National convention

What would the Republican National Convention mean for Milwaukee?

In 2024, the city of Milwaukee could have a second chance to host a national political convention and reap the economic benefits that almost always come with such events. Nearly two years ago, the city’s convention dreams were dashed when, after Milwaukee won the chance to host the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the entire event went virtual, swallowed up by the pandemic. of COVID-19. Now the city is a leading candidate to host the Republican National Convention (RNC) along with another runner-up, Nashville, Tennessee.

If Milwaukee were chosen, hosting the convention would bring multiple dimensions of exposure. Not only would the city’s hotels, bars, and restaurants benefit from increased business, but Milwaukee, for a time, would be the center of national media attention. While still acting mayor in February, now-elect Mayor Cavalier Johnson outlined his congressional ambitions. “I want the eyeballs of the world to be on our city,” he said.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. (Picture | Isiah Holmes)

Although the DNC’s hosting experience proved disappointing, it also gave the city an edge. Preparing for the DNC took a lot of logistical planning, across multiple areas of city and county government. Often the resources that flow into convention host cities linger for years. “The city has done extensive planning for the Democratic National Convention in 2020, and these security plans, transportation plans, and housing plans all provide a solid foundation for planning a future major convention,” said Jeff Fleming, director. communications from the new mayor. Wisconsin Examiner.

Johnson is not alone in his enthusiasm. Christopher Bonds, a legislative aide to State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), noted in an email to the Wisconsin Examiner that Taylor “is EXCITED for the convention.” Bonds said, “The city will benefit economically and she encourages all national conventions to consider Milwaukee as their event location.” Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) also acknowledged the opportunity offered by hosting the RNC.

The march on the DNC in Milwaukee, Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
The march on the DNC in Milwaukee, Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

“Whenever Milwaukee has the chance to be highlighted on the national stage, we should take every opportunity to [show] that Wisconsin’s largest city is a great place to travel,” Bowen told the Examiner, adding that he looks forward to the nation learning that Milwaukee is a city of opportunity and hardworking citizens.

Still, Bowen says he understands how some people might have apprehensions about the kind of messages the RNC might broadcast from Milwaukee. Politics has only become more divisive since the 2020 election and protests that engulfed cities after high-profile police shootings. Many Republicans in Wisconsin still haven’t given up on the discredited belief that President Joe Biden shouldn’t have won and that the election was stolen from Trump through voter fraud.

Even in Milwaukee, some election commissioners have received threats and accusations of involvement in voter fraud. At the end of March, Claire Woodall-Vogg, the director of the Milwaukee Elections Commission, tweeted that “if MKE was hosting the RNC, you will find me working remotely out of state that week, lest I be hanged in the town square as some threatened him”. During the 2020 presidential election, Woodall-Vogg received voicemails containing these same threats. However, in subsequent statements to local media, Woodall-Vogg said the tweet was a joke. While she remains vigilant for herself and her staff, the commission’s director said she supports the RNC coming to Milwaukee. Flemming called the social media post a “failed attempt at humor. The administration didn’t find it amusing. Johnson has made it his primary goal to improve Milwaukee’s relationship with the state legislature. controlled by Republicans.

Protesters, activists and residents gather to march on the DNC in Milwaukee Wisconsin on August 20.  (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
Protesters, activists and residents gather to march on the DNC in Milwaukee Wisconsin on August 20. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Republican lawmakers also hammered home issues like criminal justice reform in Milwaukee, the city’s homicide rate and calls for police reform. Sometimes, even on the floor of the Assembly and the Senate, the debates on these subjects have become openly hostile. Meanwhile, some communities have seen a resurgence in white supremacist activity, organized around GOP pressure points, including the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, and denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump’s lingering influence over the party, Bowen believes, could “create a very rigorous debate.” I just hope we can have this debate civilly, when part of the discussion is really about disenfranchising and furthering the oppression of a number of people in this country, and right here in Wisconsin .

Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO) activist Sylvester Jackson worries about GOP pressure to create stricter cash bail policies in the wake of the Waukesha parade tragedy. In February, Republicans passed a proposed constitutional amendment, which must be put to voters in a statewide referendum, to achieve this. “If you look closely, Milwaukee is really fighting to have that convention there,” Jackson told the Examiner, “and it’s all about the money. They don’t care what effect it has on the black community, which the Republican Party continues to attack.

Jackson also says the economic benefits of the convention will stay in downtown Milwaukee. “It never trickles down to downtown where black people live,” he says. “You see the difference in the city center and in the suburbs.” As an example, Jackson points out that transit lines connecting downtown to the suburbs were cut, while the city spent millions on a downtown streetcar. “The convention isn’t going to help our community or any biased legislation that’s been thrust upon us,” Jackson says. “It’s just to give the city money that doesn’t end up in our community at the end of the day. So my thing is, we don’t need it.

Reverend Liz Theoharis addresses marchers in Madison at a Poor People's Campaign event.  (Picture | Isiah Holmes)
Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis speaks to Madison marchers at a Poor People’s Campaign event. (Picture | Isiah Holmes)

The Reverend Dr Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign also has concerns. Theoharis, who was born in Milwaukee, has lived in New York and Philadelphia where she has seen Democratic and Republican conventions come and go. “Homeless people are evicted,” Theoharis told the Examiner, “low-wage workers are brought in to somehow cover up the deep, underlying injustices of a place.” Theoharis noted that this is not isolated just for the RNC. In preparation for the DNC, “the SDF camps have been driven out… and then you have to listen to the platform and the program of the party that is meeting. And does it really take into account the issues that affect people? »

Theoharis worries the RNC is focusing on issues like wages, health care, the pandemic or other things important to the people of Milwaukee. “It seems very troubling,” said Theoharis, who fears the RNC is bringing the interests and perspectives of the wealthy to the city, especially as the party continues to entrench itself in Trump. “All of this should be unwelcome in a state that has a strong heritage of freedom fighters,” she said.

Bowen says he hopes Milwaukee and people on both sides of the aisle are open to debate. “Milwaukee is a city that reflects well on many parts of the country in its diversity, in its transition from industrial jobs to none. And a city like Milwaukee, a community like Milwaukee, should be showcased on the national stage,” said Bowen said “Because we really need people on this side of the aisle to see its value. And to see the value of people who want access to a better quality of life, including seizing the opportunities that the other communities get.

Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox