What if you were entertaining bids for a convention that figured to be a big pep rally for a president seeking re-election and almost no city wanted your business?
And what if you are Charlotte, and by the tightest of margins — a bipartisan swing vote on your City Council to approve the bid, 6-5 — you were that city? You won, but did you?
That is what has played out these past couple of weeks. The Republican National Committee’s site selection group unanimously chose Charlotte from a field of one, and in 2020 Donald Trump likely will be renominated in a Democratic stronghold of a state where registered GOP voters are less than a third of the electorate and where, in 2012, Democrats held their love fest for Barack Obama.
Seven cities were sort of interested in the convention. Las Vegas, the perceived runner-up, had a bid from its state party to be a standby.
Charlotte won when its Democratic mayor made a pitch to an overwhelmingly Democratic City Council to put aside boiling partisanship and do what is economically right. She found that unanimity.
There are obvious advantages here. Officials estimated the Democrats boosted the area’s economy by $164 million. The GOP figures to increase that, given eight more years and Trump’s big-business bandwagon. And events such as this allow cities to find ways to pay for infrastructure improvements — think roads, light rail and amenities — that otherwise might be difficult.
So why wouldn’t Charlotte — or Atlanta or Orlando or Dallas or Denver or Phoenix — or any other city be piling on the love and promises to lure this event? Why did no one want this convention? Would Greensboro have wanted it?
First, let’s be clear: Greensboro has neither the facilities — the coliseum aside — nor the hotel rooms and amenities to accommodate the roughly 50,000 visitors who would attend. Give the place 20 years and maybe see if Baron Trump wants to bring his convention to town.
The issue here is not the dollars but the sense that Donald Trump’s polarizing approach to politics and society will draw not only his grass-roots supporters, the people who show up at his rallies, but also those who love to protest against him during this time of heightened incivility. Does any city want to prepare for such a potential eruption?
There are protests at every convention. But gathering, yelling and holding up signs is like a small-group meeting at church compared to what could happen. We have seen face-offs along the campaign trails, to be sure.
So could something ugly erupt in 2020? Such thoughts could be why the choice to pursue the RNC was one-city, one-vote.
Remember the outrage in Greensboro when the City Council, responding to the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February, considered canceling a gun show at the coliseum. Eventually that idea was dropped. The right thing was done, but people on both sides were convicted. Throw in the Trump factor, and you can imagine the hue and cry over such a choice.
Charlotte did pause in its bid for the RNC, then won easily. But did it? That is to be seen.
— News & Record of Greensboro