Saturday, March 16, 2019

Convening in Milwaukee

The Democratic party has decided to hold its July 2020 National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I suppose that the location of a party's national nominating convention is a matter of major concern mainly to the lucky community which presumably hopes to benefit from the convention's presence, and I'd be surprised if a convention's location sways many votes. (Of course, it concerns the delegates and others who have to travel and spend some time there. I can still recall a certain reporter complaining on TV about Kansas City when it was the site of the Republican convention back in 1976.)

I lived in Milwaukee for four years starting in the late 1970s, and my memory of it is as a rather nice midwestern, lakeside city with a good bus system. Had I had more of a life beyond my work, I would probably have appreciated the city even more. My memories of Milwaukee are mainly positive, but also irrelevant, since I haven't been back there in almost four decades, during which undoubtedly much has changed.

Highlighting the city's diversity and Wisconsin's past as a progressive, pro-labor state, the Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez has been cited as claiming that the party's decision to hold the party's  2020 convention in Milwaukee reflects its values. It is obviously also an effort to reclaim the midwest for the Democrats after the unexpected loss in 2016. “The Democratic Party has again become an every ZIP code party,” Perez said. “We’re listening to people in every corner of the country.”
On the other hand, Brookings Fellow William Frey suggested that, in choosing Milwaukee over Houston and Miami, Democrats "appealed to the base of the party: a largely white Midwestern electorate that stood by them in every presidential election from the 1990s until 2012-though not 2016. They chose the familiar past, over the present and the future."

Both those comments illustrate the dilemma that haunts the Democratic party on the eve of the 2020 election - whether it is possible (and desirable) to reconnect with the party's traditional working-class base and whether that will tip the electoral scale in their favor as happened in reverse last time, or whether it is possible (and desirable) to focus on the party's presumed demographic future (minorities, young people, etc.) and whether those constituencies can turn out in sufficient numbers to counterbalance the loss of the older, traditional constituencies. How this dilemma will play out in the primaries, at the convention, and in the general election may well determine not only who becomes president in 2021 but the alignment of our two political parties for the foreseeable future

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