Over the last two days of the Democratic convention the primaries began to slide into largely forgettable history and glimpses of the near-future began to snap into place. What had been largely a conversation about the personalities and characters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders became much more about the coalition that will seek to perpetuate and perfect what President Obama has created.
Eight years ago, Jeremiah Wright was so toxic that Obama had to shush him and make a speech on race at the Philadelphia Constitution Center. This time, Rev. William Barber II was invited to speak in primetime as a warm-up act for Hillary Clinton. The Democrats didn’t shy away from their African-American and Latino supporters. There was no Jesse Jackson figure to bash, no Sister Souljah to scold. Black and Latino organizers weren’t humored and hidden but invited onto the stage, one after another after another. Muslims weren’t a scary constituency to be scapegoated, but the scapegoating of Muslims was morally shamed in the most visible and compelling way possible. The LGBT community was celebrated over and over again. The disabled have never enjoyed so much focus and respect.
The DNC is co-opting Republican tropes while maintaining Democratic ones because there is now only one political party for grown-ups.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 29, 2016
It’s also the progressives moving from countercultural to mainstream, with confidence + w/o apology. Coalition built https://t.co/MRTE6R31dt
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) July 29, 2016
The Democrats did not shy away from celebrating police officers and they went back to the well, over and over again, to emphasize their respect for the military and their concern for veterans. When some in the audience grew uncomfortable and chanted “No More Wars,” the new coalition drowned them out with “U-S-A” chants.
This was a Democratic Party that was fiercely positive about America and completely non-defensive and unapologetic about how their racial diversity, religious pluralism and cultural liberalism might alienate historically critical voting blocs.
American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc–they're trying to take all our stuff
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) July 28, 2016
Not trying, Starbursts. Your safe is empty. https://t.co/8PbFcpIwer
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) July 28, 2016
Tim Kaine spoke a foreign language repeatedly during his speech, clearly demonstrating that the party does not give a shit about alienating the crowd that seethes when told to push ‘2’ for Spanish. Clinton adopted a more progressive set of policy prescriptions than any modern Democrat, in defiance of people’s expectations and the Clintons’ historical positioning as New Democrats. She was carving so much meat off the moderate Republican bone with her proudly American thematics that she was utterly unconcerned about pushing economic moderates into Trump’s arms.
This was basically the triumph of the counterculture–a kind of bat mitzvah for a decades-long movement–today, you are a woman.
Today, you are the mainstream.
No more apologizing for what you believe. No more bashing your own voters to win the support of bigots.
And because this new progressive movement knows that it is winning and that it owns the future, it’s positive about America. America is a good place that is headed in an even better direction, and they are not fearing any man.
These are all disorientating developments because they defy what people think they know about the Democratic Party and the Clintons and politics in general.
And it’s somewhat of a gamble because it’s still possible that the majority of people in this country do not want to be part of a pluralistic, multiethnic, socially liberal and tolerant society led by a party of people who want to enact a broad liberal agenda.
What’s clear after this convention, though, is that Hillary Clinton is going to lead this coalition on its terms, not some terms she’s imposing on them from some DLC board meeting in 1989.
It’s also not the end of the story since the president still makes decisions on matters of war and peace, and there is no consensus in Clinton’s coalition for the kind of foreign policies she’s known to prefer.
What’s clear to me, at least, is that the #BernieorBust people who are walking off the field of battle at just this moment are getting off the train several stops too early. That Sanders would think his credibility and influence are better preserved from outside this ascendant coalition is either a bet that it will lose or evidence that he’s actually not aware of how much he has accomplished. It seems almost insane to pull out now when he could be part of a joyous and soon-to-be victorious team and get a ton of credit for it.
It shouldn’t be so hard to notice that the marginalized aren’t on the margins anymore. When the party is going out of its way to put transgendered and disabled people in primetime, when it wants fiery black preachers demanding social justice on the undercard, when it responds to Latino and Muslim bashing by highlighting Latinos and Muslims and shaming those who use fear and hatred against them, and when women and women’s issues are at parity with men, then you realize that what was countercultural has become mainstream.
Hell, the Democrats weren’t even afraid of the NRA.
Eight years ago, Michelle Obama got in hot water for saying “For the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country.” Maybe she misspoke. Maybe she unintentionally said something that was true. What’s clear is that eight years later a lot of people who were second class citizens are now feeling included and empowered, and they’re also in a patriotic mood.
This is why the Democratic convention was feel-good and positive and happy and uplifting. This is not a party or a coalition that is concerned about losing anything anytime soon.
So, the coalition is built, but it’s still not big enough or broad enough to win back the House of Representatives or many governor’s mansions and state legislatures. To do that, it needs to win over the Republican moderates without losing much in the bargain.
And, again, the convention showed that Clinton thinks she can pull off that trick by taking all Rich Lowry’s stuff without trimming on the actual policy at all.
This is what a realigning landslide looks like.
It’s all in place, and better than I anticipated.
So, what’s Trump gonna do about it?