In 2016, Wisconsin handed its 10 electoral votes to President Donald Trump, helping him win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This was the first time that a Republican presidential candidate won the state in 30 years. The last Republican president that Wisconsin helped elect was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Flash forward to today, and Milwaukee was just chosen to host the Democratic National Convention in 2020. Despite other attractive options like Miami and Houston, the Democratic party decided to come to Wisconsin, the land of beer and cheese.
There are many reasons why Milwaukee was chosen, but on a practical note, Miami had the oldest arena among the finalist cities, while Milwaukee has the newly-built Fiserv Forum. Houston was a concern for Democrats advocating for environmental reform, as the city depends on oil and gas, and the hip and trendy Denver dropped out after making the top four considered cities. This left Milwaukee as the only logical choice.
Perhaps another obvious reason for choosing to host the DNC in Wisconsin was to make up for what happened in 2016. After losing the state’s Democratic primary to Bernie Sanders, Clinton did not visit Wisconsin again before losing the state to Trump in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, Wisconsin’s surprising win for Republicans is what many consider to be a vital turning point to Trump’s win in the Electoral College.
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After visiting Madison a few weeks ago, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called out Clinton on her misstep in 2016.
“The only way to win is to show up … When we don’t show up, we get what we deserve, and that is to lose,” O’Rourke said.“[Wisconsin] is fundamental to any prospect we have of electing a Democrat to the presidency in 2020 and being ready to start on day one in 2021.”
There could be a parallel between holding a Democratic National Convention in a state, and influencing the state’s citizens to go out and vote for that party. Between early visits from candidates like O’Rourke and choosing Milwaukee to host the DNC, it seems the Democratic party is doing all it can to earn Wisconsin’s votes in 2020.
But critics are rightfully concerned about a few things in Milwaukee — a major one being that it is often considered the most segregated city in America. This is decided by the dissimilarity index, which measures how segregated neighborhoods are. Especially since almost two-thirds of Black Americans identify as Democrats, it will be interesting to see how — if at all — the Democratic National Convention addresses this.
Another concern among critics is Milwaukee’s lack of hotels and the potential inability of the city to accommodate the influx of people the convention will bring. It has been over 100 years since the Democratic party held a national convention in a Midwestern city besides Chicago. By coming to what many consider to be the “heart” of the country, though, the Democratic party is arguably showing its love for the Midwest as a whole.
Holding the DNC in Milwaukee will likely increase voter turnout for the upcoming 2020 election among Democrats in Wisconsin, but perhaps not in all parts of the state. After all, while Milwaukee and Madison are generally very liberal cities, the rest of the state is known for its small towns and local farmers, many of whom are Republican.
For now, we can only predict what the 2020 election will bring. One thing is clear though: the Democrats do not intend on losing Wisconsin again.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism.