The Year Democrats Got Their Groove Back

Here's why 2012 proved to be a turning point for the party and how it can keep the momentum in 2013.

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So what's next for the Democratic Party? Although long-term demographic shifts clearly favor Democrats, the Republican establishment maintains its regional dominance in the Deep South and parts of the Midwest. Strategic attacks on organized labor in Wisconsin and Michigan -- America's industrial heartland -- prove that the GOP remains emboldened.

Dismantling workers' rights empowers corporate tycoons, takes bargaining power away from the working and middle classes and undermines an egalitarian society -- making the American dream an elusive dream indeed. But this strategy also has electoral implications. As membership decreases, unions become financially strained -- less able to promote their message or support progressive candidates.

And it doesn't stop there. The GOP's efforts to systematically disenfranchise African-American and Hispanic voters through new voter-ID laws may have been thwarted by Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department in 2012, but some Republicans are now scheming to change the Electoral College setup in several states ahead of the 2016 contest.

One battle is over, but the war continues.

And Democrats, though excited about the possibility of a resilient Hillary Clinton or a popular Joe Biden continuing Obama's legacy, must face the hard truth that both of those candidates are older, wealthy and white. Just as Republicans must change with the times, so must Democrats.

There is no African-American or Hispanic Democrat in the U.S. Senate. There are no prominent Asian-American leaders within the Democratic Caucus. And Republicans actually have more minority governors currently serving than Democrats do.

The excitement of Obama's presidency provides a thin veil over the underlying problem of a lack of diversity within the nation's progressive party. Democratic leaders must reflect the coalition that put them there: black, brown, white, gay and straight. President Obama may have rewritten the rules, but the Democratic Party will need to make fundamental changes in order to remain credible and representative in the post-Obama era.

For the times, they are a changin'.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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