Being here in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, having watched the Republican National Convention religiously on television, one thing that is explicitly different between the two national conventions is the diversity of delegates.
Walking the convention hallways, the arena stairways, and the Charlotte sidewalks, there is every race, creed, color and orientation here. And they are smiling. Why? Because the Democratic Party is home to them. They feel safe here. They feel welcomed here. They feel represented here.
This is an important difference between the parties because it is also emblematic of which party does a better job representing the American public, in all its arrays of diverse needs, diverse perspectives and diverse backgrounds. Isn’t that the very principle on which America was founded, a home for everyone escaping the constrictions and constraints abroad?
The policy implications of this, then, are paramount.
Study each party’s platform and it quickly becomes apparent which one represents the American public best. In fact, for one party, the Republican Party, even the word “public” has become dirty and stigmatized. Whether it’s public libraries or public health or public lands, these are concepts that are increasingly outside the Republican Party’s policy platform.
But beyond the privatization of everything public, the Republican Party’s policies are primarily and unquestionably attentive to a small minority of Americans. Under a Romney administration, those who stand to benefit are those who know big business well, those who know how to game the tax code, and those who are keen to exploit the privatization of every public service, every public land and every public entity. This is not an exaggeration; this is exactly what they have stated.
Contrast this ethos with the Democratic Party, which strives to ensure policies are in place to meet the needs of every American, including those who are marginalized or unprivileged, and including those who are poor, old, disabled, gay, lesbian, Muslim or atheist.
America is not all white. America is not all heterosexual. America is not all Christian. Therefore, our government must do better, and must do more, to represent the increasing diversity of this country and its constituents.
The palpable positivity in Charlotte recognizes that the Democratic Party has captured the character of this country. America is not reflected in the white wealth of Mitt Romney, or white Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan. It is reflected in an African American man who has had his ear to the ground since his community organizing days and knows what is happening on the streets of America.
The Democratic Party continues to be the party of hope and change, but not in the way you think. People are hopeful because this party represents the changing face of America. We are a different people now than we were in the 1800s, or even the 1900s, and we require a party that gets that, that reflects that. My African American neighbors in Anacostia, DC, my lesbian and gay friends, and my Muslim friends must also be represented in the White House. They are American too and they deserve a president who understands and respects their perspectives. This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. And this is what Charlotte looks like.
Shank is and adjunct professor at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and also serves as a senior fellow at French American Global Forum.