House Speaker John Boehner didn't bother to go through the pretense of recommending more women and minorities to chair House committees. All nineteen of his chair picks were white men. The committee chairs determine what legislation gets heard or stonewalled in the House. So Boehner's naked move to assure that white guys still rule in the House seemingly makes mockery of all the GOP's big post-election talk about making women and minorities bigger players in the party.
A charitable defense of Boehner would be to say that he just doesn't have the numbers to plop more women and minorities in House leadership positions. One of their two African-American members and one of their seven Hispanic members were defeated. At the same time, they have six fewer women in the coming House session than in the last one. But that's too charitable. Boehner's House leadership's exclusive white male recommendations serve two purposes. It gives him a cozy, familiar and reliable House team that will fight hard to hold a firm line against President Obama and the Democrats swarm of legislative initiatives on health care, tax and regulatory reform, defense budget cuts, and the array of spending hikes for domestic programs that the Democrats will propose.
Boehner also has a firm eye on what he and many in the GOP -- despite their talk -- still see as who the party needs to appeal to too win elections. It's not Hispanics, blacks, youth, gays, labor rank and filers, or white middle-class professional women. The Democrats have a firm lock on them and that's not likely to change when the 2014 mid-term elections roll around. The GOP's base supporters are and will remain the ones that gave failed GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney nearly half the popular vote and that insured that Boehner and the GOP kept control of the House.
They are conservative blue-collar, rural, lower-income, non-college degree white males, blended with upper-income and wealthy, conservative corporate and white male small business owners in the Midwest, the South and border states. Their numbers may be shrinking but they are the voters that proved the engine of victory for Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. They also provided the vote muscle for GOP governors and legions of state legislators who run the majority of states.
In a CNN 2004 presidential election voter profile, males made up slightly more than 40 percent of the American electorate, and of that percent white males comprised 36 percent, or one in three American voters. The percentages didn't change much in 2008 and 2010 national elections as well as the 2012 presidential election. They consistently give on average 60 percent of their vote to whoever the GOP presidential candidate is. In the South and the heartland states, their lopsided popular votes translate directly into all-important electoral votes, the percentage jumped to 70 percent for Reagan and George W. Bush.
GOP's leaders aren't just counting numbers. They also hear what millions of their conservative male backers say even in the wake of Romney's flop. That is that the GOP's defeat was Romney's defeat and did not in any way negate the message that vast numbers of Americans still think government is too big, intrusive and costly and that the traditional family, conservative religious beliefs, patriotism, a strong military, and a sliced down government are still time tested and noble values that must be fought for and preserved. They are and will continue to push and prod the GOP not to cave in to liberals, Hispanics and blacks and become a Democratic lite party.
This entrenched resistance to change doesn't totally reflect the GOP's pronounced class, gender and racial bigotry. It's a hard-headed assessment that the GOP's pirouette to suddenly become immigration reform boosters or abortion rights advocates will be dismissed as a cheap, cynical, pander to get Hispanic and women's votes and would fall flat on its face. This to them is a prescription for political disaster and many of them would assure that by staying home on future Election Days.
Boehner's all white male picks for House leadership posts were a clear response to that message. It has even greater resonance in that it stands in stark contrast to the crushing numbers of women and minority Democratic House members and leaders. It's the first time in the history of the House that white men will be a minority in the Democratic caucus. But that contrast with the Democrats simply adds more reassurance that the GOP's white male rule is firmly in place and will likely stay that way.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.