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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rebuilding Coalitions

As regular readers have doubtless seen, we’ve featured up in the “Noteworthy” box at the top of the page an October 2 rally by an impressively diverse group called One Nation Working Together.
It’s easy to think of this event as an effort to mobilize progressives prior to November 2, and it is that. But as Harold Meyerson suggested yesterday in a Washington Post column, it’s more than that, and in fact represents the kind of unified coalition that can sustain progressives over the long haul:

It signals a convergence of agendas among liberalism’s distinct activist groups. [Ben] Jealous, who has brought a new measure of dynamism and strategic savvy to the venerable NAACP, has prodded his organization and a number of African American church groups to support gay and lesbian rights. More middle-class environmental and gay and lesbian groups back the rally’s call for job creation through a range of Keynesian measures. All the groups involved this weekend have endorsed the legalization of undocumented immigrants.
The convergence of agendas is largely strategic. At the first spring meeting of the groups that planned this weekend’s march, Deepak Bhargava, who heads the Center for Community Change and is one of liberal America’s leading strategists, asked participants to “raise your hand if you can get your agenda through [Congress] by yourself.” Nobody did.

There are deeper reasons for this renewed coalition that go beyond the exigencies of today’s politics. The new sense of perspective that progressives brought to the 2008 elections has not gone away:

At least some of the convergence is also a function of generational change. The acceptance of gay and lesbian equality is highest among youth of all races and classes, as is support for a greener economy. The recession, meanwhile, has intensified liberal support for governmental job creation, not just for economic reasons but also because the recession has given rise to expressions of radical-right phobias that threaten immigrants and minorities — such as Arizona’s draconian immigration law — and that could thwart the agendas of every progressive constituency.

In other words, the October 2 rally represents a lot more than a defensive gathering of diverse constituencies threatened by this year’s radical conservative upsurge, or by the possibility of Republican control of the House or the Senate. Just in time for the next presidential cycle, and what appears to be another high-stakes showdown between very different visions of America’s values and future, progressives have a fresh opportunity to rebuild old coalitions with new priorities, and once again make a credible claim to represent not just a political force, but a movement for change. That’s worth celebrating, no matter what happens on November 2.

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