If there was ever a case to be made that “diversity” pays and pays big, it was made convincingly last Tuesday’s election. It was a significantly diverse electorate that gave President Obama a second term and Massachusetts its first female senator in Elizabeth Warren.
Those who viewed “diversity” only through politically correct glasses have come to recognize that it was President Obama’s secret weapon. The Obama campaign tapped into the diverse groundswell that got him elected in 2008, particularly people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, young first time voters, Gen-Xers, and blue collar white men.
The 2010 US Census made abundantly clear that racial and ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics, are growing at a rate faster than the white population, and will continue to dominate national growth for decades to come. The Obama campaign understood what the Republican Party, the political pundits, the pollsters and the media all did not: that demographics and diversity was on their side and would play a deciding role in several key swing states.
It is not just political parties for which this “diversity” phenomenon we witnessed on Tuesday holds lessons, but also for corporate America, nonprofits and other democracies around the world grappling with issues of inclusion and immigrant emersion. Diversity should be — must be — regarded not just as a business and political imperative, but a competitive advantage as well.
Blacks, Latinos and Asians now represent more than 30 percent of the United States population. They have tremendous purchasing power, with a combined income of more than $3 trillion – a figure that exceeds the gross national products of Canada, Sweden and Mexico. Diverse voters, like diverse consumers, and diverse donors notice candidates, political parties, companies and nonprofits who notice them, and reward them with their votes, their loyalty, their donation and their business.
Any political party, business, or nonprofit that does not go the extra mile to attract, engage, and retain a diverse voter base, customer or donor base will find themselves leaving votes, money, and donations on the table. The Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2040 people of color will account for almost half of the nation’s population. The lesson should be this: Ignore racial and ethnic minorities now, and lose the majority later.
Obama’s strategy for a second term ushered in a new era of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism in the United States. If he and Congress are able to work collaboratively to move our country forward and out of this economic basement, recognizing our diversity as our strength as a people, America will forge a new normal. It will signal a socially and economically inclusive society, but more importantly, a sound reinvestment in our own future, global competitiveness and economic survival.