July 08, 2008

Barack Obama At Invesco Field--History Or Fiasco?

That's a question that won't be definitively answered until at least after the DNC has been concluded, and most likely not until after the election itself.

But speculation is the stuff of which blogs are made . . .

Rampant backchannel speculation and vague sources (at least initially) talking about a possible venue switch of monumental proportions for Barack Obama's acceptance speech on August 28 were confirmed earlier today by Obama's campaign. Logistical, security, and fundraising questions that have so far hounded the city and the DNCC in recent weeks were dismissed in a Monday conference call with DNC chair Howard Dean and Obama campaign staff. Dean, Obama staffers, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and the U.S. Secret Service all believe they can pay for the event and tackle the logistical nightmare it represents--approximately $3 million extra. However, given the nearly 11th hour decision to change the venue (Coors Field was also briefly under consideration) and the DNCC's not exactly stellar record of performance, Denver residents and political observers (among others) will continue to call into question the city and host committee's ability to pull the event off smoothly. Traffic congestion and questions about the DNC's economic impact continue to be of concern to media types and regular Denver residents and businesses as well.

Then there's the MSM. Changing venues with so little lead time may cause the networks to give priority to the Invesco Field event and shortchange the rest of the convention schedule and Pepsi Center preparations in favor of focusing on the sheer Super Bowl-like spectacle that will likely be hyped over the next seven weeks. The MSM has already grumbled about accommodations during the convention (and threatening bad press), and were not pleased by the city's decision to place the Public Demonstration Zone in Parking Lot A of the Pepsi Center, right next to the media tents. If the DNC really does become more of a "coronation" of Obama--now that the path to the nomination has been cleared--then the more "mundane" convention events will be eschewed in favor of the main event. Media logistics and costs will no doubt dictate the final decision over prioritization of convention coverage.

DemConWatch (a lefty blog with good insider info) asserts that the real reason for the announcement Monday was to quell MSM complaints and ease concerns ahead of the rescheduled media walkthrough tomorrow that had been postponed last month, a rather reasonable supposition at this point, and more convincing than other, more political explanations. Convention preparations and Pepsi Center construction also, coincidentally, began Monday. They also have a few more media-related logistical questions for the Invesco Field shindig.

And the event itself? Will it rain on Obama's "super-sized arrogance"? Or will the open-air venue provide undeniably "stunning visuals" in spite of security concerns? Will the sight of tens of thousands of Americans screaming "Yes, we can" in unison be an inspiration and demonstrate the "change" that appears to be craved by the electorate, or a disquieting scene of unsavory "groupthink" and political theater that isn't very becoming in republic? At least one YouTuber has already invoked Godwin's Law (and taken a swipe at Recreate '68 in the process) with a very Nurembergian comparison. Of course it doesn't help that Obama promotes mandatory volunteerism, or a "civilian national security force."

More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, as plans for staging, admission, media participation, and decorations/embellishments (flyovers, fireworks) are released--giving Denver a better idea of what will happening in the largest outdoor venue in Colorado, and fueling even more blogospheric discussion. There won't be a repeat of the emptiness that occurred at the LA Coliseum in 1960 (extremely unlikely), but the increased possibility of attending an "historic" event will likely bring even more Obama supporters to Denver in hopes of snagging a ticket to the event or simply being in the immediate area--to say "I was in Denver." At the very least, more media coverage (and an altered protest zone set up in the vicinity of Invesco Field) might draw an even more sizeable contingent of media-seeking protestors, some of whom might attempt to infiltrate the stadium, a possibility that was formerly closed due to the stringent admission requirements at the tightly controlled Pepsi Center. And be sure to look for more helicopter flyovers and blimp-cams covering the mass of vehicles--are they green?--and people shuffling into Invesco Field, as the MSM announcers repeat the capacity of the stadium at least 1000 times.

It seems apparent that, cynicism aside, both Obama and his campaign advisors have determined that a "public" acceptance speech and subsequent rally (still tightly controlled but much more expansive) will more helpfully propel the campaign's perceived momentum and build on the Obama brand of "change." Any possible logistical hassles or negative public backlash have been ruled out or determined to be of little consequence. A public swell of support and positive post-convention bounce are clearly expected and, depending on coordination and positioning, down-ticket benefits as well.

Obama's speech will likely tap into MLK's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech that coincidentally took place on the same date, August 28. Direct comparisons to JFK's outdoor acceptance speech in 1960 also make use of the "change" element. It is interesting that a candidate so overtly in favor of "change" would so overtly channel two 1960's icons and their legacies. The question will be how closely the speech imitates or explicitly references those symbols and nostalgic memories, and how that imagery and rhetoric will play in the days and weeks following the DNC.

While this is still a recent development, it seems logical and even expected. As Obama gained traction and built momentum "breaking the mold" of Presidential aspirants, yet another predictable convention hardly seemed adequate. Convention protestor shenanigans aside, Obama's acceptance speech--for better or worse--will provide the iconic cap to a convention week Denver will not soon forget.

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