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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Towards a Welcoming ‘Big Tent’ — That Can Win Elections

A Daily Kos blogger with the handle “Le Champignon” has a post “Democrats Wise Up, Return to 50 State Strategy,” which provides a pitch for unity with a diss for “pet causes…to the exclusion of everything else.” The post has stimulated an interesting discussion (see comments) about the relative merits of ‘big tent’ inclusiveness vs. a more ‘purist’ progressive vision. Further,

We need to be the Coalition of the Dispossessed. We are the groups who are marginalized by sexist men, by racist whites, by homophobic straight cis people, by the uncaring rich, by the supremely powerful, by the untouchable military industrial complex, and by companies whose only purpose is profit over people. We are those who need to be helped, who have been wronged by society, and who haven’t gotten a fair shake. That above all should be our rallying cry. And we should show solidarity to everyone under our banner. Feminists should look into union issues. Gay rights activists should care about disastrous free-trade agreements. Our race leaders need to look into fair taxation policies. In short, we must be as ideologically diverse as our coalition. We must be united.

A worthy insight and a good starting point for a dialogue about rallying around a central theme. But I wish Champ had explicitly included the struggling white working class or lower middle class whites, whatever you want to call it. This large, but frequently-overlooked constituency should have a welcome place in the big, inclusive tent, if we are ever going to secure a working majority that can beat back filibusters and override vetoes as needed.
But let’s never disparage the “pet causes” of any of the constituent groups. That’s their raison d’être, and failure to respect it as such can only lead to further disunity and defeat. Each and every constituency in the big tent should find ways of supporting fellow Democratic coalition groups, to the extent possible. MLK said it well in 1967:

The art of alliance politics is more complex and more intricate than it is generally pictured….A true alliance is based upon some self-interest of each component group and a common interest into which they merge. For an alliance to have permanence and loyal commitment from its various elements, each of them must have a goal from which it benefits and none must have an outlook in basic conflict with the others.
If we employ the principle of selectivity along these lines, we will find millions of allies who in serving themselves also support us, and on such sound foundations unity and mutual trust and tangible accomplishment will flourish.

Mutual respect between constituent groups, as well as unity around a central message, is the glue that will bind a successful Democratic Party coalition. That’s the path of a pragmatically-progressive Democratic Party focused on victory.

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