The Most Diverse Caucus in History, if you Ignore History

Nancy Pelosi, describing the incoming Democratic House caucus, of which white males make up a minority:

[O]ur House Democratic Caucus [will be] the first caucus in the history of civilized government to have a majority of women and minorities.

The only way this statement is true is if we define “civilized” as meaning “American.” This helpful Wikipedia entry offers a number of examples of ethnic parties that have formed in democracies since the 1800s. For instance, there are a number of Jewish parties that have formed in nations where Jews were distinctly outnumbered (and endangered) minorities, and the parties of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina are almost entirely based on ethnicity. Sweden’s parliament is nearly half female today, and its Liberal Party is divided evenly between men and women. More than half of Rwanda’s parliament is female.

The gender and racial diversity of the incoming Democratic caucus in the U.S. House is an impressive milestone, and one can crow about it without making stuff up. There’s no need for Pelosi to join the long, sad list of American leaders who insist that anything Americans do has never been done anywhere else in the world. To quote Paul Waldman’s wonderful piece from last spring:

Why is it necessary to assert that every good thing about America can only be found in America? We should continue to be enormously proud of the fact that we were the first democracy, but sometimes we act as though America is the only place in the world that isn’t still ruled by a king. Are we so insecure about ourselves and our nation that we have to be constantly told that we’re the most terrific country that ever was or ever will be, and there’s nobody else even remotely like us?

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

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Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.