mad dog. I’ll try to get the piece about the wealth disparity out this weekend. My thoughts on the matter is that no, someone who has never struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table cannot possibly relate to those of us who live from paycheck to paycheck. And yet, they must, for let’s face it, with very few exceptions (I’m thinking of AOC) we will have few members of Congress who have ever lived in poverty, or even middle class. And I get that … but by the same token, we don’t need millionaires and even billionaires representing us, for those people, I think, run for Congress for reasons other than to help people. Sigh. Hugs!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Jill. Speaking of Pompeo, did you hear about the “natural law” commision he is setting up? That is code for LGBTQ being against nature so those people are not born that way and have no rights. All a choice because it is against the natural body design. The commission will review ALL policies, monitor the stuff the US supports with the view of natural law, and how internal State department dealings are handled. They got away with simply defining trans people out of existence, now they want to do it with the rest of the LGBTQ. Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am Canadian, as most of you know. But were I American, I–like Jill–would have no one representing me. But I already knew that. I have no one representing me in our federal government or provincial government either.
    The thing is, I am male, and half-white. I am purportedly part of the privileged ruling class. But I am glad I am not, in reality. I have little use for males, and no use for being even half-white. I am also poor, owing 3 times my monthly income to the credit card people. Most people would laugh at my debt load, under $5000 CD. A drop in a bucket for lots, but my bucket is the size of a thimble, and it is overflowing. Now with my home being threatened by wildfire, I might not even have that as collateral soon. But don’t cry for me, I’m happy (maybe because I’m starting to get dementia). I have lived a great life, survived a lot of pitfalls, and met some really great people, including those on-line, meaning you guys. Death does not scare me. What more could I ask!

    Liked by 5 people

      • You and I both know that is no longer true for either of us. If I could state all the ideas I have about current affairs people might take me more seriously. But not even half of what I consider makes in into my comments. I keep having to ask Gail what I said to her about something. If she can’t remember I have to hope it pops back into my mind. That doesn’t happen very often.
        That steel trap you think you see are the leftovers that didn’t get away, and that makes me very sad, because once upon a time my mind was a steel trap, and it hurts the bars have all rusted out. But I know you understand that sadness, I hear you state it as much as I do.
        But the things I do remember are mostly good things, things I hope people want to hear. Not many tell me I am wrong…

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sigh. Yes, you are right. A few weeks ago, I got in the car to go to a place I’ve been going to frequently for more than 20 years, and by the time I got to the end of my own street, I couldn’t remember how to get to that place. Literally couldn’t remember whether to turn left or right. It was frightening. We both still remember the important things, though, so for now it’s okay. But, I’ve long said that I will not live in such a state that I cannot carry on a conversation, or read a book and understand what I’m reading.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Colette,
        I wish I could say all smoke but no flame, but I’d be lying. Houses are starting to fall in other communities, but High Level seems to have a bubble around it. Some 240,000 hectares are now burned, with most wildfires still out of control. Soon some will join, and what happens then is up to Mother Nature. No significant rain in sight anywhere. Officials are talking about letting us go home this weekend, but with only 1 semi-safe road into/out of High Level I think that could be disastrous.
        Meanwhile we are coping as best we can. The town of Peace River, where we are, is giving us almost everything we could need or want. They are incredible hosts.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Stay safe. It is a mighty big fire, I read that it has destroyed part of the railway line which will take some time to repair. That means little to no fuel deliveries while the roads are cut too. Don’t go back too quickly, until you’re sure. Hugs to you and Gail.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The railway trestle bridge was burned by a different fire, I believe. And the fuel deliveries are for farther north of us. But they are needed as much by others as we would need fhem too.
            As for going back, we’ll have to see. If we have to start paying for ourselves we will have to take a hard look at our finances.

            Liked by 1 person

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