What if Brown is the New White? The New American Majority Has Arrived.

October 25, 2016

Across the nation, the story is much the same — right wing politicians are an increasingly rare breed and the reverberations of the 2016 election are still being felt. Overt (as well as thinly masked) racism, greed (lower taxes for people doing fantastically well), and hate have significantly faded from the political discourse. That’s not because politicians in 2032 are different, but because those divisive tactics just don’t work anymore. The progressive majority now powering the country has reformed healthcare, education, clean energy, mass incarceration, and much more.

This is not just some utopian future if we are to take Steve Phillips’s book to heart. And we should. In Brown is the New White, Phillips is not just proposing a pie in the sky vision – the progressive majority made by combining progressive people of color and progressive whites is already here in 2016. And it has been evident for nearly a decade: it’s the majority that elected Obama twice. I was very honored to interview Phillips about the trends, opportunities, and challenges he sees on a recent Stand.earth webinar. 

For progressives, this is incredibly hopeful. But this progressive majority will not organize itself and, in fact, the Democratic establishment is doing a lot to make sure that this group fails to become a driving force in our politics. Mr. Phillips points out the stunning fact that the Democratic Party spends over 90% of its consulting funds (ads, outreach, etc.) on white-owned firms and still favors TV ads targeting the ever dwindling white swing voter over Get Out the Vote efforts for progressive people of color. That the Democratic Party needs to overcome this major shortsightedness and racial bias in order to attract the new progressive majority has a certain poetic justice.

Brown is the New White makes clear the immense potential wrought by demographic shifts in our nation. And it also clarifies that building a strong, motivated, progressive voting block will require abandoning long-held shibboleths (for example all that matters is the tiny block of white swing voters), adopting new strategies which emphasize appealing to and mobilizing progressive people of color and white allies, and the hard work of ending the old and starting the new. It can be done. The potential power and influence of progressive voters in the US is undeniable. Whether they will be treated as the force that they are is still to be seen.