March 30, 2008

Titanic Battle Rages On As Democrats Race Toward DNC

No, not Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. An identity battle.

“The Democratic Wild West at Denver”//Edward Windsor Kemble//Harper's Weekly//July 4, 1908, pp. 18-19

It seems that Democrats can't quite decide just exactly how the Democratic National Convention host city should be marketed:
How to portray the West?

For a party hoping to pick up the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Denver's selection as host of the 2008 Democratic National Convention offers plenty of positives. But focusing on Old West symbols to appeal to rural voters risks alienating the many metro-area residents who are more at home on a bicycle or a scooter than on a horse riding the range.

"Yes, I sense a tension," said Mark Squier, the producer responsible for crafting the political messages displayed inside the Pepsi Center, where the convention is to be held. "It's going to be a bit of a tightrope walk, balancing off the new and the old of the West."

A crystallizing example of the tension occurred this month in a heated, behind-the-scenes dispute between officials with Denver's host committee — the locals responsible for bringing the convention to town — and the major sponsor of the event's biggest party, the so-called Media Welcoming Party.

Mindful of the power of Old West symbols, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver wanted to stage an exhibition rodeo during the party. U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, a ranch owner from the San Luis Valley usually seen in boots and a white Stetson, wanted a cattle-drive parade like the one that begins the annual National Western Stock Show.

William Dean Singleton, publisher of The Denver Post and chief executive of MediaNews Group Inc., one of the nation's largest newspaper chains, threatened to pull his financial support from the media party, saying he didn't want the media's first impression of Denver to be that of a "cow town," several sources familiar with the dispute confirmed.
And I thought that the Democrats had bigger problems to be worried about.

I guess not.

Besides, Westword has been using a cow on its annual "Best of Denver" issue for years.

When Howard Dean led the call for naming Denver the site of 2008's DNC, it was with an eye to repositioning the Democrat's "brand"--something distinct and in-touch with voters inside the more "metropolitan" coasts--and not a simple rehash of East and Left-coast liberalism or its associated imagery. This was to be the opportunity for choosing a candidate at the foot of those "purple mountains'majesty" in an increasingly "purple" state.

When the local hosting committee can't agree on what "message" will be conveyed--how the host city will be framed from a marketing viewpoint to the residents of that same city--one detects that like their rival candidates' struggle for the nomination, there is a battle raging within the party at a much deeper level, something they don't want to admit. Nice to see that it is not just the Republicans who are experiencing a bit of an identity crisis.

As we can see from the cartoon nearly a century ago, not much has changed in the way of perceptions in the 100 years since the city last hosted the Democrats' nominating convention. Denver may still be a "cow town" in many ways, but she won't be a one-trick pony.

Drunkablog has a similar take, and notes that Recreate '68 may do some "branding" all on its own.

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