Right now, the Democratic National Committee is mulling over the city in which the 2016 Democratic National Convention will be hosted. The cities still in contention are Birmingham, Cleveland, Columbus, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.
Birmingham and Phoenix shouldn’t even be considered if the Democrats are being realistic about their electoral chances in their host’s state. New York City has long been a bastion of big city liberalism, and it doesn’t make sense for the Democrats to host the convention in a state they will almost certainly carry in 2016.
Of the three remaining cities, none deliver more promise of an electoral repeat of 2012 than the city of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s location in southeast Pennsylvania primes it to be a perennial player in swing state politics. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, more than any of the other states that submitted 2016 bids sans New York. Discounting the electoral votes of the ten most competitive states in the country would give the Democrats a 217-191 electoral vote edge. That’s only a 26-point differential, and it could be overcome by one or two states. However, a Republican candidate has not won Pennsylvania since George H. W. Bush in 1988. President Obama won Pennsylvania by 5 points in 2012. Thus, Pennsylvania is a relatively safe state for Democrats, and tacking its 20 electoral votes onto the Democratic candidate’s tally would give them a 237-191 lead—a 46-point differential that would comfort Democrats and alarm Republicans as both parties run the table for the remaining nine states.
Much of the success of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is due to Philadelphia Democrats. Four out of five voters in Philadelphia are registered Democrats, and the city accounts for about an eighth of the voter turnout in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the country, and the percentage of Democratic vote captures has grown significantly over the past several presidential election cycles.
John Kerry won 80 percent of the vote in Philadelphia in 2004. In 2008, Barack Obama won 83 percent of Philadelphia votes. In 2012 increased his total to 85 percent. A central reason for this is the high turnout among black voters: African Americans have been a reliable Democratic constituency for decades, and in many Philadelphia wards 99 percent of the vote went to Obama.
While the other two candidates to host the DNC in 2016 may reside in an arguably more important state (since 1964 the winner of Ohio has won the presidency), neither has the population size that Philadelphia has and neither can run up a Democratic vote tally the way Philadelphia can.
Since 1936, Philadelphia has swung Democrat in every presidential election. The city has the political clout to secure a sizable victory for the Democrats if they appeal to the right audience. In the 2008 primaries, Barack Obama won Philadelphia County with 30 percentage points more than Hillary Clinton, a testament to the political power of North and West Philadelphia, both of which are predominantly black regions of the city. Philadelphia’s sizable black population is a staying force in local politics, and it would behoove the national Democrats to consider that as they decide where they will host the 2016 convention. There is considerable doubt that a non-black candidate will be able to retain the support or the numbers of the black vote that Obama earned. It is certainly not impossible for a white candidate to win a sizable amount of the black vote: Bill de Blasio won 96 percent of the black vote in New York. A non-black Democratic candidate could ideally win the black vote by a substantial margin, but, as the de Blasio case shows, it takes empathy and outreach. Where better to outreach to the necessary constituents than the largest city in the country with an African American mayor? The DNC has a chance to maintain Obama’s core constituency if they choose Philadelphia as the host city. Democrats want to maintain the strong African American voting bloc that has carried Obama far in his political career. Philadelphia is the right city to signal that they still care about the interests of inner city black voters.
Come 2016, the Democratic Party has the opportunity to elect two different candidates to President consecutively for the first time since 1948. They have built a national coalition of young and minority voters that they will need to depend on for years to come, as the shrinking white vote grows more and more conservative. In Philadelphia, they have an opportunity to take advantage of a young, minority city that holds significant political power in one of the most important states in American politics. The most sensible choice city to host the next Democratic convention should be the City of Brotherly Love.
Grynbaum, Michael M. “Promoting City’s Spirit, de Blasio Aims to Bring Democratic Convention to Brooklyn” The New York Times. 6 June 2014. Web.
Cillizza, Chris. “Democrats Stranglehold on the Electoral College in One GIF” The Washington Post. 6 June 2014. Web.
2008 General Election Philadelphia Election Commission. 2008. Web.
2012 General Election Philadelphia Election Commission. 2012. Web.
Hill, Lai and Seidman. “Vote was Astronomical for Obama in Some Philadelphia Wards” Philly.com. 9 November 2012. Web.
2008 Primary Election. Philadelphia Election Commission. 2008. Web.
Grynbaum, Michael M. “Many Black New Yorkers Are Seeing de Blasio’s Victory as Their Own”. The New York Times. 10 November 2013. Web.