Commentary: DNC should return to Milwaukee in 2024

The announcement Wednesday that the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee will be scaled down to a mostly virtual event broadcast live from here and other locations across the country was extremely disappointing, but certainly not surprising.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in America, each day it became increasingly clear that the DNC Milwaukee thought it was getting was not going to occur. The virus continues to spread throughout the United States. There is no way bringing tens of thousands of people from across the country to gather in one place in close proximity was going to receive the blessing from public health officials and experts. Postponing the event from July to August only delayed the inevitable.

So, DNC organizers had no choice but to dramatically alter plans for the 2020 convention. Joe Biden is still expected to come to Milwaukee to accept the nomination as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, but it’s unclear who else will be here. All indications are that very few will be coming. State delegations have been told to stay home and the event will be held at the Wisconsin Center instead of Fiserv Forum.

That is a huge contrast to what was anticipated. The DNC was originally expected to bring 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee and make a $200 million economic impact on the region.

Even more significant is the national and international media attention and prestige that Milwaukee is missing out on. Hosting a major political party’s convention is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a city of Milwaukee’s size. It was a chance for Milwaukee to make a statement to the world about its revitalization and what makes this a great place to live, work and play. Yes, Milwaukee’s flaws would have been on full display as well, but the attention from the DNC would have put Milwaukee on the map as a major city unlike any event has in its history.

Simply put, the fact that the DNC in Milwaukee will be but a shell of what we were anticipating is absolutely devastating to this community.

So now what? Certainly, the DNC is focused on pulling off a virtual convention and on backing the Biden campaign.

But what about Milwaukee? Gary Witt, the chief executive officer of Pabst Theater Group, was perhaps the first prominent local individual to publicly state that the DNC should return to Milwaukee in 2024. That really is the only way to make up for this lost opportunity for the city.

The city’s preparations for the 2020 DNC would give it a great head start in planning for 2024. The political dynamics that made Milwaukee so attractive for the convention, including Wisconsin’s status as a swing state and the Democratic Party’s need to connect with the Heartland of America, will still be the case in 2024.

The DNC needs to come back to Milwaukee in 2024. Make that announcement ASAP.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.