Politics & Policy

Conventional Wisdom

Detroit, Mich. (Joshua Lott/Getty)
Where the Democrats should convene in 2016

The Democrats have scratched Birmingham, Ala., off their list of potential convention cities, and that’s probably a good thing: The last time the Democrats put on a big to-do in Birmingham, their supremo was a guy called Bull Connor and there were fire hoses involved. Birmingham has mellowed out a great deal since then, but, still, not a part of Democratic history that they’re going to want to remind people about. Phoenix got cut, too, though the local Greyhound station would make an excellent place to talk about the merits of President Obama’s amnesty diktat. That leaves three finalists to host JackassFest 2016: New York City, Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio. One of these things is not like the others . . .

I’ve argued for years that political parties should hold their conventions in the city that best represents their policies. For Republicans, that would probably be somewhere in the Houston suburbs, or possibly San Diego, one of the few big U.S. cities where Republican mayors are not extinct. Or maybe Indian Wells, Calif., a gated citadel full of older white people fond of golf and low capital-gains taxes. The Libertarian party should hold its convention at the Boot Track Café in Loving County, Texas, the least populated place in the United States; the café is closed at the moment, but I am sure that they would open it up to give the Libertarian party a place where its members — both of them — can be lonely together.

The Democrats, if they had any remaining intellectual honesty, would hold their convention in Detroit. Democratic leadership, Democratic unions and the Democratic policies that empower them, Democrat-dominated school bureaucracies, Democrat-style law enforcement, Democratic levels of taxation and spending, the politics of protest and grievance in the classical Democratic mode — all of these have made Detroit what it is today: an unwholesome slop-pail of woe and degradation that does not seem to belong in North America, a craptastical crater groaning with misery, a city-shaped void in what once was the industrial soul of the nation. If you want to see the end point of Barack Obama’s shining path, visit Detroit.

My guess is that the Democrats do Columbus. The Republicans, for their sins, are going to be in Cleveland, and the 2016 presidential election will probably come down to Ohio and Florida, like the last few have. (Conventional wisdom aside, election scholars do not find parties more likely to win the states in which they host their nominating confabs, and may in fact do slightly worse than usual in them. With politicians, familiarity really does breed contempt.) There is not much to say about Columbus, Ohio. It’s the city that murdered Dimebag Darrell, and it revels in the title “third-largest metropolitan area in Ohio,” the corporate home of Big Lots, Inc. It’s the 40-degree day of U.S. cities, as the philosopher Stringer Bell might have put it.

But there’s a case to be made for New York City, too. Most important is that it would make things much more convenient for National Review. If you’ve never been to a party convention — lucky you — a little background: These things really are run by the parties, down to assigning various media outlets to certain hotels. The last time around, the Democrats assigned National Review a roadside crack-and-crack-whores place — not an exaggeration — on the wrongest side of the otherwise charming city of Charlotte. One reporter remarked that he “wouldn’t take a hooker” there. (“I would,” Roger Stone replied.) Do it in New York City, and those Weekly Standard chumps will be the ones at the Hotel Chlamydia up in Hunt’s Point.

Beyond my own convenience, there’s a policy case for having the Democrats convene in New York City. With the new Sandinista regime of Mayor Bill de Blasio under way, New York finally has its first Democratic mayor since the 1990s — and the city is falling apart. New York is once again the city where you get stabbed waiting on the subway at Grand Central, and the transit system itself is going literally (literally, Mr. Vice President!) off the rails. Shootings are up across the city — and up 31 percent in public housing. De Blasio’s first move as mayor was to ease up on the stop-and-frisk program directed at criminals and implement a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy for charter schools. Naturally, Mayor de Blasio’s next move is to ask for a big tax increase.

Then there’s Philadelphia. I am very fond of Philadelphia — it was very good for me during my years as a newspaper editor there and in the city’s suburbs. But Philly is a pretty good example of how Democrats misgovern cities, too: It is the home of some truly ugly racial politics, deeply dysfunctional schools, a couple of neighborhoods largely abandoned to crime, and shocking nepotism. My favorite example of how Democrats do it in Philly was a $1 million-a-year contract for airport services awarded to a firm owned by Milton Street, whose brother, John Street, was the mayor at the time. Notlim (that’s “Milton” backward) Services won a contract to do maintenance and repairs for baggage carousels in the Philadelphia airport, which apparently is a million-plus-per-annum proposition. Notlim Services had no background or experience maintaining baggage carousels. It also lacked other things that a business awarded a contract like that might be expected to have, e.g. employees. Milton Street’s main professional experience had been running a firm that specialized in the management and deployment of mobile distribution services for perishable goods — i.e., a hotdog vendor.

That sort of thing is hilarious to observe if you’re a comfortable, middle-class guy in the suburbs; if you’re a poor and vulnerable person in the city, Philadelphia-style misgovernance is not funny at all: The city’s murder rate is three times New York’s and even higher at the moment than murder-happy Chicago’s. It graduates barely half its high-school students, and black students drop out at twice the rate of whites. Its median household income is 30 percent less than the national average, and 26 percent of its people live in poverty. Which is to say, it’s more or less like most cities where Democrats have long enjoyed uncontested dominance.

On second thought, maybe the Democrats were too quick to write off Birmingham.

— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent at National Review.

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