Color Them Democrats: Diversity at the DNC

Unlike at the RNC last week, both the audience and the speakers represent the American melting pot.

Michelle Obama; Julian Castro; Emanuel Cleaver (Getty Images)
Michelle Obama; Julian Castro; Emanuel Cleaver (Getty Images)

(The Root) — Change comes in many colors. And the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., has proved to be a brilliant display of American diversity — blurring the lines between black, brown, white and every hue in between.

The delegates have gathered to re-elect the nation’s first African-American president — a historic moment — but what is most striking is the visible difference between the Democratic alliance and their Republican rivals, who just a week ago nominated Mitt Romney in Tampa, Fla.

According to Gallup, more than 90 percent of registered Republicans are white, despite the fact that white Americans are only 63 percent of the general population. This point isn’t lost on either voters or elected officials, since a lack of diversity among conservatives has helped fuel a racially tinged, anti-Obama campaign and xenophobic rhetoric that alienate the growing and politically important Latino population.

Republicans’ atmospheric problem is that for the past four years, many in the party have actively attempted to divide white voters from everyone else. The strategic attacks on President Obama had proved successful during the 2010 midterm elections with the Tea Party factions and far-right base, many of whom still harbor racial anxieties and prejudice. But even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — a GOP stalwart — was forced to admit that this divide-and-conquer strategy is not sustainable. “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” he told the Washington Post. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Graham’s statement was a rare moment of honesty. Just last week at the Republican National Convention, two attendees were removed after throwing peanuts at an African-American camerawoman for CNN, yelling, “This is how we feed the animals.”

Republican leadership is not blameless. Even Romney has used race-baiting tactics in an effort to appeal to disgruntled white voters, the best examples being his recent foray into Birtherism and the fallacious attack ads accusing Obama of gutting welfare reform.

If there was any doubt about the racial subtext, Romney told USA Today that Obama was using welfare waivers as a political calculation to “shore up his base.” This, of course, is the same man who appeared before the NAACP convention and later said of the crowd, “If they want more stuff — more free stuff — tell them to vote for the other guy.”

The race-baiting is mind-numbing. But it has its consequences.