Aside from the standing ovation for Ilhan Omar, the worst and yet most predictable moment of the convention will be Hillary opening her speech with an awkward joke about how she hasn’t seen the state in awhile.
It will mark the first major-party convention in Milwaukee’s history, and it will be the first Midwestern convention for Democrats since 1996 in Chicago.
Milwaukee’s organizers accentuated the city’s Heartland location, political importance in a swing state and mild summer weather.
Recent Democratic history also may have helped Milwaukee’s bid.
In 2016, the party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, failed to campaign in Wisconsin during the general election and the state went to President Donald Trump.
Ed messaged me after the news broke to say this was a smart choice but that Philly or Detroit would have been smart too. I agree, although I’d swap in Pittsburgh instead of Philly if the goal is to try to drag western Pennsylvania back into the Democratic fold. You run into a problem with either of those choices, though: The 2016 Democratic convention was held in Philadelphia and it’d be strange to let the same state host it in consecutive cycles. The two other finalists that the DNC considered, Miami and Houston, are interesting choices as well, but Texas remains a very long shot for the party notwithstanding Trump’s middling popularity there and Beto O’Rourke’s near-upset of Ted Cruz. (I reserve the right to revisit the claim that Texas is a longshot if Beto himself is the Democratic nominee.) Miami makes more sense and might have been the pick if the state had tilted towards Andrew Gillum and/or Bill Nelson last November, I’m thinking, but as it is, Florida’s trending somewhat red. Not enough to remove it from the toss-up category next year but enough to make it not worth snubbing the midwest for.
Besides, Democrats don’t need Florida to beat Trump. If Hillary had won the state three years ago she still would have lost the election. The Democratic path to victory in 2020 is simple: Hold every state won by Clinton, which shouldn’t be hard, and restore the Rust Belt “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. That’s all they need, and that’s why Detroit also would have been an obvious choice. But Michigan doesn’t have the dubious honor that Wisconsin enjoys of never having received a visit from the Democratic nominee during the last cycle so choosing Milwaukee this time takes on a symbolic resonance not just for the state but for the region. We’ve neglected you. We’re sorry. It won’t happen again.
Milwaukee makes sense in another way that’s not getting as much play today as the Hillary angle. A century ago it was cutting-edge politically in its support for socialism. Voters there elected a socialist mayor and a majority-socialist city council in 1910, then sent another prominent socialist to Congress the following year. How Democrats handle this at the convention will be fascinating to watch, wanting to pander to the DSA faction on the one hand by leveraging Milwaukee’s socialist cred but not wanting to make Trump’s anti-socialist messaging in the general election any easier. Imagine Bernie Sanders accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the city that made “sewer socialism” famous while Hillary claps and strains to force her mouth into something resembling a smile.