CHARLOTTE — Democrats have tried to make inclusion their guiding principle in Charlotte, declaring the festivities here the most “open” in convention history.
The convention so far has certainly shown the party is a rich tapestry of races, creeds and views — drawing a contrast with the more homogenous Republican gathering. But on the goal of total inclusiveness, they’ve come up short on occasion.
The diversity message is coming through loud and clear in Charlotte. Democrats are proudly uniting behind plans to expand opportunity to immigrants and expand women’s health coverage.
On Wednesday, the party went a step further, putting the first undocumented immigrant ever to take the stage at a political convention on the Charlotte podium to thank Obama for his support of the DREAM Act. Such moves grow the party and solidify its lead among Hispanic voters, women and other minority groups.
But despite striving for openness, Democrats have sometimes fallen short. On Wednesday evening — just as the Democrats’ night of shining stars like Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton was kicking off — the convention briefly descended into chaos. Democratic leaders, reportedly led by Obama, scrambled to add the word “God” and support for Jerusalem as the Israeli capital into the platform after Republicans condemned Democrats and Obama.
Message discipline quickly broke down, and Democrats in the hall publicly shouted their disdain for the platform amendments. Convention Chairman Antonio Villariagosa was caught flat-footed and led the room through a string of awkward voice votes before finally declaring the platform passed, a move that prompted booing.
Republicans pounded on that one. “THEY BOOED PUTTING GOD BACK!” blared the Drudge Report. Democratic leaders floundered trying to explain the unexpected moment. Leaders of the party canceled scheduled TV interviews and tried to put the whole thing to bed. (That process was probably made easier by Bill Clinton’s rousing 45-minute address to close out the night.)
Thursday offers more potential pitfalls for Democrats eager to show a flawless convention. The organizing committee canceled Obama’s scheduled address to the 75,000-plus seat Bank of America Stadium, citing weather concerns. That led to some ribbing from Republicans (who say Obama’s campaign was afraid of being caught with empty seats) but also some real logistical problems that could make for bad TV Thursday night as thousands of Obama supporters who expected to see Obama try to find some place to go. Convention organizers said the 65,000 community members and volunteers who planned to watch Obama’s address at the stadium would be turned away.
There was a preview of the potential problems the venue change might cause on Wednesday, as convention attendees tried to enter the hall ahead of Clinton’s speech. The fire marshal briefly shut the doors, leaving thousands frustrated and fuming outside. One plugged-in member of the crowd told TPM the fire marshal trapped some big names outside the building.
“We were faced with a massive line filled with key White House and Obama campaign staff who also couldn’t get in,” the source said. If the Democrats can’t find away to avoid scenes like that Thursday, they could be in for some negative headlines on the night they want to make everything about Obama.