CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats here fired an opening shot at Republicans as they previewed this week’s convention, insisting that their confab will not just pay lip service to diversity and inclusion but would live and breathe it in every way.
The Republican convention in Tampa revealed a deep bench of talented women and minority leaders, many of whom were given prime speaking slots. But the delegates and convention-goers were overwhelmingly white (despite high-profile speeches from Condoleezza Rice, Mia Love and Artur Davis, for example, only 2 percent of actual delegates at the RNC were black), a fact that the Democratic convention organizers in Charlotte pointed out several times as they detailed the week ahead in a press conference Monday.
Declaring Democrats the “party of openness,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chairman, said this convention “will be the most diverse in history, and we’re very proud of that. You’ll see people from every walk of life: rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Asian, Christians, Jews, Muslims … we’re all here celebrating this great vision of ours.”
Twenty-seven percent of Democratic delegates are black (up from 24 percent in 2008), and 50 percent are women, according to Alice Germond, the Democratic National Committee secretary.
“This is truly the most diverse, the most open, the most transparent, the most exciting convention we’re about to undertake,” Germond told reporters. “It is big, it is bold, it is beautiful, it is America.”
Convention organizers said they worked hard to project a message of inclusiveness by opening caucus meetings and other events to the public, holding an open family event on Monday with performers and activities, and by creating a “9-3-1” program in which local residents can volunteer for nine hours in three shifts in order to earn one ticket to watch President Obama accept his party’s nomination Thursday night at Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium, home of the NFL’s Panthers.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said engaging the community during the convention would help the party spread its reach throughout the South. “We’re thrilled to have our party fighting for the South, it’s a very important statement for us to make as a party,” he said at the press conference.
Foxx said that while the race for North Carolina will be incredibly tight, he believes the strategy behind holding the convention in Charlotte will help move the lever in Obama’s favor.
“When you come into the South, everyone in the South is part of a convention like this. There’s also a ripple effect. We border Virginia … North Carolina and Virginia are going to be states to watch in this election. “
Democrats also chided Republicans over their convention platform and a process they said was conducted in secret, and insisted that their platform would be debated in public and would be a “reflection of our values.” “We’re doing things a little different than the Republicans. A lot more delegates, Latino delegates, African Americans, women. In addition to having very prominent roles like the keynote speaker, and in my case chairing the convention, you’ll also see that our platform reflects our values,” Villaraigosa said. He listed comprehensive immigration reform, benefits for Latinos and minority citizens within the Affordable Care Act and reforms to student loans as elements of the platform that would be heavily touted by the party.
“The face of our party will reflect the values of our party,” he said.