This morning, an inside source told CNN that the Democratic National Party has selected Philadelphia as the host of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, blessedly bypassing our fair borough (and the third finalist, Columbus, Ohio—shouts to Columbus). This, despite ardent boosterism by the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, who last summer said, “We have swag on lock down…A convention anywhere else in the United States of America is just going to be ‘eh.’” Phil-eh-delphia?
DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz confirmed the news shortly after CNN broke the story. “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” she said, in a statement. “I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.” The convention will go down July 25, 2016, one week after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
For multiple reasons, this decision is smart for both Brooklyn and the DNC. The optics of hosting the convention in Brooklyn were always better than the logistics. Brooklyn is, of course, a perceived bastion of hip, youthful progressivism, and presumed-nominee Hillary Clinton, who will be 69 in 2016, could certainly use some of that shine. Nominating her in Brooklyn would give her a “youthful, forward-looking appearance,” Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant who has worked for her, told the Times back in August.
But pulling it off would have been a nightmare. According to the 49-page proposal submitted with Brooklyn’s bid, if the convention were to be held here, the Barclays Center would have been the host venue; athletes, actors, and other celebrities would accompany delegates to Broadway shows and museums; and since Brooklyn doesn’t have enough hotels, multiple major thoroughfares would likely be closed off to transport attendees from Manhattan, including portions of 42nd Street, Houston Street, the Bowery and the Manhattan Bridge. All in the name of transforming Brooklyn into a “weeklong Democratic fete,” at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $8.1 million.
And Brooklyn’s status as a liberal stronghold is a stronger argument against having the convention here. No one’s mind will be changed if Hillary Clinton looks two percent cooler for standing in the reflected glow of Brooklyn cache; conversely, Pennsylvania is a swing state (it hosted the RNC in 2000), and whatever strategic advantage can be gained from engaging with the vanishingly small sliver of the demographic that decides presidential elections should be taken. For the Democratic Party, the 2016 race is already in danger of becoming an anti-competitive coronation for Clinton. There’s no need to close the circle completely.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.