On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee chose Philadelphia as the site for the 2016 Democratic convention. The City of Brotherly Love beat out the other two finalists, Columbus, Ohio and New York City, in the bid to host the national convention. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz cited logistical reasons for choosing the location, but the city’s rich political history, which hearkens back to the nation’s Founding Fathers may also have played a role. Wasserman Schultz admitted as much, when she stated:
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.
New York City was ruled out, in part, because of logistical hurdles involved with shuttling thousands of delegates and other attendees from Manhattan hotels to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. New York also offers no tangible political advantage as a convention site, since it is located in a solidly Democratic state rather than in a swing state. The city might even have posed a political liability for Democrats since Republicans could use the location to frame the Democrats as a party of out of touch coastal liberal “elites.” While that characterization of New York City may be unfair, it is an argument that carries some weight in the Midwest, where Democrats need to be competitive to retain control of the White House after 2016. Wall Street, after all, is in New York City, making it easy to depict Gotham as the home of elitists.
Philadelphia is less than 100 miles away from New York City and politically it also votes heavily Democratic. However, unlike New York, the city of Brotherly Love is located in a pivotal swing state. Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections. However, unlike New York, the state is competitive. John Kerry barely squeezed out a win in 2004 (51-49 percent over George W. Bush). While Barack Obama won comfortably in 2008 (55-44), his margin shrunk to 52-47 in 2012.
Republicans chose Cleveland, Ohio as the site for their convention in 2016. Because Ohio is the penultimate swing state, some Democrats had hoped for their party to settle on Columbus, Ohio, in order to to neutralize any edge the GOP could gain from hosting their convention in the Buckeye State. However, concerns that the modest-sized Columbus would repeat some of the logistical problems of 2012, when Charlotte, North Carolina was the host site, may have doomed the Midwest city’s chances of beating out the larger city of Philadelphia. Republicans capitalized on the Democrat’s “snub” of Columbus. The Ohio Republican Party tweeted:
The Democrats, however, opted to solidify their hold on Pennsylvania. In addition, Philadelphia’s rich political history makes it an attractive backdrop for a nominating convention, tacitly linking the current Democratic Party to Founding Fathers like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
The importance of where the convention is held is a topic that is subject to debate. In 2008, the Democrats held their convention in Denver, Colorado, a state Republican George W. Bush carried twice. In November 2008, Barack Obama delivered Colorado to the Democrats for the first time since 1992, cruising to a 54-45 victory. However, in 2012, both the Democrats and the Republicans, held conventions in swing states that they ultimately ended up losing in November. The Republicans were unable to win Florida despite hosting their convention in Tampa. Likewise, the Democrats failed to hold North Carolina after the Charlotte convention, even though they had won there in 2008, despite holding their convention in far away Denver.
Both the Republican and Democratic conventions are scheduled for July 2016. The GOP will meet in Cleveland from July 18 to 21. The Democrats will hold their convention on the week of July 25. There should be plenty of political fireworks going off in the weeks that follow Independence Day 2016.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.