Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Wisconsin, the Land of Diversity?

Turns out we beat most states in the percent of women and minorities elected. Who knew?

By - Oct 28th, 2014 02:19 pm
State Sen. Alberta Darling, State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, Milwaukee County Sup. David Bowen, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

State Sen. Alberta Darling, State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, Milwaukee County Sup. David Bowen, and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Welcome to Wisconsin, where white men don’t do as well in elections.

No, I’ve never thought of the state that way, but it turns out Wisconsin is actually more enlightened than the average state when it comes to electing women and minorities. So says a new study by Who Leads Us, which is a project of the Women Donor Network.The study’s authors did a state-by-state analysis of more then 42,000 elected officials examining gender and race and found that, no surprise, far more white males are elected than their percentage of the population.

Nationally, white men are now just 31 percent of the nation’s population yet are 65 percent of all elected officials. By contrast, white women are 32 percent of the population but 25 percent of elected officials, men of color are 19 percent of the population and 7 percent of elected positions and women of color are at the very bottom, with 19 percent of the population and 4 percent of elected officials.

“White men in this country hold 4 times the political power of women and people of color,” the study notes. The results varied by level of government: Women were found to hold 30 percent of local elected positions but just 19 percent of federal positions. Minorities, by contrast, did the best at the federal level (17 percent of elected positions) and the worst for statewide offices (just 7 percent).

“Both Red and Blue states have one thing in common: the people who are elected to office from the county level up through the United States Senate do not reflect the populations they serve,” the study notes. States at the very bottom in diversity include solidly “blue” states like Maryland (ranked 43rd), New York (44), and Delaware (50), and “red” states like South Carolina (42), Texas (46), and Utah (47). Republican-leaning Georgia ranked dead last in the study and swing state New Hampshire ranked 1st: about 4 percent of both its population and elected officials are men and women of color.

Wisconsin? We ranked 17th, mostly because of a pretty good ranking for men of color, who make up 9 percent of the state population and 7 percent of elected officials. White men are 41 percent of the population and a robust 68 percent of elected officials, white women are 42 percent of the population and 22 percent of elected officials and women of color are 9 percent of the population and 3 percent of elected officials.  It’s safe to say both the state and the nation have a ways to go in achieving electoral equality.

Most Politically Engaged State?

Meanwhile, another study, this by the ever-busy Wallet Hub (which blankets the media with mostly trivial studies), ranked which states are the most politically engaged and Wisconsin ranked fifth, while Massachusetts ranked 1st and West Virginia ranked 51st.

Wisconsin has long had a reputation for high turnouts in elections and that’s what the study found: we ranked 3rd in the percent of citizens who voted in the 2012 presidential election, 5th in the percentage of citizens who voted in the 2012 election as compared with the 2008 election, 7th in the percent of registered voters in the 2012 election and 8th in the percentage of citizens who voted in the 2010 midterm election.

All very impressive, but what dragged the state down was its in 46th ranking in political contributions per adult population. That hardly seems like something to be ashamed of, but does raise the question: How is it possible state residents could be so politically involved yet give so little in contributions? One reason might be the well-known thriftiness of this state: a penny saved not giving to politicians is a penny well earned.

And it turns out we needn’t give those contributions because they are pouring in from across the land. As of July, when the most recent analysis of this was done, 55 percent of Gov. Scott Walker’s donations and 34 percent of Mary Burke’s came from out of state. Why, we’re barely paying anything for all those ads drowning us.

Land of Conservative Foundations?

You sometimes hear the complaint that top foundations like the Ford Foundation or MacArthur Foundation are liberal, but that’s not something we have to worry about in Wisconsin. As Michael Horne recently reported, the little-known Kern Foundation has quietly grown to a behemoth with $627 million in assets, not far behind the Bradley Foundation, with $640 million.

The Bradley Foundation has long been known as the nation’s foremost funder of conservative policy making. The Kern Foundation is less political and less predictable, but funds social and religious causes with a conservative bent.

Both foundations are midgets compared to the giant Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with $37 billion in assets, but are not far below the 100th largest nationally, the Engelstad Family Foundation, with about $728 million in assets. And the Bradley and Kern foundations are far, far bigger in size than any other private foundations in the state.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

5 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Wisconsin, the Land of Diversity?”

  1. Observer says:

    This is great news. I’m 67 and when I was younger Wauwatosa has many “No sales to coloreds” covenants in their deeds.

  2. Gee says:

    Not really great news.

    Wisconsin isn’t even in the top third of states. Sure, regarding minorities, we have a lower percentage in our population than in many states.

    But women are (and always have been) the majority of the population here. Yet we were one of the last states with a woman in Congress (although great and well-qualified women here ran for Congress since the 1920s, and women have been elected to Congress elsewhere since 1916). And our record for women in the Senate is even worse, with the first not until almost this century. And, of course, a lot of states have had women governors, but . . . well, we’ll see.

    Not surprising, though, in a state that ranks even worse for women’s education levels — and, thus, women’s income levels. When the situation for women in the state is below norms in general, that will be reflected in its politics.

  3. Rich says:

    Couldn’t help but chuckle at a study commissioned by an organization named “Who Leads Us” and this article with a picture of David Clarke. Lead he does not.

  4. Mitch says:

    Oh come on Bruce. You have been a longtime vocal opponent of Sheriff Clarke while advocating for a white male to replace him. But now when you need a black face for an article about diversity, you have no problem trotting him out there. That’s poor form.

  5. Bruce Murphy says:

    Mitch, the four photos we ran do not constitute an endorsement of any of them, by me or anyone else at Urban Milwaukee. There are simply illustrating an interesting study.

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