Raise Your Glass to Milwaukee Hosting the 2020 Democratic National Convention

Perez and Wisconsin Democrats celebrate Milwaukee being chosen to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. // Credit: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Originally Written March 2019


On Monday, March 11, the Democratic National Committee announced that the 2020 Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a months-long bid in which the Midwestern city competed with the likes of Houston and Miami for the DNC’s favor, Tom Perez finally informed the country of the DNC’s decision.

So why Milwaukee?

A key reason is that Wisconsin has been a battleground state in recent elections, most notably in 2016. Hillary Clinton’s absence in Wisconsin during her campaign has been identified as a leading cause as to why Trump won, and Democrats are determined to not let Wisconsin go by unnoticed again. Senator Tammy Baldwin said simply that now, “The path to the presidency goes right through Wisconsin.”

Milwaukee is also appealing because of Wisconsin’s epitomization of the indefinable but ever-attractive “Midwest values.” Perez emphasized that the DNC selected Milwaukee because the city will show how the Democratic Party is “an every ZIP code party” that listens “to people in every corner of the country.” Milwaukee is perhaps more attractive than other Midwestern cities, such as Chicago (which has hosted the convention seven times previously) because its location and history as a diverse union town is key to the story that the Democratic Party is trying to tell about what it means to be a Democrat in the modern era.

The process of making a compelling bid was challenging. $70 million is needed to host the convention — Milwaukee has so far put together $11 million, and has a $10 million line of credit on standby from the local bid committee if the city does not meet its fundraising goal. In addition to fundraising, prior to the announcement on March 11, Milwaukee had to prove to the DNC that they were capable of hosting the 50000 people expected to attend the convention. Fear spread that there would not be enough hotel rooms within twenty minutes of the convention center, but the local bid committee ensured that 15000 would be available at the time of the convention. In addition to pulling together the necessary funding and hotel rooms, Milwaukee also had to show its allure in comparison to the larger cities of Houston and Miami. While putting together the bid, Wisconsinites emphasized the city’s summer attractions, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the lakefront, and Summerfest.

The bid notably received bipartisan support. Wisconsin Republicans and former Governor Scott Walker appeared almost as excited as Democrats to have the convention in Milwaukee. The economic boom the convention will bring to the city is significant, with thousands staying in Milwaukee’s hotels, eating at restaurants, and frequenting local businesses. With this bipartisan support, however, comes a grain of salt. Conservatives across the country are also exploiting Milwaukee’s selection so they can frame Republicans more favorably, emphasizing Milwaukee’s history of selecting socialist mayors to show how Milwaukee, despite being chosen by the DNC to represent the “average American,” is removed from the political mainstream.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attempts to take credit for the DNC’s selection of Milwaukee to host the convention. // Credit: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With Milwaukee’s selection inevitably comes stereotypical representations of Wisconsin in various news outlets. The discussion of stereotypes began when Perez, when signing the convention contract, spilled some of his beer on it. Since then, The New York Times has published such pieces “Cheese! Beer! Democrats!” and “Our Guide to the Milwaukee Convention: A ‘Spotted Cow’ Isn’t a Cow,” discussing the wonders of Midwestern culture, from calling a water fountain a bubbler to the mystery of why Wisconsinites are so nice.

Democrats from across the country are invited to watch the convention take place at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on July 13-16, 2020 — both to see if these stereotypes are true, and to witness the selection of the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee.