Previously on When Milwaukee And Major Political Conventions Mix

Remember when Milwaukee “hosted” the 2020 Democratic National Convention? Except that the thing ended up being 99.9% virtual due to the still-young COVID-19 pandemic, so Milwaukee didn’t really “host” anything at all? It looked like this (and the photo above):

Ugh. At least Colbert got a good laugh out of it.

Anyway, as you probably already know, Milwaukee is currently in the running to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. Like, really in the running. It’s between us and Nashville. A decision from the RNC folks is expected any day now.

Last week, the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved a framework contract “that provides accountability while moving the city closer to hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention.” That accountability includes a provision asking the RNC to fork over an unspecified chunk of cash to the City, to be used “for programs relating to housing, higher education and workforce development.” But even with that little pay-to-play wrinkle, the Common Council’s excitement couldn’t have been more clear.

“If we are selected to host the convention,” the Common Council said in a joint statement, “it will be a huge win-win for the city, and we will show the world what Milwaukee has to offer, and why we are a great destination for every reason and occasion.”

That sentiment was echoed by local tourist organizations and business leaders, including VISIT Milwaukee and restaurateur Omar Shaikh (3rd Street Market Hall, Carnevor). “If Milwaukee is selected to host the Republican National Convention, the city will benefit from $200 million in economic impact,” Shaikh wrote in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed. “It is not about red or blue. It is about the green that these major events bring to a city.”

But not everyone was/is thrilled with the idea of Milwaukee hosting the RNC. For starters, the whole “$200 million in economic impact” thing has been called into question by folks like Marquette University associate professor Phil Rocco. “That $200 million figure is almost certainly a mirage,” Rocco writes in a recent piece. “But because VISIT Milwaukee is a tourism bureau, not subject to public records laws, numbers like these become ‘stylized facts,’ black-boxed claims which gain the pretense of truth through repetition rather than genuine scrutiny. The high priests of the mega-event cult produce such figures through an imprecise pseudoscience whose internal logic remains one of the holiest mysteries of local government. Serious analyses of mega-events’ economic impacts on cities reveal a far murkier picture.”

Meanwhile, in another Journal Sentinel 19 op-ed, two retired Milwaukee Area Technical College faculty members implore Milwaukee leaders to “just say no to the Republican National Convention.” Why? Well, in addition to bringing up similar economic-impact questions, the authors argue…

The majority of Milwaukee’s citizens are Black and Latinx while the GOP has morphed into an extremist organization, home to violent racists, conspiracy mongers and insurrectionists. […]

Inviting a political party that caters to white supremacists like the Proud Boys, the Klan, and Oath Keepers will not benefit Milwaukee’s citizens. And what message does it send to our children that we are willing to sacrifice our civic values and self-respect to add largess to a few political consultants, national hotel chains, and Airbnb owners?

A recent statement from local groups Voces de la Frontera Action, Never Again is Now, SEIU Wisconsin State Council, Freedom Action Now, and BLOC goes even further:

We are appalled that the 13 members of the Milwaukee Common Council and Mayor Johnson are legitimizing and normalizing the contemporary Republican Party that has become a modern-day neo-fascist party inspired by Donald Trump’s unapologetic allegiance to white supremacist ideas. The Republican Party has declared war on our nation’s democracy. Republican Party leaders enabled and then excused a violent insurrection at our nation’s capital and are continuously working openly and aggressively to undermine our voting rights. Consider that a recent survey shows 66% of Republicans believe the “great replacement theory” that inspired the shooting in Buffalo, NY this May, as well as those in recent years in El Paso, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. Given these facts, how can our city’s leaders assure our community will be safe with the RNC in our city?

The Republican Party is not welcome in a majority people of color city with the largest number of immigrants and refugees in the state of Wisconsin. We do not want acts of racist violence against our community or our city turned into a militarized zone.

So…should Milwaukee host the 2024 Republican National Convention? The Recombobulation Area’s Dan Shafer answers that question with a “begrudging ‘yes,’ but a ‘yes’ nonetheless.”

A source tells The Recombobulation Area that if Milwaukee were to say no to the RNC, the city’s legislative priorities, including any agreement on a sales tax or shared revenue, are “dead in the water” and that the city’s “name will be poison in Madison more than it already is.” […]

At the end of the day, we need to be realists. The political reality of purple state politics demands that we find a way to work together. The city of Milwaukee choosing not to host the RNC in 2024 would do short-term damage to our local economy, missing out on a huge opportunity, and long-term damage to the city in a myriad of ways.

Our unsolicited and vaguely informed prediction? We’re totally going to get it. Some folks and businesses will benefit financially, but most won’t. Like it or not, it will be one big, glorious/awful, sure-to-be-enraging, never-a-dull-moment shit show. Want a global spotlight to finally shine down on Milwaukee? Here it comes.

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About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.