But while pundits are warning Republicans that if they don't reach out to Latinos their Party is doomed in the future, most of the advice they are giving Democrats tends to ignore the very coalition that brought this success to Democrats. The narrative that we hear most often is all about a progressive populism that focuses primarily on income inequality.
And so I'd like to counter that narrative by suggesting that there are some things Democrats need to do in order to maintain the momentum started by President Obama and build on the success of the coalition of the ascendant.
First and foremost, they need to go "all in" on the 2014 mid-term election. Groups like Priorities USA that decide to sit this one out and wait for 2016 risk incurring the ire of those of us who know that what has halted progress in this country is NOT the lack of presidential leadership, but Republican obstructionism. That is a direct result of the 2010 mid-term election when too many Democrats decided to sit things out - giving the teapublicans the opportunity to win both Congressional majorities and governorships/state legislatures. The real base of the Democratic Party knows that winning presidential elections is not enough. And we'll be watching to see who puts it all on the line to do what needs to be done in 2014.
In terms of issues, supporting a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers as a necessary component of immigration reform is a must. The current status quo is not sustainable. End of story.
A HUGE issue for this coalition are the Republican attacks on voting rights. These affect nearly all components of this group - including people of color primarily, but also students and low income Americans. Protecting the franchise (and actually expanding it as AG Eric Holder has called for with the abolition of disenfranchisement of felons) will be a critical component of maintaining the coalition.
Anyone who really watched what Mayor Bill DeBlasio did in New York City to win his overwhelming victory there is aware that he did not simply champion the cause of income inequality. He also promised to do away with the odious Stop and Frisk policy of his predecessor. That garnered him huge support in the African American and Latino communities - as well as many of the millenials who were often subject to that policy.
Watching the reaction to the murders of young black men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, we can draw parallels to the need to end policies like Stand Your Ground and the school-to-prison pipeline that affects so many young people of color. Much like the attacks on voting rights, these are issues that often fall off the radar screen of too many white middle class Democrats. But they are literally life and death issues to many of the people who make up the coalition of the ascendant.
Of course continuing the work of President Obama on LGBT equality, women's rights, education and healthcare reform will be crucial as well as addressing the issues of income inequality and climate change. The point here is that there is no single issue that unites this coalition. All the voices must be heard.
Back in 1981 Bernice Johnson Reagon (who is perhaps best known for founding the group Sweet Honey in the Rock) gave a speech on coalition politics that is a must-read for every Democrat/progressive/liberal. I'll simply give you a little taste - but seriously, go read (and study) the whole thing.
We’ve pretty much come to the end of a time when you can have a space that is “yours only”—just for the people you want to be there...To a large extent it’s because we have just finished with that kind of isolating. There is no hiding place. There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. It’s over. Give it up...In other words, maintaining this coalition is not about some Kumbaya moment designed to make you feel better. Its hard - even dangerous - work. And its not about getting our egos fed, its about giving rather than receiving.
Some people will come to a coalition and they rate the success of the coalition on whether or not they feel good when they get there. They’re not looking for a coalition; they’re looking for a home! They’re looking for a bottle with some milk in it and a nipple, which does not happen in a coalition. You don’t get a lot of food in a coalition. You don’t get fed a lot in a coalition. In a coalition you have to give, and it is different from your home...
It must become necessary for all of us to feel that this is our world. And that we are here to stay and that anything that is here is ours to take and to use in our image. And watch that “ours’ make it as big as you can...The “our” must include everybody you have to include in order for you to survive. You must be sure you understand that you ain’t gonna be able to have an “our” that don’t include Bernice Johnson Reagon, cause I don’t plan to go nowhere! That’s why we have to have coalitions. Cause I ain’t gonna let you live unless you let me live. Now there’s danger in that, but there’s also the possibility that we can both live—if you can stand it...
There is an offensive movement that started in this country in the 60’s that is continuing. The reason we are stumbling is that we are at the point where in order to take the next step we’ve got to do it with some folk we don’t care too much about. And we got to vomit over that for a little while. We must just keep going.
But it is also exactly what Rev. William Barber is referring to when he talks about "fusion politics." And its what David Simon meant when he talked about "The Death of Normal."
America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance...Any political party - including Democrats - that wants to survive had better start listening to people like Bernice Johnson Reagon, Rev. William Barber and David Simon on continuing the work President Obama has begun to build the coalition of the ascendant.
We are all the other now, in some sense. Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America. We are all — all of us, every last American, even the whitest of white guys — special interests. And now, normal isn’t white or straight or Christian. There is no normal. That word, too, means less with every moment. And those who continue to argue for such retrograde notions as a political reality will become less germane and more ridiculous with every passing year.