After the 2014 midterm election, there was a sense the GOP was becoming a more racially diverse party when African-American Tim Scott won a seat to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina and Will Hurd and Mia Love were both elected to the House. Even NPR noted then about these historic victories that the Republican Party seemed to be “building momentum for diversifying the GOP ranks.”
Those days are long gone. There are currently five times as many Republicans in the House named Jim as there are black Republicans in that chamber. And it’s about to get worse. Will Hurd, the only black Republican currently in the House, announced last week he was retiring. Before that, in 2018, Mia Love was defeated and then mocked by Donald Trump, “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost," adding tauntingly, "Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia."
That means unless another black Republican wins a congressional race in 2020, there will be zero on the GOP side of the aisle in the 435-seat House and only in the one in the Senate. Add to that, of the 27 current GOP state governors, none are black or Hispanic.
The chances of the GOP reversing course any time soon in terms of seeing more diversity in its ranks is highly unlikely given the head of the party is Donald Trump. Trump has thrown aside the racist dog whistle and picked up a bigoted bullhorn. We all know the examples all too well.
But it’s not just—or even mainly—Trump’s words. Look at his choices for everything from Cabinet to ambassadors to judges. For starters, Trump’s cabinet of 15 includes only one African-American, Ben Carson, and zero Hispanics. (Per the latest census, 13.4 percent of our country is black, while 18.1 percent is Hispanic.)
Trump also has no black senior advisers in his very white White House. In fact, when Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, who is black, was asked in March by MSNBC’s Rev Al Sharpton to name one single black member of Trump’s West Wing staff, she became defensive, angrily responding, “How many black people were in Abraham Lincoln's West Wing?!" She then bizarrely added, "Is Abraham Lincoln a racist because he didn't have a black person in his White House?!”
Trump’s judicial appointments have been equally almost whites only. Of the 41 judges Trump has appointed to the powerful federal court of appeals, often a stepping stone to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, zero have been black or Hispanic. In contrast, 27 percent of President Obama’s nominations to the court of appeals were black and Hispanic, as were 15 percent of George W. Bush’s appointees.
And among all of Trump’s nominations to the federal court, which total nearly 150, only a paltry 2 percent are black and 2 percent are Hispanic. The first black woman Trump nominated to the federal court only happened in May, nearly two and half years into his term. Obama, on the other hand, appointed 26 black women to the federal bench.
Trump’s refusal to embrace diversity even shows up in his appointments for ambassadors to represent our nation around the world. As of September 2018, Trump had appointed 119 ambassadors, with a stunning 91.6 percent being white. And Trump’s picks include no black women to serve as ambassador, while in contrast, Obama appointed 24 African-American women.
And when you look at some the ambassadors Trump has chosen, you realize that it’s not because he’s picking “the best people,” but rather the biggest donors. For example, Trump’s choice for ambassador to Bahamas, Doug Manchester, incorrectly testified during his confirmation hearings that Bahamas was part of the United States. It’s actually an independent country—hence, the need for an ambassador!
But Manchester, like 14 others Trump tapped for ambassadorships, had donated slightly over $350,000 each to Trump’s inaugural committee, such as Trump’s choice for ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, who has zero diplomatic experience but is a wealthy real estate developer. The result is that the face of America around the globe, even in countries that are primarily brown and black, is almost exclusively white.
None of this comes even close to the diversity that makes up America today. In fact, while America becomes more diverse by the day, Trump has turned the clock back on the GOP’s efforts, as limited as they may have been, to reflect America. One example is George W. Bush’s picks for the federal court of appeals that were 15 percent black or Hispanic. While well below Obama’s 27 percent, look at how that compares to Trump’s choice of zero blacks or Hispanics to that same position.
The message that Trump, the leader of the GOP, is sending is that whites are hired, elevated, and celebrated, while people of color are marginalized, disregarded or worse, demonized. The longer Trump remains the head of the GOP, the whiter we can expect the GOP to become. And tragically for our country, that means the GOP will need to increasingly gin up fear of the other and play on white anxiety to win.