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)

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 According to a NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama leads Romney 94-0 among African Americans. And an August Washington Post-Kaiser poll had the president receiving 74 percent of the Latino vote. It is nearly impossible for Romney to win with such a deficit among minorities, and that is why the Republican strategy has been to encourage a wave of impassioned, angry white voters while suppressing minority votes through new voter-ID laws.

But Republicans haven’t abandoned the politics of perception. Although last week’s convention was much ado about whiteness, the speakers were selected to appear otherwise. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis all spoke to minority independents who may find Romney’s promise of economic hope and change appealing.

But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chair of the DNC, boldly addressed this display of faux diversity. He told reporters last week that “you can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.” Villaraigosa, who is of Mexican descent, went on to explain: “Window dressing doesn’t do much for a candidate. It’s your policies, your platform.”

And that is where Democrats have Republicans beat. The DNC stage has been graced with the likes of first lady Michelle Obama, who told her story of the all-American dream — of growing up on the South Side of Chicago to working-class parents whose values and commitment led her to the Ivy League and beyond. She appealed to everyone — from the poor and the middle-class to those who have achieved wealth — by explaining the dignity there is in hard work.

“For Barack, success is not about how much money you make but the difference you make in people’s lives,” she said. Her words resonated with the crowd of many colors, who might find the GOP’s celebration of individualism and its “We built this” mantra to be antithetical to the concepts of community, shared sacrifice, shared rewards and equal opportunity.

The Democratic rainbow coalition also included San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the grandchild of a Mexican immigrant and the first Latino to give the DNC keynote address. “My mother fought hard for civil rights so instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone,” he said.

This is where Democrats have finally found their voice: speaking to the very people whose lives their progressive policies affect.