Friday, April 21, 2006

DNC getting a preview of reaction to a New Orleans convention

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The DNC meeting in New Orleans this week is giving the Democrats a preview of what the press and the GOP reaction could be to holding the 2008 convention there. The DNC has been doing a good job of mixing in community service with their meetings, but the GOP predictably accused the Democrats of "exploiting a human tragedy".

Adam Nagourney in the NY Times has an interesting view of the DNC meeting in New Orleans, and compares it to the GOP convention in New York in 2004. (Bolding is mine):

NEW ORLEANS, April 21 —Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, toured a house on Friday that the Hurricane Katrina floods wrecked, picking up debris, lamenting the federal response and leaving little doubt of the powerful symbolism his party sees in the ruined neighborhoods here.

As Mr. Dean's well-covered hurricane-cleanup mission suggested, New Orleans may well become for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 what New York was for Republicans after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, an evocative metaphor rooted in tragedy that can potentially be turned to electoral advantage.

Where Republicans looked to the imagery of a battered but resilient New York to project a tough president standing up to the dangerous world, Democrats are looking to this city as the symbol of an administration that is at once incompetent and heartless.


The Democratic National Committee gathered this week on the edge of the French Quarter for its spring meeting. Talk is in the air of staging the 2008 nominating convention here, though that would require scaling considerable logistical obstacles.

For now, the backdrop has proven politically irresistible to the party. Mr. Dean was one of 100 Democratic committee members who volunteered for community work projects with names like Dems in Blue Jeans, gutting houses, working in parish kitchens and distributing food.

In the Lower Ninth Ward, Mr. Dean put on a white hazardous-materials suit and, more than a little winded, helped gut a house. He needed barely a nudge from reporters to declare the federal effort here a disgrace that would cost Republicans control of the government.

"This is a searing, burning issue," Mr. Dean said, "and I think it's going to cost George Bush his legacy, and it's going to cost the Republicans the House and the Senate and, maybe very well, the presidency in the next election. People will never forget this."


"There's no question that it has refocused attention on issues of race and economics and the poor and a number of domestic issues," said Mark McKinnon, who as Mr. Bush's media adviser incorporated Sept. 11 imagery into advertisements for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. "There's a possibility that New Orleans has transformed the politics of the nation."

Still, the parallels that Democrats are looking for may extend this week just so far. For one factor, Sept. 11 put the entire nation on edge about the threat of terrorism. By contrast, the hurricane catastrophe was confined to one region. As a symbol, it may be powerful, but perhaps not as enduringly powerful as what occurred in New York and at the Pentagon.

As the White House saw in 2004, there are risks to being perceived as manipulating emotional images for political gain. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Tracey Schmitt, was quick to accuse Democrats of "exploiting a human tragedy" after learning of Mr. Dean's remarks.


For all the criticism the White House took for pressing the imagery of Sept. 11 in the political campaign, it never backed down. The party's convention in New York was a nonstop blur of invocations of the attack.

The whole article is worth reading. I'm sure New Orleans will make the final cut in the bid process if they want to stay in it. But with the image and political impact of New Orleans sure to change over the rest of the year, I still think it's very hard to reach a clear conclusion whether holding the convention in New Orleans makes sense.

Finally, Nagourney writes that holding the convention in New Orleans requires "scaling considerable logistical obstacles". I'd really like to know what those obstacles are. As I've written, New Orleans is hosting major commercial conventions this summer, and the Superdome is hosting NFL games this fall. I just don't see how logistics is a good reason not to go to New Orleans.