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Commentary: Expanding The DNC's Colors

President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on stage at the DNC. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on stage at the DNC. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

PHILADELPHIA -- Democrats gathering here this week to nominate Hillary Clinton for president have a challenge before them: How do they maintain diversity in their party?

In demonstrable ways, GOP nominee Donald Trump has already helped the Democrats by alienating most African-Americans, Latinos and the disabled. His disparaging attacks on the groups have been bruising.

Trump's past assertions that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen have resulted in little support from blacks nationally. And his promise to build a wall to lock out Mexicans and other immigrants has forced many Latinos to charge Trump with racially crude stereotyping and xenophobia.

Trump is like an allergy to huge swaths of minority voters -- a pox which has had civically deleterious effects on African-Americans; they barely show any interest in the Republican presidential band this election cycle.

But as Obama leaves office, will the coalition he created in 2008 among a mix ethic groups hold? Will the Rainbow coalition created by the Rev. Jesse Jackson for his presidential runs in the 1980s fall apart or maintain its constituency?

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If there is any reassurance that minority voters will continue as a major presence in the Democratic party, it has been evident by their presence at this week's Democratic convention.

Blacks, Latinos and Asians were visibly present during Monday's opening lineup and a commitment from party and convention leaders was clear. Speakers evoked the name of civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez and Medgar Evers. They also spoke out in support of lesbian and gay issues. The mothers of victims of police-involved shootings were honored on Wednesday night.

It's key that Democrats ensure that minorities stay within the party's circle and influence. To do this, delegates and party potentates must remain committed to the policies that led to the formation of  the party's diversity in the first place, dating back to the 1960s.

That means that the party must maintain a full commitment to civil rights, ensuring that it will continue to protect people of color against discrimination. The party must remain vigilant on guaranteeing voting rights, especially in states where there is an evident history of voter suppression. The party must also insist on its continued support for urban education and refining the pubic school systems across the nation.

Woven together, they reflect the core policy claims that unite communities of color under the Democratic tent. They solidify a clear policy consensus for blacks and others within the party.

There is a pragmatic reason for the Democratic Party redoubling its commitment to communities of color. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native-Americans numerically comprise the electoral math that’s needed to when in November.

They represent a plurality in some states that will allow the Democrats to win the presidency and majorities in the Congress.

But there are other compelling reasons why Democrats should double down on their relationship with communities of color that has ethical value. It was aptly expressed by the convention chair, the Rev. Leah Daughtry on Monday night:

We have a moral obligation, grounded in our common values, to live, not as islands unto ourselves, but in a beloved community with each other.  And this beautiful idea requires that we recognize the intrinsic worth of every person, and starting right now to make an investment in their futures.

Those sentiments are critical for Democrats. It is equally important that the party make good on its words with substantive policy commitments to communities of color during this convention and beyond.

Kevin C. Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition in Boston, which focuses on civic literacy, civic policy and electoral justice. He is a native of Philadelphia and attending this week's Democratic National Convention.

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