DNC Guest Blog Post #1 From League of Young Voters:
Last night, as the nation watched, the Democratic Party sought to remind voters why they fell in love with Barack Obama. Embracing a 21st century populism that felt more like a United Colors of Benetton commercial than a political meeting, the Democrats, an organization that has long had a conflicted and contradictory relationship with people of color, sold the party’s diversity to the American public. Whereas the Republicans used their convention to engage voters with messages of coded racial reclamation, Dems proudly showcased differences inside their party.
It’s hard to remember now, but four years ago, many of us believed that America was too racist and too backward to elect an African American to the nation’s top elected office. Despite obstacles, many us have experienced the benefits of a post-civil rights America, but the ugly realities of racism were just too stark in 2008. From the attacks on Jeremiah Wright to the confusing rise of the birther movement, looking back, it was hard to believe that America would elect Barack Obama.
In many ways, America has gotten more xenophobic since Obama took control of the White House. Not only have mainstream media outlets like Fox News helped foster the continued fear of a black planet, but right wing grassroots activists in America’s heartland have subtly used coded messaging, like “Obama is a terrorist,” to maintain influence in a political system that is becoming increasingly populated by people of color.
Despite this, during last night’s Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party set out to define itself in direct opposition of the Tea Party movement that has taken over the Republican Party. Embracing the diversity that exists inside the progressive movement, convention speakers constantly reminded attendees that the parties of Kennedy and Clinton were stronger than their opponents because of the differences that exist amongst their membership. And it didn’t matter if you were white, black, gay, or a woman, convention speakers made it clear that they weren’t just fighting for the wealthy white funders.
This message was especially targeted to women. Whether it were speeches by Lily Ledbetter and Congresswoman Gwen Moore or SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry, the message was clear, Democrats care about women, their issues and are angry as hell that Mitt Romeny and Paul Ryan are threatening to roll back key policy wins like Obamacare and Roe vs. Wade. Even before Michelle Obama took the stage, voters were reminded that women hold significant positions of power inside the party.
Yet, the funny thing about the Democrats message last night was that even though they celebrated the party’s diversity and differences, they were able to inspire their audience to believe that we all have so much in common.
Taking the stage after a powerful video that retold the story of Michelle Obama’s personal testimony, the president’s wife proudly told attendees that she was the nation’s mom-in-chief. But unlike the millions of black women throughout history who have taken care of other women’s children as nannies and housekeepers, Mrs. Obama’s relationship with America isn’t defined by a position of inferiority or servitude, but of extreme competency.
Much like Oprah, Mrs. Obama has used her position as an ambassador and spokesperson to transcended race. Throughout her speech, we were reminded that her role as a wife, mother and activist has forced her to fall more in love with the country and her husband’s position, despite the steady stream of racism impacting the public discourse. Even though she may be a working class black woman from Chicago, her powerful rhetoric forced all of us, regardless of our gender, racial identity or sexual orientation, to believe that we benefit from her serving with her husband in the White House.
Four years ago, Michelle Obama was seen as a potential liability for the Obama campaign. Today, the FLOTUS is becoming a public persona who is redefining 21st century motherhood and making it harder to hate the president.
Even though many of us grew to trust Mr. Obama in 2008, it’s his wife’s overflowing confidence that has kept all of our attention. Never before in history has a woman of African ancestry had so much influence and never before has a woman’s race mattered so little. That’s the funny thing about great speeches; they can inspire us to believe that a better world is possible and that the troubles of the day are only temporary.
Tonight, Bill Clinton takes the stage. Check back tomorrow morning for another blog.
– Rob “Biko” Baker, Executive Director, League of Young Voters Education Fund
About Robert “Biko” Baker:
The Executive Director of the League of Young Voters Education Fund, Rob “Biko” Baker, is a nationally recognized leader. He has organized town hall meetings and used social networking to motivate young people to get involved in the civic process. Baker has served as the deputy publicity coordinator and young voter organizer for the Brown and Black Presidential Forum. He has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News and CNN and has interviewed luminaries Cornell West, Russell Simmons and Howard Dean to name a few. He has also written a number of articles for America’s biggest online publications, including HuffingtonPost.com, GlobalGrind.com, VIBE, The Source, and The Nation.