Race and Gender in the Trump Cabinet

Many of us are paying a lot of attention to important things about the Trump nominees:  Do they believe in Climate Change?  Support torture?  Want to cozy up to Putin?  Create a Muslim Registry?  Know anything about the job they to which they are being appointed?  Important things.  That is why this analysis is so interesting.  It was the headline that caught my eye “Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan.”  Written by Jasmine C. Lee the New York Times story is full of charts and pictures.

If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named nominees for two additional positions.

Those five members will also be in some of the lowest-ranking positions. None of them are in the so-called inner cabinet, the four positions in place since George Washington’s presidency: the attorney general and the secretaries of state, Treasury and defense (formerly called the secretary of war).

Barack Obama had 14. Bill Clinton 12, and George W. Bush 9.  Trump is doing a little better than Reagan who only had two:  Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations and Samuel Pierce at HUD.


The cabinet of President Ronald Reagan in February 1981.

The first cabinets of George W. Bush and Mr. Obama were both noted for their diversity. In Mr. Bush’s initial administration, 45 percent of the cabinet and cabinet-level officials were women or nonwhite men. In Mr. Obama’s first cabinet, that figure was 64 percent.

What does it mean that the clock is being turned back on diversity?  I think that diversity and inclusion are bad words to the President-elect.  They certainly are to his supporters.  But I think a great deal is lost when there aren’t persons from different backgrounds, genders, and races at the table.  If everyone is a super-rich white man, who represents the rest of us?  And who represents the Trump voter?

Official White House photo of Obama Cabinet

The cabinet of President Obama in September 2009.

Photograph of Reagan Cabinet from the Reagan Library

Photograph of the Obama Cabinet from the White House

Where is the real America?

A while back, my nephew posted a piece from FiveThirtyEight “”Normal America” is Not a Smal Town of White People” with a lament that Vermont, where he grew up and I live now, is not normal America.  The piece begins

Earlier this week, Jim VandeHei, a former executive editor of Politico, wrote an op-ed article for The Wall Street Journal accusing the Washington political establishment of being out of touch with “normal America.”

“Normal America is right that Establishment America has grown fat, lazy, conventional and deserving of radical disruption,” he wrote, citing his regular visits to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Lincoln, Maine, as his credentials of normality.

Jed Kolko, the author of the piece for FiveThirtyEight, responded by looking at demographics.

I calculated how demographically similar each U.S. metropolitan area is to the U.S. overall, based on age, educational attainment, and race and ethnicity.1 The index equals 100 if a metro’s demographic mix were identical to that of the U.S. overall.2

By this measure, the metropolitan area that looks most like the U.S. is New Haven, Connecticut, followed by Tampa, Florida, and Hartford, Connecticut. All of the 10 large metros that are demographically most similar to the U.S. overall are in the Northeast, Midwest or center of the country, with the exception of Tampa. Two of them — New Haven and Philadelphia — are even on Amtrak’s Acela (that’s “uh-SELL-ah”) line. None is in the West, though Sacramento, California, comes close at No. 12.

The precise location of Normal America.

The precise location of Normal America.

But do demographics really show us the “normal” America?  According to the 2010 Census, 80.7% of American live in urban areas.  And we are creating new urban areas.  According to a Reuter’s analysis of the 2010 data

As a result of the growth in population and geography, the Census identified 36 new urbanized areas, which it defines as “densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas” with populations of 50,000 or more.

The Midwest dominated the birth of new major cities, with Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Grand Island, Nebraska; Manhattan, Kansas, and Midland, Michigan, all joining the ranks. Arizona’s Lake Havasu City and Sierra Vista are also now considered urbanized areas.

But are the urban places where most of the population lives “normal America?”  If we mean typical America, then, yes, the urban dweller is the typical American and when you add in demographics you get New Haven.

But in the past few years, my husband and I have spent a good deal of time driving back roads largely in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Vermont.  We have eaten at diners and stayed in some small and medium sized towns many with well-known colleges and universities.  We have found a rich culture, interesting people and things to do, and fresh air.  Driving across New York on U.S. 20 yesterday made me think about more about Kolko’s piece.   Of course, he was writing about politics and arguing that Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn’t have such a large influence because they – and by implication other places that don’t have the urban area racial and ethnic diversity – are not normal America.  But I’m not sure that those states, at least on the Democratic side, vote much differently than the rest of the country.  Yesterday, I saw a handful of Bernie bumperstickers and yard signs along with one Trump yard sign.  I saw no sign of any other candidates.  Kolko writes

We all, of course, have our own notions of what real America looks like. Those notions might be based on our own nostalgia or our hopes for the future. If your image of the real America is a small town, you might be thinking of an America that no longer exists. I used the same method to measure which places in America today are most similar demographically to America in 1950, when the country was much whiter, younger and less-educated than today. Of course, nearly every place in the U.S. today looks more like 2014 America than 1950 America.

I guess I am arguing that Kolko may be the one taking too narrow a view.  He concludes with what the 20% that don’t live in urban areas would consider an insult.

There are lots of reasons to care deeply about places that are demographically different from today’s America: Some of those places may turn out to be bellwethers for a future America that will be older, more educated and more racially and ethnically diverse than today; and some of those places are especially deserving of public attention and investment because they worse off than most other places.

But if you’re trying to get outside of your bubble and get in touch with “normal America,” skip the small towns of your actual or imagined past and instead start with New Haven or Tampa.

But I think he needs to take a ride on US 20 or US 40 or even the Western part of MA 2 and visit a place like Lincoln, Maine and get out of his own bubble.

Illustration by Getty Images and FiveThirtyEight

Police departments and racial diversity

Back in the dark ages, that is the early to mid-1980s, I worked on a study for then Virginia Governor Charles Robb.  He wanted to know several things including how we could recruit more African-Americans and women to the State Police and how, once we hired them, they could be retained.  I can’t recall that we came up with anything one wouldn’t have expected including things like more training for command in diversity issues.  I do remember one black trooper I interviewed had an idea on how to recruit people.  He suggested that he be made part of the Governor’s security detail which would provide lots of visibility.  I told the Governor and the next thing I knew, the trooper was thanking me when we ran into each other on the Capitol grounds.  I have no idea if his presence helped recruit more blacks to the ranks or not but it did provide some visibility and I remember that the Capitol Police then hired several black officers.

So my little story took place in 1983.  This morning’s New York Times has some very interesting charts on large Metropolitan police departments and the differences between their racial compositions and those of the towns they serve.

In hundreds of police departments across the country, the percentage of whites on the force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis of a government survey of police departments. Minorities make up a quarter of police forces, according to the 2007 survey, the most recent comprehensive data available. Experts say that diversity in the police force increases a department’s credibility with its community. “Even if police officers of whatever race enforce the law in relatively the same way, there is a huge image problem with a department that is so out of sync with the racial composition of the local population,” said Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist at George Washington University. Listed below are local police departments from 15 metropolitan areas, sorted so that departments with the largest percentage-point differences of white officers to white residents are at the top.

We clearly have a long way to go.  I wonder if part of the recruitment problem is the sheer number of young black and Hispanic men who have conviction records.  Perhaps we should look into that.


I was interested to see that Boston (+18) and Somerville (+15) were doing pretty well.  Those are two of the police departments I’ve worked with in the recent past.  Other departments should take a look at this chart and talk to some of the successful agencies – and I don’t mean towns that have a small gap because the population of the town itself is mostly white – and learn from what they have done.

Incidents like the shooting in Ferguson don’t happen in a vacuum.  Look up a town near you and ask questions if you don’t like what you see.



As a footnote:  While I was looking to a picture to add, I was surprised at the number of stock photographs showing police in riot gear and/or arresting someone, often a black male.  Just another part of the problem.

Photograph:  how2becomeanfbiagent.com

Republican gerrymandering

With the Supreme Court saying that Section 4 of the voting rights act needs a do over thus making Section 5 void, many of us are not happy.  The odds of Congress coming up with a new formula are pretty slim.  But, all may not be lost.

We know that the Republican controlled state houses used the 2010 Census to draw districts that allowed them to hold on to the House last year.  This despite Section 4 in at least some of those states.  This morning, Politico.com published a story by Alex Isenstadt in which he points out that this gerrymandering may have unintended consequences for them.

No one disputes Republicans used the once-a-decade redistricting process to  lock in their House majority — almost certainly through 2014 and possibly until  the next round of line-drawing in 2020.

But the party could pay a steep price for that dominance.

Some top GOP strategists and candidates warn that the ruby red districts the  party drew itself into are pushing House Republicans further to the right —  narrowing the party’s appeal at a time when some GOP leaders say its future  rests on the opposite happening. If you’re looking for a root cause of the  recurring drama within the House Republican Conference — from the surprise  meltdown on the farm bill to the looming showdown over immigration reform — the  increasingly conservative makeup of those districts is a good place to start.

Opposition to immigration reform by the Tea Party.

Opposition to immigration reform by the Tea Party.

These gerrymandered districts are also less diverse.

Gerrymandering and partisanship, of course, aren’t new phenomena in the  House. But the post-2010 redistricting process driven by GOP-controlled state  legislatures — Republicans wielded line-drawing power in nearly five times as  many districts as Democrats — produced significantly more districts that are  overwhelmingly conservative.

Of the 234 House Republicans, just four now represent districts that favor  Democrats, according to data compiled by The Cook Political Report. That’s down  from the 22 Republicans who resided in Democratic-friendly seats following the  2010 midterms, prior to the line-drawing.

They’re also serving districts that are increasingly white. After  redistricting and the 2012 election, according to The Cook Political Report, the  average Republican congressional district went from 73 percent white to 75  percent white. And even as Hispanics have emerged as America’s fastest-growing  demographic group, only about one-tenth of Republicans represent districts where  the Latino population is 25 percent or higher.

My Ezra Klein Wonkbook email this morning pointed out

The conventional wisdom around Washington these days is that the Republican Party needs to pass immigration reform if it’s going to survive. But remember: House Republicans aren’t the same thing as “the Republican Party.” And they probably don’t need to pass immigration reform to keep their majority. In fact, passing  immigration reform — at least with a path to citizenship — might put them in more danger. Two figures from Janet Hook in the Wall Street Journal show why.

First, “only 38 of the House’s 234 Republicans, or 16%, represent districts in which Latinos account for 20% or more of the population.”

Second, “only 28 Republican-held districts are considered even remotely at risk of being contested by a Democratic challenger, according to the nonpartisan Cook  Political Report.”

So for about 200 of the House’s Republicans, a primary challenge by conservatives angry over “amnesty” is probably a more realistic threat than defeat at the hands of angry Hispanic voters, or even angry Democrats. “Our guys actually do primary over immigration,” a top House Republican aide who wants to get immigration done told me.

Of course, that leaves some 34 Republicans who have reason to fear a Democratic challenge. And  it leaves dozens who privately support immigration reform and don’t have much to fear from either Democratic or Republican challengers.

So the Republican House members mostly represent people like themselves and need to become more conservative, not less, to keep their seats.  We aren’t talking just about immigration reform here, but a whole range of issues.  It also explains why the House’s favorite vote is to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What does all this mean for Democratic chances to take back the House in the next election?  Isenstadt writes

New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign  Committee, argued that Republicans in moderate suburban and exurban areas will  find themselves under increasing pressure in the months leading up to the  midterms.

“The problem for many Republicans in these specific districts is that if  they’re less partisan, they face a primary from the right. If they protect  themselves from a primary by being more partisan, they’re in trouble in the  general election,” Israel said. “They’re getting squeezed. We’re going to make  sure that hole is very small.”

The question is:  Are there enough of those districts for the Democrats to take the House?

It would appear that much of what is holding up legislation in the House are internal Republican fights.

When House Republicans have rallied behind legislation, it’s often been for  something deeply conservative. Two weeks ago, Republicans passed a measure that  would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Just six GOP members  opposed the bill, including two because it didn’t go far enough.

To the conservatives, softening the GOP’s positions isn’t what’s going to  save the party in the long run.

“Political success doesn’t come from moderation,” said Arizona Rep. David  Schweikert, a Republican who opposed the farm bill and supported the  anti-abortion measure. “It’s from having principles and articulating them in a  forthright fashion.”

Schweikert, who represents a conservative Scottsdale-area district that Mitt  Romney carried with nearly 60 percent of the vote, called the Senate immigration  bill a “nonstarter.” His district is 12 percent Hispanic.

The bottom line is that so-called national Republican leaders who currently do not hold elective office along with some governors and Senators who have to run statewide campaigns can call for the party to moderate positions all they want.  The House has hitched its horse to some very conservative ideals so Republican members can get re-elected.  In the long run, this is probably good for the Democrats.

Photograph:  AP