Today, a Democratically led Senate committee passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would outlaw employment discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation or gender identity. We're not sure what is going to happen to it in the full Senate where Republicans may filibuster it, and its future in the Republican House is almost certainly doomed. Also today, the Senate Democrats pushed for a vote to lower student loan interest rates. It failed despite majority support, thanks to a Republican filibuster. At the end of last month, the Democratically led Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform and sent it to the Republican House. The Republican House is refusing to take action, as President Obama is ratcheting up pressure.
Voting rights. Women's rights. LGBT rights. Student loans. Immigration reform. What's going on here?
Let's read the list in a different way - in terms of demographics who care about these issues the most (and this is NOT to mean that each issue is important to only one group - actually they are all important to all groups; we'll come to that in a minute): African Americans. Women. Gay, bisexual and transgender mericans. Young people. Hispanics. Immigrants. Other people of color. Does that list look familiar to you? It should. That is, in essence, the verbatim list of demographic groups that made up President Obama's winning coalition last year. It's the exact coalition that ended Mitt Romney's hopes, increased the Democrats' majority in the Senate, and cut the size of the Republican majority in the House.
Knowing that, let's look at the moves that the Democrats and the Republicans are making on these major issues. Democrats and the President are, of course, trying to make good policy, first and foremost. But they also know that many of these issues - in fact, most of these issues - will be blocked by Republicans. Democrats know that it's an uphill battle in Texas to preserve women's rights.Yet, the Democrats are taking a stand. Democrats in office nationally and in states are taking a stand and sending a message to women, to Hispanics, to African Americans, to young people, to gay people, to immigrants, to people of color. That message is: we are on your side, and the Republicans are waging a war against you. That such message has the added benefit of being true doesn't hurt.
And the issues aren't singularly targeted, either. Young people care about the voting rights of the urban poor. People of color care about equal dignity for all people. We care about women - we are majority women. Mothers care about their kids' student interest rates, and gay people care about immigrants. We are a rainbow coalition.
Republicans are sending a message, too. They are sending a message to their core base voters who are predominantly white, old, male, southern and angry: that they are on their side.
So what is going to happen in 2014? Will the angry white southern vote be mobilized to vote for the Republicans? Of course they will. But will the broad demographic coalition that put the country's first black president into office twice also be mobilized? Democrats sure are trying to make sure that they are. They are trying to systematically, on one issue after another, showing us who's trying to make progress (Democrats), who's standing in the way of progress (Republicans), who's trying to expand rights (Democrats) and who's trying to take your rights away (Republicans). If that broad coalition shows up at the polls next year - that is, if we show up at the polls next year, it won't matter how many angry white men show up for the GOP; they will lose.
And that is why all this is more than good policy from the Democrats. It's a coordinated strategy to hasten the demographic and generational doom. And it's brilliant. Let's make sure it works. Remember, they can make you wait in line. They can make voting inconvenient for you. But no one can take your vote away, until you give up. Don't give up.