What Do the Oscars and Our Government Have in Common? (Hint: White Guys)

Oscar like plastic statues are seen in a shop in Hollywood, California on February 25, 2016 amid continuing preparations for
Oscar like plastic statues are seen in a shop in Hollywood, California on February 25, 2016 amid continuing preparations for this weekend's 88th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28. / AFP / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

When the Oscar nominations were announced this year, people noticed something was off about the list of the nominees: For the second year in a row, they were all white.

It's not like there were not any award-worthy performances by actors of color last year. Yet, every single one of them was snubbed by the Academy. So what's going on?

It's pretty straightforward when you look at how the Academy selects nominees. 6,028 voting members of the Academy select the nominees, and that voting pool is 94 percent white and 77 percent male.

When you set up a system where only very few white guys do all the voting, it's not surprising that you end up with an #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

This problem isn't unique to the Academy. Just think about who represents us in elected offices.

Although people of color compose about 37 percent of America's population, 90 percent of our 42,000 elected officials nationwide are white, according to research by the Women's Donor Network. White men in particular make up only 31 percent of the population, but 65 percent of our elected officials are white men.

How did we get here?

Long before a single vote is ever cast in our elections, someone who is thinking about running for office needs to decide if they can either secure the support of enough wealthy donors to back their campaign or if they are wealthy, pay for their campaign themselves.

Guess what the wealthy donors funding those campaigns look like? They are most likely rich, older, white, and male.

Just like when a group of older white men select the Academy Award nominees, our campaign finance system lets a group of white male donors filter out potential candidates and decide who is able to run for office.

And that is how we've ended up with a #GovernmentSoWhite.

Most people understand this intuitively. They look at Washington and see a city where big money calls the shots. They see politicians that, more often than not, don't look like them and don't seem to represent their interests. They see a political system in which ordinary people with a commitment to serve their communities, but with little money or elite connections, stand little chance of ever making it to Congress.

So, how do we fix this?

In both cases - the Oscars and our elections - the solution is to let more voices be heard in the decision-making process. The Academy announced that they plan to double their female and minority members 2020. Until the voting population of the Academy begins to reflect the movie going public and the diversity of the film industry, we will not see nomination results that reflect the views of the majority of people.

Similarly, if we keep letting wealthy donors pick candidates and set the policy agenda, we'll keep getting a government that doesn't reflect America, and that's out of balance with the needs of everyday people.

We can have a government that is of, by, and for all of us.

If candidates could run for office without relying on the support of a handful of rich white guys, and instead gather small donations from everyday people in the communities they are hoping to represent, then we'd open the door for more women and people of color to run for office and win with the support of a more diverse donor base.

By allowing every voice to be heard in our elections and policy making process, we can create a system in which our candidates and our elected leaders start to resemble the country as a whole, not a #GovernmentSoWhite.