The Philadelphia Story

On February 7, I urged the Democratic National Committee to select Brooklyn, New York as the host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. In the piece, I suggested that Brooklyn’s diversity made the city an ideal choice, and that choosing either Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio would imply that the Democratic Party was again attempting to woo working-class whites instead of embracing the coalition that powered Barack Obama to two historic wins.

Many readers pointed out that Philadelphia is quite multi-ethnic in its own right, and that selecting the city would in fact signal the Democratic Party’s recognition of the power of diversity. Duncan Black also noted the flaws in my reasoning. I apologize for getting it wrong.

My assumptions about Philadelphia’s supposed lack of diversity are pretty embarrassing, as you might imagine. Frankly, I don’t travel often (have to keep the carbon footprint down!) and thus, I’ve never actually visited Philadelphia, only going through the city on an Acela ride to Washington, D.C. last year. I’m especially embarrassed to have suggested that selecting Philadelphia would imply an effort by Democrats to appeal to political reactionaries.

Cultural assumptions are a dangerous thing indeed. As some readers have noted, I grew up in Boston, another city far more diverse than commonly perceived. I’d probably be the first person to complain if someone who had never visited Boston wrote a piece suggesting that African-Americans are still being attacked on the city’s streets today with American flags, so I certainly understand why those more knowledgeable about the actual demographics of Philadelphia than I am would be upset by the implication that the city is full of Archie Bunkers.

Shooting off at the mouth first and thinking later is an occupational safety hazard in the pundit world. Assuming you know everything is another such hazard. It’s not a happy feeling to realize that you’ve slapped every resident of a proud American city in the face, hard. That’s what I did, and I’m sorry for it.

I apologize to the readers of the Washington Monthly, Duncan Black and especially the residents of Philadelphia. I hope I get the chance to actually visit your city one day—maybe at the convention next year?—and pay respect to those who live and work and strive every day to make it one of the best cities in America. However, please don’t get upset if I decide not to have a cheesesteak…I don’t eat meat!

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.