Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

Why Convention Goers Are Looking Past the Bad “Optics”
Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 5 2012 7:19 PM

Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

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Democrats are having too much fun to worry about rain and controversy.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Sasha and John,

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

That's a great observation about the rainbow-ification of the convention. The proud references to gay rights and contraception are a big move away from the post-1988, DLC'd Democratic Conventions, aren't they? The difference seems to be that Democrats now think they win when they needle Republicans on gay marriage or abortion. When I ran into Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick earlier today, another reporter asked him where the pride had come from. "I didn't mention it because it's a political winner," he said. "I mentioned it because it's commensurate with our values in this country." In other words, yes—it’s good politics.

I think the conventioneers are loving it. The "big" news this morning was that the final night of events would be crammed into the too-small Time Warner Center instead of the too-large Bank of America Stadium. Those months of jokes about the stadium's name, hundreds of thousands of dollars in prep, tens of thousands of "community" tickets, probably some fireworks—all wasted. 

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The "optics" of this are terrible. The word optics makes me want to climb a rusty ladder and jump off into a bag of in-heat tarantulas—but I agree. Still, the delegates are awfully brave-faced about it. A lot of it has to do with those social issue rah-rahs that Sasha was talking about. There are other reasons. One delegate told me he'd be happy to avoid yet more of the humidity he's had to endure all week, from security gate to bus to security gate. DuBose Porter, the former Georgia House minority leader, told me he "felt bad for the president" and bad for people in his own state who were hoping to bus up and watch it. "They'd come even if there's some way for them to view it nearby, in different rooms. We've got hotel ballrooms, right?" We do.

The weather-change story is just one of today's perfect, frothy convention distractions. The other one is the ongoing epic battle over how the wording on the platform's Israel sections changed from 2008—how it has been watered down and no longer mentions Hamas or Jerusalem. Neither story will affect more than a few thousand people. But here's what amazes me. Both came as total surprises in a city currently occupied by thousands of reporters. There was no great scramble for either story. The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper noticed the platform story, and CNN's Jessica Yellin got the drop on the news that delegates would return to vote on new language. Like I said, neither story is going to win a Pulitzer. But what a news wormhole we're working in.

Dave

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.