Mia Love made history when she became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress as a Republican. Representing Utah’s 4th District, the daughter of Haitian immigrants is even more noteworthy because she is a member of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, a religion that up until 1978 did not allow Black men to be ordained into its priesthood.
Love exploded onto the national consciousness on November 4th, when she went from mayor of Saratoga Springs to member of Congress. One of the many questions about Love is whether she will join the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC is meant to be a voice for people of color, regardless of political affiliation. And while all of its current members are Democrats, Republicans who happen to be Black have joined it in the past, including former Representatives Allen West and Gary Franks. J.C. Watts–famously–declined to join the group although he did go on to work with the NAACP and advocate for HBCUs. Newly elected South Carolina Senator Tim Scott declined to join when he was elected to the House in 2010.
While Love’s politics are typical for a Republican of today–she opposes Obamacare, does not think the flood of guns on our streets needs to stemmed and says all business taxes should be lowered—her positions on these issues would not rule her out for membership. The question is nevertheless why would Love want to join the CBC? When she first ran for Congress in 2012 she said she would eliminate student aid, end public housing aid and rental assistance. And while she has moderated some of these positions they would certainly raise eyebrows among CBC members.
Love is not the only Black Republican elected last week. Will Hurd was elected to represent the 23rd district in Texas and shares many of her views on gun control, taxes and Obamacare. But her pioneering status has certainly attracted more national attention. However, if she had her druthers, people would stop thinking of her as a pioneer despite the fact that her backstory makes her so compelling. Asked about that status the day after the election she told CNN:
“Well, first of all, I think what we need to mention here is this has nothing do with race. Understand that Utahans have made a statement that they’re not interested in dividing Americans based on race or gender, that they want to make sure that they are electing people who are honest and who are — who have integrity, who could be able to go out and actually make sure that we represent the values that they hold dear.
And that’s really what made history here. It’s that race, gender, had nothing to do with it. Principles had everything to do with it, and Utah values had everything to do with it. And so that’s the history that we made here.”
Her positions may serve her well in Utah but such are dramatically insensitive to those in Utah or elsewhere who are economically deprived and need a more responsive government approach to assist in societal situations they may often get mired in beyond their control. Elements unfortunately all too visible in the earth quake ravaged country she left behind.
In spite of her positions, a possible value Love may bring to the CBC is as a communication conduit to the conservative Republicans who in January take control of Congress. Not only may she assist the CBC to understand conservative positions and strategies, but in return serve as a mechanism for increasing the conservative sensitivity to issues important to the Black community. Absent her willingness or ability to work with the CBC in this and other meaningful ways, her presence in the midst of the CBC would only be window dressing benefitting no one.