In stark contrast to the Republican National Convention's hate fueled and reactionary rhetoric, party disillusionment, and fear laden anxiety over potential violence in Cleveland, Philadelphia's DNC was one fueled solely by passion from all points of view, and left the stage at the Wells Fargo Center, Center City, and Broad Street littered with optimism and insight.
The Democrats did good. But Philadelphia did even better. As politicians returned to Washington, our elected nominees went on to campaign in Harrisburg and Ohio, and the national media returned to their own cities, the unsung heroes of the DNC are undoubtedly Philadelphia's Men and Women in Blue.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross said it best, "If you go in like you are preparing for a fight, that's what you'll get." A simple message that would be best heeded throughout the rest of the country. We didn't see walls of Men in Black, assault rifles, military vehicles, and intimidation. We saw our servants doing what they were trained to do: assisting, protecting, all with a smile that said "Welcome to Philadelphia."
It's hard to say if the same would be the case had the RNC been held here. The Republican campaign is far more contentious, and insane. But that doesn't matter. Last week's convention was the complete opposite of 2000's riotous one, and all that matters is we pulled it off and looked good doing it.
Of course last week wouldn't be over without a critique of it all, and plenty of media outlets - both local and national - have both praised us and called out our faults.
From the start, social media erupted with the expected knee-jerk Philly-hate. We're used to that. In a way, the national press's love-hate relationship with Philadelphia is a compliment to our city. Unlike more depressed cities, Cleveland is a good example, Philadelphia is large enough and powerful enough to be used as a punching bag. Kicking Detroit makes a reporter look like a bully. Kicking Philadelphia just makes them feel better about their problems back home. We can take it, and they know that.
The criticisms were largely, if not exclusively, irrational. There were long lines of traffic getting in and out of the Wells Fargo Center. SEPTA's token fare system was dubbed "quaint." There weren't enough Ubers. And it was hot.
I shouldn't have to delve into the hypocritical irony of Left leaning delegates driving and seeking out cabs a block from a subway stop while snubbing one of the most expansive rail systems in the country. But I'll touch on it:
"CARBON FOOTPRINT!" "GLOBAL WARMING!" "Oh, hey, did you call an Uber?"
SEPTA was faced with the ultimate Catch 22. Show off a subway system a lot of Americans don't know exists while worrying how many riders will call out the odoriferous Broad Street Line. As if New York's trains smell like potpourri or the Washington Metro's cold Brutalism looks like something this side of a Pyongyang wet dream. SEPTA was prepared despite losing its fleet of Silverliner V trains, but probably relieved that the system wasn't overwhelmed.
And the weather. It was hot. It stormed. And people shook their fists at the skyline, smartphone in hand, and Tweeted their ire at our city. If I could control the weather I would have, but only if social media hadn't been such a dick about it. Karma unleashed one last thunderstorm on Thursday night to wash away the hostility, offering an unseasonably autumnal Friday morning peaceful and quiet.
If last week taught me anything, it was that my two and a half years inside the Beltway were two and a half too many.
I may not be one of Philadelphia's native sons, but I'm local. Even with fifteen years under my belt and roots across the city and the region, I know don't need to be here that long to get it. We're urban, but not conventionally urban.
We're not in a hurry. We don't like being told what to do. And I know it doesn't always show, but we really don't like other people messing with our stuff. But despite our gruff stereotype, we're also extremely likable when you're not looking for the traditionally harried pace of an American metropolis. We smile at strangers. We hold doors. And we love it when visitors appreciate our hidden treasures.
After the pains of the DNC's arrival began to settle, these gestures are what America began to appreciate about Philadelphia. We welcomed visitors to the city, not just in hotels and on tour busses, but on the streets. For some reason a city notorious for expecting the worst was brimming with quizzical excitement over the arrival of the DNC. Perhaps some of our anxieties have been quelled after last year's uneventful Papal Visit. Perhaps Philadelphia's voice is being passed on to a more optimistic generation. Or perhaps we are finally beginning to acknowledge our self-worth as an influential American city.
I prefer to indulge in the latter. We are still Philadelphia. Whether we're today's 1.5 million, 1950's 2 million, or 3 million in fifty years, we never have and never will function as a big city. We are a city taken care of by and for itself, and our leaders are accessible and as chatty on the street as a neighbor.
When visitors arrive expecting the same red carpet they find elsewhere, this throws them for a loop. We want visitors, but we accommodate our own first. This doesn't just set us apart from tourism driven comparisons like New York or Washington, it also sets us apart from cities like the RNC's host, Cleveland.
If delegates, the media, and visitors had any problems with Philadelphia's ability to host the DNC, it was with the fact that we are a working city with a working core, and both are growing. Center City and South Philadelphia can't be entirely upended to accommodate every creature comfort of our visitors. When any one of the media dipshits said Cleveland was a better host, what they meant was that Cleveland's downtown is dead, and a convention can be given carte blanche.
That's certainly not to say we're incapable or failed, but that some visitors failed to recognize the everyday functional prowess of Philadelphia. Instead of expecting to be faced with the same headaches they'd find in New York or Chicago, they expected a city that could serve as a blank slate for every vice they needed. They were simply lazy and uninformed. Philadelphia is a big deal, and some had no idea.
Still, despite some derogatory comments from the media and visitors, we succeeded. The true failures in past events have been put to rest. History won't remember the Tweets, but a DNC and a Philadelphia full of peaceful protests, brilliant speeches, and a police force that worked with the convention and all attendees, not against them.
In the end, history will remember two things: key speakers and the city's skyline. Visitors, lobbyists, pundits, and Beltway Lobotomites will all be quickly forgotten, buried beneath the heap of the internet and tomorrow's next story.
To us, some visitors may have been the world's worst houseguests. They showed up three days early, unannounced. They spent a week bitching about the house we just renovated. And I think one wiped his ass on our fine linens before clogging up the toilet, only to leave brandishing a middle finger.
To those select few, I offer our collective "Fuck You."
But they were a very select few. In the end, praise far outweighed the criticism, something Philadelphia is just getting used to. Al Roker tried scrapple. Mo Rocca ate a cheesesteak. And Ed Rendell attributed words to Philadelphia that could only describe America's Shangri-La.
We did it. Be proud. Now go back to doing what makes Philadelphia the best city in the world: work hard, be real, and don't a shit what anyone else says about you.