The exercise of political power by legislative majorities of white، male elected officials in ways that disproportionately exclude or harm women and people of color is such a familiar part of the American political landscape that it sometimes goes underremarked، as the Guardian said.
That was not the case last week after 25 white Republican men in Alabama voted for a near-total abortion ban in the state، an act that focused the national attention and sparked fears of a broader assault on women’s rights.
But the furore around Alabama’s move was exceptional. Elsewhere white، male legislative majorities have enacted controversial policies without drawing such a spotlight، by stopping minimum wage increases، voting down paid sick leave، blocking bans on fracking، defeating gun safety measures، purging voter rolls، upholding discriminatory criminal justice measures and barring free choice in marriage.
'Women will die': how new abortion bans will harm the most vulnerable Read more Neither race nor gender nor any other demographic distinction is purely predictive of political outlook، and each of the causes listed above has had champions and opponents of all kinds.
But as when 11 white men on the Senate judiciary committee last year had to recruit a female lawyer to question Dr Christine Blasey Ford about her sexual assault claims against judge Brett Kavanaugh، the Alabama abortion ban has prompted new questions about why America’s elected officials don’t look more like America. It is also reinvigorating the debate about what that discrepancy is costing the country.
“It’s pretty clear that what’s happening in Alabama is not a reflection of what most people in Alabama want،” said Caroline Fredrickson، president of the American Constitution Society and former director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “And so the ultimate question is: How is it happening that the state legislature is passing bills that the people don’t support? A 2018 poll showed that the Alabama ban was supported by only 31% of people in the state.
“It is a reflection of a failure of democracy، of a democracy that has been hijacked by special interests، and in particular by white conservative men who have an agenda. It’s an economic agenda but it’s also a social agenda،” Fredrickson said. The white male grip on political power in the United States is strong. Seven out of 10 US senators are white men، a group that makes up only about 30% of the US population. White men hold 65% of elected seats nationally، according to the Reflective Democracy Campaign. About half of all federal judges (but more than 70% of Donald Trump nominees) are white men.
The white male grip on power is also deeply entrenched، and well-insulated by historical design. It was written into the constitution، secured by the enslavement of African Americans and an economy and society built on slavery، and promulgated by generations of reinforcement and denial.