This is Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention, and boy oh boy, is it boring. Ain’t nothing going on. Feel free to drive by and see for yourself. There are street closures, which is something I guess, and a couple protests are planned, but that’s it. Maybe if you walk into the Wisconsin Center, someone’ll be like, “Hey, you, you’re not a political person. Get out of here.” Beyond that, the DNC has been to Milwaukee what deodorant has been to my armpits — pretty much useless.
But, for the sake of our grief, we figured to kick off this week, we’d look back for a moment at what could have been.
First off, the weekend before the DNC would have been bananas. About 50,000 people were projected to hit Milwaukee. That’s about 11% of Milwaukee’s actual population. And there would have been rich people, too, with alcohol problems and expendable income. That would have meant that this past week, all our hotels and restaurants would have been overflowing. Airbnb owners would have been raking in the cash money renting out their homes. It would have been a windfall. And then, starting today, these people would have been raring for booze and food and more booze every night, drumming up tons of business and ramping the MKE nightlife up to 11.
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The economic boon for small businesses, local brands, and, say, city magazines would have been phenomenal. And the opportunity for political action would have been prime. With tons of local groups around the city advocating for Milwaukee issues, there would have been ample opportunity to get involved, plan events, and have their voices heard.
Plus, a good chunk of those 50,000 newbies would have been reporters. You would have had your CNNs and your Fox News and your New York Times scrambling around. They definitely would have tried to talk to Milwaukeeans about what it’s like to live in Wisconsin and be a rust belt swing state person, and yeah that part probably would have been condescending, but the other media stuff — where they film our city, show off our cultural offerings, our art, Fiserv Forum, etc. — would have been damn cool.
Personally, I was planning to sleep in the Milwaukee Magazine offices the entire week to avoid what would have surely been a hellish commute. I would wake at the crack of dawn, brew up some rancid office coffee and get ready to report. Some folks, namely this guy George who talks to me from the sewer drain down my block, call me, “The King of Kenosha,” but for that week, I would have been “The King of Milwaukee,” devoting my every waking minute to writing about the tens of thousands of happenings occurring on every corner. There would have been celebrity sightings, major protests, public art, and probably some awesome stuff my pandemic-rattled mind can’t even conceptualize right now, and I would have been proud to do my part to put Milwaukee at center stage.
Now, my goals this week are to beat The Last of Us Part II on my Playstation for the third time, drink more water, and maybe, if I’m really feeling it, clean up some old receipts that are in the back of car. And I think most of us feel the same.
The DNC went from a real, tangible win for Milwaukee to a vague nothing. There’s nothing left but speeches, and the speeches always sucked — unless you’re really into listening to politicians talk, in which case … I do not understand you — and now, even the sucky speeches are essentially just YouTube videos and Zoom calls, which will surely be beset by technical difficulties. Most of the action will now be in the form of pundits and talking heads in D.C. and New York debating what was said in these crappy YouTube speeches and BSing about whether or not it translates to votes come November. It has nothing to do with the “host city.” We’ve become irrelevant.
And guess what? To add a little salt to the wound, it’s looking like we got ourselves a week full of sunshine and mid-70s temperatures. Milwaukee would have been absolutely picturesque for the DNC, a definitive chance to shed the snowy late-industrial decay image that’s haunted us for way, way too long now. Some might say the sunshine on the empty streets is the laughter of a cruel God. Others might say it’s sunshine.
Either way, this week is going to be a slow slog, as we watch Milwaukee’s latest primetime shot pass us by.
Now there’s a thing politicians like to do, and it’s tie their stupid and often half-made-up life stories into their speeches to make you think that they’re human beings. It’s an efficient way to wrap things up.
Actually, it reminds me of back when I played high school football. One of the defensive linemen, who ran somewhere in the upper 200s weight-wise, used to absolutely demolish people in tackling drills, and if anyone started whining about how hard he hit them, he’d grunt: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Which was kinda dumb, but he was huge and scary so everyone listened.
Well, one day we had a pretty big game, one that would decide our playoff future, and on a crucial play, this lineman got cracked in the face, hard, by a couple of guards who pancaked him, while their running back ran over his limp body, and went on to score a touchdown. The lineman was brought limping to the sidelines after the play, and he peeled off his helmet to reveal blood cascading from his nose across half his face, bruises across his mouth, his eyes very nearly pointing in different directions.
One of the wide receivers, a little 140-pound kid, looked up at the lineman with the unmistakable smirk of the aggrieved little man and began to speak, “Hey. You…”
Before he could say anything, the lineman interrupted with a furious, resigned growl, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
And he wiped the blood from his face and went back out to play another down.
That’s about how I feel about Milwaukee right now. We preach a certain Midwest strength and resilience, and if we’re going to let a global pandemic and a stolen convention sap it, then we shouldn’t preach it in the first place. So let this be the last word of complaint about the DNC. We’re moving on — we got what we got and we’re not gonna get upset.