Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DNCC Update— Four Weeks To Go

Move over Mr. Barnum and Mr. Bailey, the REAL circus is coming to Denver in less than four weeks. Final preparations are almost all in place. The “Tip-Of-The-Spear” Special Ops, armored commandos have thoroughly scouted downtown Denver in their black helicopters (see my blog of 6/18), and they have now retreated to some undisclosed location where they are presumably waiting for a signal that will bring them swooping in to vanquish any evildoers. Several LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) are on hand to disable protestors without actually killing them (see blog of 6/11). The newest wrinkle in this local arms race is that only credentialed delegates, press, and other “official” DNCC people will be allowed to carry bottled water. The thinking here is that a water bottle in the hands of a malefactor or blackguard or other evildoer might contain urine which could be sprinkled on convention people or peacekeeping constables. Of course, as the ordinance now stands, a water bottle would also be the best defense against the LRADs and the commandos since it would make the good guys and the bad guys indistinguishable from one another.

Howard Dean came through town last weekend like a suspicious father checking out his teenage son’s cluttered bedroom for contraband. He was said to be pleased with the preparations, but with Howard Dean you can never tell what he actually thinks. Even before his visit, preparations were underway to hide the vagrants and the homeless who might tarnish the downtown Denver landscape. These unfortunates are being given free passes for public transportation, and free passes for movies and museums so they will have someplace to go. Large HD flat screens are being installed in homeless shelters to keep them indoors. You can almost feel the love.

The official expectation is that 20,000 protestors will turn out for the anti-war parade on that first Sunday of the convention week, and four days later, on Thursday, when Obama gives his acceptance speech in front of 60,000 people at the football stadium, 50,000 protestors are expected to hold a parade and rally to call attention to immigration. Denver is one-third Hispanic, so native Denverites don’t need to have their attention called to immigration. Official PR people for the DNCC say that all these numbers are inflated. But 100 years ago, Denver also hosted the Democratic National Convention. The Denver population at that time was 200,000. During the convention week, the population swelled to 300,000. And that was long before television.

What’s at stake here might very well be the future of these types of conventions. Let me explain. Given the tarnished image of the Republican brand this year, an inanimate Mexican piñata should be able to defeat the Republican candidate. And yet, the race now is neck and neck. If the Denver convention becomes the disaster that everyone is predicting— if Denver becomes 1968 Chicago—it could well cost Obama the presidency. And if that happens, both parties will need to ask themselves if these conventions are useful anymore. The primary process from January to June now selects the candidate, so the nominating process at the convention is now nothing but a show. The main thing the convention did historically was give the party nominee a big positive PR boost going into the pre-election months. But if the convention generates even more negative PR, that negates the benefit. Just ask Hubert Humphrey. Most historians now say that the 1968 Democratic convention fiasco in Chicago cost Hubert the race. Denver is shaping up as a repeat.

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