Danielle Schultz–Staff Writer
To kick off 2019, the newest members of the 116th Congress, especially those of the house, set several ground-breaking records in terms of diversity.
While the Senate welcomed 10 new members, the House of Representatives welcomed 101. Among those 101 representatives were the first two Native American congresswomen, the first Muslim congresswoman, and the first Palestinian American congresswoman. A total of 24 people of color were elected in midterm elections, according to the New York Times.
Moreover, 42 women were elected to Congress, with females making up more than 60 percent of newly elected House members for the Democrat Party. As a result, the 116th Congress has the most racially diverse and female group ever elected to the House.
Historically, Congress has been white, male, and partisan. The increased diversity of the 116th Congress brings many benefits. Because its members more closely match the changing demographics of the United States, Congress is more likely to accurately represent minority groups in government.
According to Forbes, “diversity improves decision making” by preventing biases and providing alternative solutions or perspectives on issues. Different perspectives, in turn, initiate cognitive diversity, or the “diversity of ideas,” as Dordt junior Nate Muyskens called it.
“I like that there are more people who are willing to look outside the traditional Republican and Democrat stamped policy labels,” said Muyskens on the new Congress.
Diversity can also lead to a better handling of ethical dilemmas and promote the concept of common good, in which everyone’s interests are considered. One thing for new members to look out for, however, is assimilation. If the differences diversity brings to the table get swallowed up by the mainstream political process, there is little benefit from them.
“You want a certain sense of unity…but if it all just gets kind of put into the blender…in the end if that has no bearing on how they vote or how they see legislation, then I don’t know how it’s going to make that much of a difference,” said Dr. Jeff Taylor, a political science professor at Dordt.
Even if members of Congress succeed in maintaining their individual values and beliefs, Dordt junior Amanda Davies anticipates that “it’s going to be harder for people to reach common ground with more ground to cover.”
For Congress to be successful, its members must be willing to find common ground by listening to contrary viewpoints and establishing a trust among party members.
Overall, the diversity of the 116th Congress should act as an encouragement to anyone who wants to become involved in the political process. Not only can the House boast of racial diversity and a large female presence, but also several young voices, according to Taylor.
While both the Democratic and Republican parties have traditionally been dominated by older people, a number of newly elected members are in their late 20s this year.
Here at Dordt, a campus dominated by the Christian faith, it is easy to remain disconnected from politics that do not pertain to our faith. But, as Taylor said, while Congress is not largely becoming Christian, “we should still be glad for our neighbor that the system is becoming inclusive.”