Are African Americans content not being elected to the U.S. Senate as it increases with women and other diversity populations?

November 18, 2012

Did you know?, Government/Politics, Laws

Are African Americans content not being elected to the U.S. Senate as it increases with women and other diversity populations?

Congress is said to be looking more like America as a record number of women will be seated in the U.S. Senate

Dilemma X

It might appear that it is more acceptable to elect an African American as President of the United States than it is to be elected an African American to the United States Senate. It might also appear to be more acceptable to be a white woman, an Asian woman or to be openly gay than it is to be an African American woman or an African American man to get elected to the U.S. Senate. Or might it be that African Americans prefer to run for the less demographically diverse and less politically challenging United States House of Representatives congressional districts?

As the United States of America prepares to enter year 2013 and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, it also prepares to receive the 113th Congress. The U.S. Senate, of the 113th Congress, will see its greatest change since the election of 1992. There were 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate contested for a term of 6-year, lasting January 3, 2013 until January 3, 2019. The 113th Congress will have 20 female senators, the most ever in U.S. history, none are African American. All of the elected Senators were white women with the exception of one. There were 6 women Senators who won reelection who were Democrats. Five other women were newly elected to the Senate: 4 Democrats and 1 Republican. In 1932 Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the Senate. In 1948, when Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the Senate, she became the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

In 2013 Democrat Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, will become the first Asian-American woman in the Senate. She is also the first U.S. Senator born in Japan, and the nation’s first Buddhist Senator. Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, who will become first openly gay U.S. Senator.

In the election of 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States, women won a record 6 Senate seats. This election of women included Carol Moseley Braun, who became the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Republican Richard S. Williamson. She would also be the second elected African American to be a U.S. Senator.

The current 112th Congress, that will end its term January 3, 2013, currently has 17 Senators who are women, none who are African American. There are 2 who are Latino men: Bob Menendez (Democrat) New Jersey and Marco Rubio (Republican) Florida, both who are of white Cuban immigrant heritage. There are 2 Asians Daniel Ken “Dan” Inouye (Democrat) Hawaii of Japanese-American descent and Daniel Kahikina Akaka (Democrat) Hawaii of Chinese-Native Hawaiian descent. There are 13 who are of the Jewish religious affiliation (11 Democrats, 2 Independents).

In fact, since Roland Burris was appointed, by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to replace then President-Elect Barack Obama as the junior senator from Illinois on December 30, 2008, and left office on November 29, 2010 there have been no African Americans in the U.S. Senate.

It is odd that as America has matured enough to have a non-white male elected president for a second time, the body of government that has some really exclusive powers is void of African Americans.

Senators elected to regular terms in 2008 will be in their last 2 years of those terms during this 113th Congress. Will there be any African Americans, in either major political party, running for Senate by the midterm elections of 2014?

Are African Americans content by having no representation in the U.S. Senate as long as the President of the United States is African American? Will white women do as African Americans; accept no representation in the U.S. Senate once a white woman is elected president? Will Asians or Latinos of any race do the same? Is this the diversity, in the Senate, that is expected once those population groups gain the elected position as head of state and head of government?

The United States House of Representatives is a very powerful branch of government and it does contain a good number of African Americans. The current 112th Congress included 44 African American members of the House, a record number in fact, including the 2 Delegates (Eleanor Holmes Norton and Donna Christian-Christensen).

The recent November 2012 election added a few new African Americans to the House of Representatives:

Texas’s new Dallas-Ft. Worth 33rd Congressional District, created as a result of the 2010 Census, elected Marc Veasey (Democrat).

Nevada’s new Las Vegas area 4th Congressional District, created as a result of the 2010 Census, elected Steven Horsford (Democrat).

New Jersey’s 10th congressional district would elect Donald Payne Jr. (Democrat), the son of Donald M. Payne who represented the district from 1989 until his death on March 6, 2012.

New York’s 8th Congressional District changed upon the decennial redistricting as a result of the 2010 Census. The district elected Hakeem Jeffries (Democrat).

The United States House of Representatives’ members serve for only 2 year terms. They have 435 districts with populations of typically between 580,000 to 650,000. The House members (commonly referred to as U.S. Representatives or Congressmen and Congresswomen) have several exclusive powers:

-All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

– The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

– The House of Representatives has the power to elect the U.S. President in case there is no majority in the Electoral College. The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

The United States Senate’s 100 members serve for 6 year terms, outlasting the 4 year presidential terms, making it the branch of government where its members can sometimes be more independent to the will of Presidents. Each state is composed of 2 Senators representing their entire state population and they must be at least 30 years of age. The Senate is the more prestigious house of the legislative branches. The Senate has several exclusive powers:

– The President shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Federal Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

– The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments made by the House of Representatives.

The Senate divides its tasks among 20 committees, 68 subcommittees, and 4 joint committees.

African Americans in the U.S. Senate

From 1789 to 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, senators were elected by state legislatures. Beginning with the 1914 general election, all U.S. senators have been chosen by direct popular election.

Hiram Revels, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, settled in as an adult in Mississippi. On January 20, 1870, the Mississippi state legislature voted 85 to 15 to seat Hiram Revels (Republican) in Albert Brown’s former seat. In 1861, Democrat Albert Brown vacated Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats when the state seceded from the United States. Revels took his seat in the Senate, after contentious debate. Senate Democrats were determined to block the effort. The Democrats claimed Revels’ election was null and void, because he was not a U.S. citizen until the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 and was therefore ineligible to become a U.S. Senator. Revels would serve in office from February 25, 1870 through March 4, 1871.

Blanche Kelso Bruce was the second African American to serve in the United States Senate and the first to be elected to a full 6 year term. Blanche Bruce was born near Farmville, Virginia of an enslaved African woman and the white slave owner. Bruce escaped to Kansas during the Civil War. He would relocate after the war to Mississippi where he held several offices. In January 1874, the Mississippi state legislature nominated Bruce U.S. Senator nearly unanimously on February 4, 1874. He would remain in office from March 4, 1875 – March 4, 1881.

Edward William Brooke, III was the first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote. He was elected attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1962 and then reelected in 1964. Brooke would be elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1966, taking office on January 3, 1967. Brooke would be reelected in 1972 and remain in office until January 3, 1979. Senator Brooke was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 23, 2004 by President George W. Bush. President Obama honored Edward Brooke with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

It would be from 1979 until 1999 that another African American would be seated as a U.S. Senator. Carol Moseley Braun would be elected the second African American Senator, the first from Illinois. Carol Moseley Braun would serve one term in office from January 5, 1993 – January 3, 1999.

Once again there would be a gap of African American representation in the U.S. Senate from 1999 until 2005.

Barack Obama would run for Senate seat after Republican Peter Fitzgerald decided to retire. Obama would go on to beat Alan Keyes (Republican) by receiving 70% of the vote. He would serve as Senator from January 3, 2005 to November 16, 2008. He would be succeeded by Roland Burris once he took office as President of the United States.

Since 1789 sixteen senators have become president, but only 3 have gone directly from the Senate to the White House. The 3 senators who moved directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House were: Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama.

So, as many people in the nation and around the world watch the Presidential Inauguration, African Americans may want to take note, unlike other demographic groups in the United States of America, they will not have representation in the U.S. Senate.

Those reelected and newly elected African Americans in the House of Representatives might also take some personal time to think. Will any of them take up the challenge to leave their Congressional District comfort zones to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014? Or might it just be enough to have Barack Obama as President?


Women in the U.S. Senate

2012 Reelected to the U.S. Senate
California: Dianne Feinstein (Democrat)
Michigan Debbie Stabenow (Democrat)
Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar (Democrat)
Missouri Claire McCaskill (Democrat)
New York: Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat)
Washington: Maria Cantwell (Democrat)

2012 Newly Elected to the U.S. Senate
Hawaii: Mazie Hirono (Democrat)
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren (Democrat)
Nebraska: Deb Fischer (Republican)
North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp (Democrat)
Wisconsin: Tammy Baldwin (Democrat)

U.S. Senators that were not up for reelection
Alaska: Lisa Murkowski (Republican)
California: Barbara Boxer (Democrat)
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (Democrat)
Maine: Olympia Snowe (Republican)
New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat)
New Hampshire: Kelly Ayotte (Republican)
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (Democrat)
Maryland: Barbara Mikulski (Democrat) most senior Democratic women senators
Maine: Susan Collins (Republican)
Texas: Kay Bailey Hutchison (Republican) most senior Republican women senators
Washington: Patty Murray (Democrat)
Kay Bailey Hutchison did not seek re-election in 2012 and will be replaced in 2013 by Ted Cruz.


Senate Terms of Service
Class I (2007-2013)
Class II (2009-2015)
Class III (2011-2017)


Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Armed Services
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment and Public Works
Foreign Relations
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Rules and Administration
Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Veterans’ Affairs

Special, Select, and Other
Indian Affairs
Select Committee on Ethics
Select Committee on Intelligence
Special Committee on Aging

Joint Committee on Printing
Joint Committee on Taxation
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Economic Committee


Video: Senator Hiram R. Revels 


Video: Senator Edward Brooke wins election in 1966

Video: Senator Edward Brooke: My advice to young Black people seek elected office/power

Video: Senator Edward Brooke: Running for the Senate seat 

Video: Senatore Edward Brooke: My outlook on race

Video: President Obama honors Senator Edward William Brooke October 28, 2009 

Video: Carol Moseley Braun speaks on the Senate floor. Importance of having ethnic representation in the U.S. Senate

Video: Senator Jesse Helms (Republican) racial political ad against Harvey Gantt (Democrat) 
In 1990 Helms 1,087,331 votes (52.5 percent) to Gantt’s 981,573 votes (47.4 percent)
In 1996, Helms 1,345,833 votes (52.6 percent)  Gantt’s 1,173,875 votes (45.9 percent)


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