President Trump posed for a photo on Monday with the White House’s summer intern class. While some outlets seized on Trump rolling his eyes and shushing a reporter for asking questions about his policies, the Twitterverse erupted, pointing out the lack of racial and gender diversity in the class.
The lack of diversity of the intern class does not suggest any wrongdoing, but it does raise questions about the Republicans’ ability to be inclusive. From the photos, it is clear that this year’s intern class is majority white and majority men. But, women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population. And as of 2015, 44 percent of all people ages 18-34 are minorities, according to the Brookings Institution.
Nearly half of millennials are people of color. Trump’s White House interns: pic.twitter.com/WLXNCA5TVj
— Reasonable People (@LOLBeReasonable) July 24, 2017
Republican voters are largely white and older, and the White House can only choose interns based on the applicant pool. Nevertheless, the photo serves as evidence that the next wave of Republican leaders are not representative of America’s changing demographics. Without a change of course, future leaders of the GOP won’t reflect the experiences of the majority of people they seek to govern.
After Mitt Romney lost to President Barack Obama in 2012, the RNC commissioned an “autopsy” of the election. One of the main findings from the 100-page report was the Republican Party’s need to engage both women and minority voters, including Hispanic voters in particular, to stay relevant. While speaking at the National Press Club in 2013 to promote the study, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus highlighted the “real urgency of connecting with minority communities.”
Preibus noted that Obama won with 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups in 2012. “The RNC cannot and WILL NOT write off any demographic, community, or region of this country,” he said.
But Trump mostly ignored the RNC’s directive. He won in 2016 without a large share of the minority vote, but his failure to court new voters could cost the party support in the long run. By 2050, the United States will be a majority minority country, largely due to a growing Hispanic population.
The lack of diversity in government is not exclusive to Republicans. In June, a new report revealed that despite having the most diverse Congress in U.S. history, Democratic Senate staffers were overwhelmingly white. Additionally, Amber Phillips pointed out for The Fix that the Federal government’s diversity problem stems from a pipeline problem: There aren’t enough people of color in state legislatures — the most reliable conduit for national politics.
Some argue the Republican Party has a racism problem, and that Trump’s campaign brought it to the surface. During his presidential campaign, he stereotyped Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, he garnered support from white nationalist figures and groups including David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan, and he made numerous inflammatory remarks about Muslims, who are largely nonwhite.
In addition to pointing out the overwhelming whiteness of Trump’s intern group, some compared this year’s class to the interns under Obama’s tenure.
@ObamaWhiteHouse interns (on the right) vs. @realDonaldTrump @WhiteHouse interns (on the left). Where is the diversity, @whinternship? pic.twitter.com/lSI5axjxk9
— Jaylin D. McClinton (@JayDMcClinton) July 24, 2017
It isn’t the first time Republicans have been called out for a largely white intern group. Last year, Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) tweeted a selfie with a group of Capitol Hill interns, unleashing a slew of jokes and puns on social media. But, James Jones, who conducted research on the diversity of Senate staffers, told The Washington Post it’s no laughing matter.
“It really shows how much further we have to achieve to make sure our government reflects the diversity of our nation,” he said of lawmakers and their staff. “These are the main actors making policy. And they don’t look like America.”