One thing obviously different inside the...


July 13, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

NEW YORK -- One thing obviously different inside the Democratic convention hall this year is the color scheme. The "watermelon pink" of four years ago in Atlanta has been replaced by "blood-in-the-streets red."

I haven't seen any actual blood in the streets, thanks to the fact that a newspaper thoughtfully published a map of Manhattan showing how to avoid that riot neighborhood.

Some Democrats opposed having the Democratic convention in New York, fearing that there might be violence. But Democratic National Chairman Ron Brown was raised here. Also, like his late father, he is close to New York Mayor David Dinkins, who wanted the convention. So Brown got it here, for personal and sentimental reasons.

In addition to the chairman and the mayor, a third New York City Democrat was something of a factor in the decision to come here. That is Gov. Mario Cuomo. In July 1990 when the city and the party signed the contract to hold the convention here, many people thought the governor would be the presidential nominee. What better place to nominate him to lead the party?

But, of course, as it has in every election year since Franklin D. Roosevelt's day, the party found its nominee elsewhere. (About as elsewhere as you can get, in fact.)

Now all Democrats -- New York City types and otherwise -- have their fingers crossed that more violence outside Madison Square Garden won't overshadow the goings on inside.

That could happen. It has. In 1968 in Chicago, television cameras covered as much news outside the convention center as inside. War protesters and cops were fighting, and blood literally flowed in the streets. Fighting was just as intense but less physical (I saw no actual blood) inside the convention hall.

The 1992 convention does not seem likely to have any bitter conflicts inside the hall. It is the most convivial gathering of Democrats since 1976, when right here in New York City Jimmy Carter was nominated, and happy days were here again: He was actually elected!

Four years later and back here again, he was renominated by a divided party and lost the election. That was the convention at which urban homelessness became a high visibility national issue, thanks to national coverage of the drifters and beggars in the immediate Madison Square Garden neighborhood.

There are not expected to be a lot of homeless people bothering Democrats and attracting camera crews this week. According to advocacy groups, the police have been and will step up "sweeping" the neighborhood of the homeless. It's a p.r. gesture to make visitors here and viewers and readers back home -- potential tourists -- think the city streets are safe, clean and pleasant for strolling.

This does not mean the Democrats are going to ignore the homeless. An honor guard of homeless veterans will present the colors to the convention tonight. They're bringing them in from out of town.

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