We Can Relate: Why the Democratic Party's Message Hit Home in Urban Areas
Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign was historic.
Not only did she run against Donald Trump, Wikileaks, the Russians, the FBI, and the Unicorn Left but she also had to run against an American media openly willing to tear her down while simultaneously raising up and granting her opponent unprecedented amounts of free air time while conveniently overlooking countless scandals that would in any way damage his reputation. Despite all this, Hillary Clinton earned more votes than any White male in our nation's history, and ended up trouncing her mentally inferior opponent by at least 2.3 million votes much to his chagrin. She was able to rally the Democratic base, maintain the Obama coalition, bring in moderate Republicans, and even expand Latino voter participation in record numbers. Although the media perceived her as an "uninteresting" and "uninspiring" candidate, Clinton overwhelmingly won millennials by 18 points overall and won the millennial vote in 42 out of 50 states.
Nowhere was Clinton's campaign more dominant than in our nation's cities and urban areas where she won 88 of our country's 100 most populous counties, surpassing President Barack Obama's 2012 performance and matching his 2008 performance. She won these areas by a resounding 13 million votes and counting, including dominant wins in Manhattan, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC where she captured at least 75% of the vote. What makes Clinton's performance even more remarkable is that since 2012 we've seen blatant Republican voter suppression in such states as Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida making it nearly impossible for certain people of color to either gain or maintain entry in the democratic process. Had these states had a Democratic rather than Republican governor, then we would have seen an even more lopsided win for Clinton in those states' urban areas.
Yet despite the success of Hillary Clinton in our nation's most populous areas, the consensus in certain Democratic circles is that Democrats simply didn't do enough to reach out to middle America. However, like our friend Spandan articulated, this strategy ultimately will do more harm than good for the progressive movement going forward. Not only does the strategy fail to account for the changing technologies associated with globalization but it also fails to address prevalent civil rights issues that the Democratic Party has and needs to continue to fight for. Just because Hillary Clinton won 93% of the vote in Washington, DC doesn't mean we turn our backs on the issues that the Black Lives Matter movement has raised in that city or other urban areas. It simply means that the Democratic Party needs to keep raising that issue while simultaneously raising other issues that affect other populations nationwide.
Cities themselves thrive thanks to their diversity and within this diversity is a myriad of life experiences of its inhabitants. As young professionals migrate to urban centers in search of employment, they encounter cultural mosaics that may have not been a previous part of their upbringing. Whether it's the Muslim cab driver, the immigrant restaurant owner, the foreign student on an exchange VISA, the gay couple down the street, or the retired Navy veteran, cities have a way of creating an inclusive environment, often within a single block or neighborhood. Meeting people with different cultural backgrounds has a way of opening one's eyes to issues and concerns that one may have been previously unaware of. You yourself might not have a minimum wage job, but when a friend of a friend tells you how little they make as a full-time server you start to consider what kind of positive impact raising the minimum wage might have not only on your friend's friend but others in her situation as well.
Minimum wage is just one example of progressive identity politics that can be found in urban areas. There are others. Meeting a gay couple and learning about the hundreds of rights they had previously been denied. Speaking with a Muslim and learning about threats to his local mosque. Conversing with an African-American woman regarding her being profiled by local police. Discussing the immigration process with someone whose student VISA is rapidly approaching its termination date. Visiting a Planned Parenthood and seeing just how valuable their services are to low-income people of color. Attending a local area school and observing the struggles and challenges of students growing up in generational poverty. All of these experiences have a way of deeply impacting even the most casual observer.
To be clear, Democrats do need to refine their message to certain working class populations in this country. But to do so at the expense of the most diverse coalition in political history would be a grave and dire mistake. Remember that Hillary Clinton ran on the most progressive platform in history which followed one of the most progressive presidents in our nation's history. In our urban areas where our country is most diverse, this message hit home to the overwhelming majority of people who support Democratic issues such as marriage equality, a raised minimum wage, access to women's health care, equal pay, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and environmental actions to combat climate change. Those who experience these issues firsthand know either through their own experiences or those of their peer group, exactly which of the two major political parties is willing to go to bat for them and what they believe in.
And to fail to continue this fight would set the Democratic Party back for decades.
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