The Future is All About Fusion Politics

As Republicans cement themselves as the “White People Party,” Democrats need to make room for everyone else.

While remembering our past grounds us, it is also important to have a clear-eyed vision for the future. Over the weekend, my friend Denise Oliver Velez addressed that with an important piece titled: People of color and the future of the Democratic Party, which highlights something Rev. William Barber (leader of the Moral Mondays Movement) calls “fusion politics.”

The complexion of the United States has shifted over the last few decades, and the future will demonstrate an even more varied set of racial and ethnic demographics. Little wonder why there is a rabid response of racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigration rhetoric from the Republican Party—which we might as well call “The White People Party,” since, according to Gallup “non-Hispanic whites accounted for 89% of Republican self-identifiers nationwide in 2012.”…

This shift presents a challenge, and not just to white Americans. It also highlights inter-ethnic positions and tensions. Let’s not fool ourselves: Developing fusion politics with whites and erasing friction between and among peoples of color is a challenge…

No longer is it a given that straight white males will be always be the defining force in Democratic party national or local elections. For us, fusion is our future. Failure to accept, acknowledge, embrace, and work toward that future will set us back.

One of the best descriptions of fusion politics came from David Simon just after the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012.

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…

Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense…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.

Denise goes on to talk about how this plays out for Democrats. She particularly highlights some important data about this country’s fastest-growing ethnic group – Asian Americans. Her point is that it is time for the Democratic Party to start paying attention to the various groups that will define its future. For example:

On the subject of Latinos, there is still a major blind spot on the white left, and also on the part of a chunk of the black Democratic Party base. While I read blog post after blog post and numerous pundit pieces touting the VP candidacy of Elizabeth Warren, I don’t see how her possible selection could do anything to broaden and enhance a fusion future. She has no long-term ties to the diverse communities of color that make up a large segment of the Democratic base, has a narrow focus on issues that are similar to those of Bernie Sanders, and she doesn’t represent the regiona where the largest segment of the black and Latino electorate is located. That Latino electorate is one of the keys to our future.

Since Denise wrote that piece, another important group has spoken out on an issue that is getting a lot of attention among Democrats right now. The Democratic Caucus of the Congressional Black Caucus has written An Open Letter to our Democratic Colleagues and Party Leaders in which they speak out against getting rid of superdelegates and having open primaries. On the latter, they point out something I’ve been hearing rumblings about recently.

Allowing independent or Republican voters to participate in the Democratic primary would dilute minority voting strength in many districts across the country.

Fusion politics doesn’t mean simply acquiescing to the demands of groups like the Congressional Black Caucus. What it means is giving them a voice in the process and spending some time listening to their reasoning. It means that everyone gets a seat at the table in the America President Obama described like this:

America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.