The election of diversity

A growing diversity in political representation is a good sign in the American political system.

by Hemang Sharma

The 113th Congress will be the most diverse yet. Racial, sexual and religious diversity isn’t the solution to all evils, but with both parties struggling to reform themselves with new ideas, I think it is great that we have fresh blood coming into power.

When congressional members take their oath of office, they often use the Bible. More than 56 percent of Congress is Protestant, more than 29 percent is Catholic, and there are a total of 40 Jewish members, two Muslims and a lonely Atheist, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who lost last week. These numbers from the 112th congress haven’t drastically changed.

To date there have only been three Mormons, three Buddhists and a single Sikh in Congress. With the election of Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to Congress, the first practicing Hindu is all set to defend the Constitution. Hawaii also elected Mazie Hirono. The Japanese-born woman is all set to be the first Buddhist and the first Asian-American woman in the Senate.

With Christians dominating both parties, I think it is good to have a religiously diverse perspective more attuned to the diverse U.S. population on issues facing the Legislature.

Tammy Baldwin’s election is historic. She is one of the 77 women who will help lead Congress on issues that challenge women. Baldwin is the first  openly gay female to win such an elected office. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., won a seat in the House last week as an openly bisexual woman without an explicit religion. It makes me proud to be a part of a country that rejected Todd Akin and John Koster, with their notoriously backward ideas. For a country that is No. 69 in the world in terms of percentage of women in government, I think it is great news that we are making progress.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chose the wrong time to leave Congress. The most prominent gay politician would have been joined by incumbent Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and David Cicilline,  D-R.I., who were successfully re-elected. Joining them will be Sean Patrick Maloney, who’ll be the first openly gay congressman from New York, and Mark Takano, D-Calif., who is the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress.

With African-Americans being 13 percent of the electorate and Latinos being 10 percent of the racial makeup of the country, the power play toward diversifying our government can’t be denied. The new representation of 44 African-Americans, 34 Latino-Americans and 11 Asian-Americans is an unprecedented amount in Congress.

Last week President Barack Obama only won 39 percent of the white votes, compared to 71 percent of the Latino vote and more than 90 percent of the black vote.

I’m very thankful that we have gone a long way from 2008, when a sizable population said they would not be ready for a black or female president. Hundreds polled were ready to write off an entire race or sex of people. However, Obama’s re-election reaffirms that race doesn’t matter to much of the country, but the fact remains that people tend to vote along their own cultural lines.

We need a diversity of ideas and cultures in the people that represent us. Though the system is far from ideal, as numerous people are barred from running because of economic, geographic or cultural reasons, this election is a good sign for the future.

It is time to shake things up on Capitol Hill. Our political system only works best when we have leaders that represent the diverse voices in our country.