Let’s not sugarcoat it — this situation sucks. Milwaukee’s DNC was supposed to be our big chance to show off the city on a national scale, get a huge economic boom and prove that we’re more than beer and cheese. Instead, it’s a glorified Zoom call where Milwaukee is mentioned just enough to be the butt of some lazy jokes (thanks, Colbert).
But sitting around and moping won’t make us feel any better about it, so let’s take a closer look at the story of our DNC to find the bright side.
For starters, we were chosen to host the DNC. It may not feel like it anymore, but Milwaukee still has the honor of being 2020’s DNC city, and for the past year and a half since it was announced we’ve been in a national spotlight. Airbnb named Milwaukee the No. 1 destination to visit in 2020 and reporters have been scoping out our city since the announcement. Milwaukee finally got the recognition it deserved as a both a cultural and political powerhouse — not to the extent we were hoping, maybe, but some attention is better than none.
Plus, if our convention had come to fruition, Milwaukee was more than up to the challenge of hosting. Before the world turned into a dumpster fire, we were already prepping, with our officials coordinating a massive security effort, our businesses investing thousands into new ventures, our guest rooms converting to Airbnbs en masse in anticipation of 50,000 visitors. Anyone who doubted that Milwaukee could handle an event of this scale were either slack-jawed or not paying attention. Then, well, dumpster met fire. The world was hit with a pandemic, and as the months went on, Milwaukee’s DNC adapted.
In a way, Milwaukee and all of its disappointed citizens became martyrs, none more than our business owners who were cheated of an expected $200 million economic boost. A blow like that shouldn’t be trivialized. Beyond a loss of spirit, such a major loss of income and return on investment can be devastating to a small business. But it’s a pandemic, and the sacrifice was for Milwaukee’s health.
Though of course we were excited to have thousands of people experience Milwaukee for the first time, that was without COVID-19. So far, Wisconsin’s been pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of cases per capita, but throw 50,000 guests from across the country into the mix? We’d shoot up in the rankings, leaving our citizens infected (or worse) and becoming the punchline of a whole new joke. Having the DNC go virtual was nobody’s first choice, but it’s certainly preferable to hosting a full-scale event in the middle of a pandemic.
So where does that leave Milwaukee? What do we have to be proud of or excited about? Well, we get a mention every so often on the broadcast. Our politicians like Gwen Moore and Mandela Barnes get a chance to speak on a national platform (and blow up on Twitter in the process). And though this DNC will live on in infamy, at least it’ll live on. It’s collecting firsts left and right: the first-ever virtual DNC, the first DNC to occur during a pandemic, the first DNC to (technically) be held in Milwaukee.
The moral of the story: take pride in what we have left of our DNC. It’s not the event we were hoping for, but this convention is one for the history books, and it’ll always be Milwaukee’s.