A source with extensive knowledge of the thinking of the well-heeled and politically potent host committee seeking to bring the 2016 Democratic National Convention to New York City made a rather bold prediction last week. The “convention now is never coming to Brooklyn,” the whisperer said.
This blunt statement was part of a larger conversation about Mayor Bill de Blasio and the state of his mayoralty in the wake of the killings of Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20. My informer believed that de Blasio’s tattered relationship with the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the controversy swirling around it would give the Democratic National Committee (DNC) cold feet.
This was a far cry from the attitude my source said was on display a week earlier at the mayor’s residence on Dec. 12. “All the movers and shakers of New York,” the person said, descended on Gracie Mansion for a breakfast to cheerlead the city’s latest bid to host a political convention. They were “very confident they were going to get the convention.”
The symbolism of the endeavor is as inescapable as neon in Times Square. Brooklyn is the mayor’s home borough. New York is the home state of Hillary Clinton. Everyone assumes the Empire State’s former senator and the former secretary of state whose Oval Office ambitions came up short in 2008 will win the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House in 2016. Added bonus? Clinton’s hoped-for elevation would come nearly a quarter century after her husband, President Bill Clinton, accepted the Democratic nomination in New York City in 1992.
Brooklyn is competing against Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, for the Democratic convention. The announcement of the winning bid is expected in the coming weeks. With customary Big Apple bravado at a November news conference after three finalists were announced, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared, “Who wouldn’t want to be in New York?”
True, but national political operations are risk-averse. And the tense relationship between the mayor and the NYPD, between New Yorkers and law enforcement, combined with racial tensions not seen since the Giuliani years, must have the DNC looking for the exits. The questions facing convention planners are pretty stark. Should Democrats go to the race-roiled media capital of the nation or just go down the road to more peaceful Philadelphia? Should Democrats hold their nominating convention in true-blue New York or can’t-win-the-White-House-without-it Ohio, where Republicans will also hold theirs?
“The mayor will certainly have to work out the issues” with the police, Robert Zimmerman, the 14-year DNC member from New York, told me. But he said he was as confident in de Blasio on that front as he was in the city’s case for hosting the convention. “We’re booming economically,” Zimmerman said. “We’re the safest large city in America.”
There is another advantage Zimmerman says the city has over its competition. “The real risk is whether a city can pay its way. New York City can,” he said, noting the fundraising problems with the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte. “Every city has its pluses and minuses, but New York City can pay its own way.” That’s for sure. But I bet my concerned whisperer is right. There is only so much money can buy.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj