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ivory soap tower

“You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men,” U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, complained to the New York Times this week. King was referring to the makeup of the House Democratic Caucus, his opposition across the aisle. Is his description valid? Has the Democratic Party really become “no country for white men?” Let’s do some math: By my count, there are 87 white males in the 235-member House Democratic Caucus. That’s 37 percent, which happens to match almost exactly the percentage of white men in the overall US population, which is 39 percent. So why does King think the Democrats are “no country for white men?” Answer: Because King isn’t comparing it to the actual overall population. He’s comparing it to what he thinks it ought to be, what it used to be. Put another way, he’s comparing it to what he sees when he looks around his own GOP House Caucus, which is 90 percent white male. To him, that’s the standard. That’s normal. That’s the real America. That’s the way things ought to be. But wait, it gets worse: The incoming 2019 House Republican freshman class has a total of 40 members. Of those 40, 39 are white males; one is a white woman. That’s 97.5 percent white male, which is approaching the Ivory Soap purity range of 99.44 percent. It’s the country for ONLY white men, pretty much, which is astounding. That doesn’t happen by accident. You actually have to work at it to produce numbers like that. In a country this diverse, you have to establish a whole series of filters and obstacles, some of them informal and maybe even unrecognized, to produce a freshman class of 39 white men and one white woman. King’s statement tells us what some of those obstacles might be. To him and others, a caucus that accurately reflects the overall U.S. population is unfriendly to white males like himself; he doesn’t feel welcome or comfortable there. Too dark, too ethnic, too feminine, too diverse. Well you know what, Rep. King? Too bad. And no, a wall won’t help you. By this time, they’re already here and they won’t be leaving. They’re all here to stay, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not. That fear also explains why right-wing media and politicians have focused so intently on U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and by doing so have elevated her into a star far beyond her importance within the Democratic Party. She is young, she is female, she is Latina, and she ain’t having it. Yes, she is brash and at times ill-informed, but it is not her occasional misjudgments that so frighten the right. Donald Trump makes more misstatements in an eight-minute Oval Office speech than Ocasio-Cortez has made in her entire time in politics, so that can’t be it. No, they fixate on her because she is what King and others like him see in their nightmares. They have made her an object of their mass hate and horror because she is the physical embodiment of their deepest insecurities, and it is those insecurities that serve as the last remaining bond holding their party together.


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