One of these days one or both of the major U.S. political parties will find a way to ditch the atavistic spectacle of national political conventions. But for the time being, they seem stuck with the anachronistic habit of descending quadrennially on some poor city with delegates, alternates, donors, assorted straphangers, and of course thousands of media folk to cover nothing of substance. The security headaches alone make hosting one of these giant hot-air balloons a dubious proposition, not to mention the infrastructure costs, the traffic disruptions, and the local fund-raising expectations.
But when you’re talking about the recoronation of the candidacy of the 45th president of the United States, the usual concerns are significantly magnified, particularly for the usually Democratic big-city leaders who view association with Trump as a moral as well as a political risk. After all, Cleveland successfully bid for the 2016 GOP convention figuring that event would launch the general-election campaign of some conventional schlub like Jeb Bush, not the second coming of Attila the Hun. So the GOP hasn’t exactly been rushed with suitors for the next event, as Adam Raymond explained in May:
Among the cities to back away from the RNC are Philadelphia, Nashville, and San Antonio, where the mayor explained in a recent op-ed that “national political conventions aren’t the great deal for cities that the parties and their advocates want us to believe.” But it wasn’t just a financial decision. In a statement, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said that inviting the RNC to San Antonio would be at odds with the city’s dedication to “cultural inclusion.”
Las Vegas was in the running for the convention, but local Republican officials, who were pushing the bid, appear to have been overruled by the city’s Convention and Visitors Authority.
That leaves Charlotte, which hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention, as the only city publicly pursuing the convention
Today the Republican National Committee hastily took up Charlotte on its offer before it evaporated. That nearly happened earlier this week, when protestors flooded a meeting of the Charlotte City Council, which subsequently approved a tentative contract to host the convention by a narrow 6-5 vote. But as the New York Times reports, it’s not like the host city is united or excited about what they are undertaking:
Even with the City Council’s formal support — and the support of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which praised the vote on Friday — Charlotte’s embrace of the convention is tentative at best. Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat who supported the bid, said she would not offer a welcome address.
Totally aside from the global protest magnet that Trump and his MAGA folk will represent, North Carolina is a state with its own red-hot polarized politics, and one of the most experienced and media-savvy progressive protest infrastructures anywhere. A Trump convention in the Tar Heel State is definitely going to create a big platform for Reverend William Barber II of the Moral Mondays Movement and the revived Poor People’s Campaign, among many others. Any prospect of Charlotte being able to display itself as a laid-back Deep South “y’all come” tourist paradise may be limited.
Charlotte and the GOP have a couple of years to figure out how to manage the situation they have jointly embraced. The odds are not great that the intended star of the show will become less controversial between now and then.