The case for picking Charlotte, NC, as the site of the Democratic National Committee was supposed to be simple:

When Democrats announced the choice in February 2011, they said selecting the Southern city signaled Obama’s intent to fight hard for the conservative-leaning state like he did in 2008. They also highlighted the economic transformation in the state and in Charlotte — from tobacco, textiles and furniture-making to research, energy and banking. Party leaders noted the state’s strong political leadership and expressed hope that a Perdue re-election bid would get a boost from the attention that would be lavished on the convention.

But it’s turned into something of a nightmare:

Labor unions, a core Democratic constituency, are up in arms. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue isn’t running for re-election; Democrats say she was likely to lose. The state Democratic Party is in disarray over an explosive sexual harassment scandal. Voters recently approved amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage, a position that runs counter to Obama’s. And unemployment in the state remains persistently high.

“Nobody can sugarcoat the fact that we got problems here,” said Gary Pearce, a former Democratic consultant who was an adviser to former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt. Pearce was referring specifically to state party woes but could have been talking about any of the troubles here for Democrats.

But, he added: “I think the greatest strength that the party has is President Obama. And he’s the thing that people will rally around.” […]

Now traditional Democratic Party groups are threatening huge protests in part because they’re deeply uncomfortable that the convention is being held in one of the least union-friendly states. And thousands of Democrats across the country are calling for the convention to be relocated because of the gay-marriage vote.

That obviously won’t happen, the amount of real people who care about this story is pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, and the amount who would change their vote over it is either zero or very close to it. Still, it’s almost hilariously self-defeating. Party conventions are supposed to be a few days dedicated to pumping up the party and its ticket, a spectacle widely (but accurately) derided as a week-long infomercial for the parties. This much is true. Let’s just say, the news out of North Carolina hasn’t been all that great from a Democratic perspective recently.

I think that the DNC missed a step here. Picking Charlotte is a sop to the Mark Halperins of the world, a statement of electoral strategy more than anything else. It doesn’t really speak to any of the themes of the Obama re-election effort (no, I don’t see a transition from the “old economy” of textiles and furniture to the “new economy” of banking and research as reflective of a theme, at least none I’m aware of). I wonder why Detroit wasn’t the first and only candidate here. It’s aggressive because Romney has a connection to it, it ties into the automotive rescue (which has assumed a central role in Obama’s re-election spiel), and it’s a poster child for a city ravaged by Romneynomics, a place where industry withered because management sent the jobs overseas and just fired many of the ones they didn’t, all while executive pay surged. The city could use the help, but increasingly it’s becoming rebranded as a tough town where stuff is still being built in America. Not a bad message to be associated with, nor is the fact that Michigan is recovering unusually quickly from the recession. Were President Obama to brag about saving the auto industry, standing in the place where it is most identified with (and perhaps with some of those very workers whose jobs were kept due to his own initiative) would make the point louder than a normal speech could. It would be something of a risk (Republicans would inevitably claim that Detroit has been failed by Democrats and unions), but if pulled off well, it would have been a rare case of the setting being the star at a political convention (only the Republicans’ convention in New York in 2004 sort of came close to this recently, though not quite as the city itself was relegated to a supporting role as the victim restored to safety by G.W. Bush. Charlotte, by contrast, is safe. It has no real connotations to it, aside from memories of Larry Johnson’s glory years on the Hornets back in the ’90s. But notwithstanding the disasters mentioned in the article–many of which couldn’t have been forseen–it still seems somewhat bland to me. Admittedly, this is one of those “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” conversations because it doesn’t matter in the real world, but I can’t help but feel regret about how much more effective a setting the Motor City would have made (plus, Ted Nugent would probably do something to get his sorry ass arrested as a protester, which would have been icing on the cake).

  1. priscianus jr says:

    North Carolina is a major southern state that actually went for Obama in 2008. I am not privy to the thoughts of the DNC but I always assumed that the main motivation of holding the convention in NC was to strengthen the identification of NC with the Democratic Party. I wish the unions would think a little more long range.

    • Metavirus says:

      agreed. it’s a bit of cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. if democrats could have a quality convention in NC and raise their profile there, perhaps that would add another drop or two of water to the bucket of NC being more Democrat-friendly over time. and it always perplexes me how democratic interest groups think that the best time to loudly air their disagreements is when the candidate who backs their positions 2000% more than the other guy is running to be elected.

    • Lev says:

      Probably so. Though if that’s the case, Indianapolis could’ve worked too.

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