Donald Trump hosted a meeting on immigration policy at the White House on Wednesday, and the Cabinet Room was filled with officials ready to participate. The meeting didn’t produce any breakthroughs, though it did generate a fair amount of discussion about who didn’t join the president at the negotiating table.
For example, no congressional Democrats were invited to participate. A photo from CBS News’ Mark Knoller also made clear that practically everyone who had access to the president was a white, male Republican.
The Washington Post’s Eugene Scott had a good piece on this:
A genuine fear of many Trump critics is that the president’s vision of making America “great again” excludes those not among his base. Photos like the one from Wednesday’s meeting fuel this belief.
If the president is truly interested in hearing the concerns of those his policies impact most, a start would be to, at the very least, include them in the conversation. Their absence speaks volumes and gives the impression that people most like Trump are the ones who matter most to him.
Some caveats are probably in order. The Knoller photo, for example, doesn’t show that there was one woman lawmaker at the table on Wednesday, but she was out of frame. What’s more, some of the relevant officials in the Trump administration – including the president’s Homeland Security secretary – aren’t white guys.
But that doesn’t change the fact that when Trump sought the perspective of people he considered important in the immigration debate, nearly all of the people who had his ear looked and thought just like he looks and thinks.
And this is hardly the only example that’s come up in Republican politics in recent years.
The classic example that comes to mind is the February 2012 incident in which House Republicans held a hearing on contraception access, and the opening panel was made up entirely of men.
And as regular readers may recall, there have been other examples. After the 2012 elections, House Republican leaders appointed 19 committee chairs for the new Congress, only to discover they’d chosen 19 white men. The party scrambled and found a woman to chair the Rules Committee – despite the fact that she wasn’t actually on the Rules Committee at the time.
A year later, during a government shutdown, Republican leaders thought they’d come up with a brilliant stunt: they’d send several GOP lawmakers to a conference room, position them opposite empty chairs, and show how eager they were to negotiate (i.e., they were willing to listen to Democrats volunteer possible ransoms).
Party officials snapped photos and distributed them widely, oblivious to appearances: Republicans had chosen eight middle-aged, far-right white guys and lined them up next to each other. When they promoted the photo, GOP leaders never stopped to notice that everyone in the room looked remarkably similar to one another.
Five years later, not much has changed.