She’s A Rainbow

Acclaimed journalist and commentator Callie Crossley of Boston NPR affiliate WGBH-FM absolutely nailed it late last month with her observation about Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to reach out to African-American voters:

[The 2016 presidential election] could have been a real opportunity to expand the party of Lincoln’s black support, but ironically, Trump has embarrassed and shunned many black Republicans. They, in turn, have walked away from him. And is anybody fooled by Trump’s rabid surrogates of color? Folks like the much despised Omarosa Manigault, former “The Apprentice” contestant, and the Rev. Darrell Scott, shut down by MSNBC’s Joy Reid after screaming unsubstantiated ravings about Hillary Clinton.

At the joint conference of the National Associations of Black and Hispanic Journalists, Hillary Clinton was asked to share a recent significant conversation with an African-American friend. She easily name-checked several, some recognizable, and then said, “I can’t really pick one conversation out of 50 years of conversations.” Compare that to Donald Trump identifying a black attendee at a rally as “my African-American.” A degrading expression of paternalistic pride of ownership reminiscent of another time.

Speaking of real vs. alleged outreach, the mainstream media’s general downplaying of the breadth and diversity of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s support is just another example of the Fourth Estate’s obsession with avoiding charges of “liberal media bias.” It is not pro-Clinton bias to point out that Clinton’s support base “looks like America”; it’s simply a factual analysis, one that we likely won’t see much of due to concerns about right-wing whining.

If Clinton’s diverse coalition powers her to victory over Donald Trump on November 8, she should not hesitate to acknowledge her support from all corners of American life in her victory speech, and remind Republicans that if they don’t scorn the Southern Strategy once and for all, they will be finished as a party. She should reaffirm that diversity is a strength for this nation, and that President Obama’s accomplishments are a testament to what happens when people from diverse backgrounds are given the opportunity to excel. Of course, if she does so, right-wingers will accuse her of rubbing her victory in their faces and fetishing diversity. Well, if they don’t like it, too bad.

After he defeated Martha Coakley in the January 2010 special election to fill the US Senate seat left vacant by the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, Scott Brown went on a brief “thank-you tour” to honor the Massachusetts voters who supported him. If she wins, Clinton should borrow this idea, adding a bit of a twist by greeting supporters at locations that represent American inclusiveness and ingenuity.

As an alumnus, I’d love to see a President-elect Clinton visit Boston Latin School, which (as I noted earlier this year) has been striving to overcome racial tensions that grew in the two decades since an alt-right federal lawsuit led to a decline in diversity at the school. She could point to the Boston Latin’s interim headmaster, Michael Contompasis–who successfully guided Boston Latin through post-desegregation tensions in the 1970s and 1980s–as an example of a committed public servant who has dedicated his life to making sure that all students from all backgrounds were prepared to excel both academically and in school of life.

She could also point to Boston Latin as an example of public education at its best–and remind her supporters of the continued right-wing threat to public education, and the well-heeled ideological forces that scorn the very concept of investing in future generations. She should note that Boston Latin has been a ladder to opportunity for economically striving blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos for generations–and that if the right wing had its way, these Americans would be condemned to social degeneration.

If Clinton defeats Trump, such a victory would change the course of United States history, and not just because it would make her the first female president. In theory, it could force the Republican Party to finally put Jim Crow’s corpse in the ground once and for all, and compel the party to stop polarizing the American electorate along racial lines–or it could deliver a long-overdue deathblow to the GOP, the one then-Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti anticipated after Barack Obama defeated John McCain in 2008:

Where does this leave the Republicans? In deep trouble. The GOP is increasingly confined to Appalachia, the South, and the Great Plains. When the next Congress convenes in 2009, there won’t be a single House Republican from New England. The GOP is doing only a little better in the mid-Atlantic. There will be only three Republican congressmen in New York’s 29-member delegation in the next Congress. Only a third of Pennsylvania’s delegation will be Republican–about the same proportion as in New Jersey. There will be a single Republican in Maryland’s eight-man delegation. The Rust Belt is hostile territory, too. So are the Mountain West and the Pacific Coast. The GOP is like the central character in Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” It’s on its own, no direction home.

The Republicans are in demographic trouble. When you look at the ethnic composition of Obama’s coalition, you see that it’s kind of a mini-America. About two-thirds of Obama’s supporters are white and a third minorities. The Republican coalition, by contrast, is white, male, and old. There’s the first problem. Overall, Obama may have lost the white vote (while still doing better than Kerry did), but in 2008 whites (not counting Hispanics, per Census convention) made up the smallest proportion of the electorate since the start of exit polling. Obama scored tremendous victories among minorities. He won more than 90 percent of the black vote. He won the Hispanic vote by a two-to-one margin. He won the Asian vote by a similar margin.

Then there are the young. Voters under 30 turned out in only slightly higher numbers than they did in 2004, but they overwhelmingly backed Obama, 68 percent to 30. A successful Obama presidency could lock these voters into the Democratic column for a long, long time.

Well, Obama’s presidency has certainly been successful. If Clinton conquers Trump thanks to the power of the diverse Democratic coalition (combined with legions of anti-Trump Republicans), could the GOP finally fail?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.