About a year ago, when Charlotte was debating whether to bring the Republican National Convention to town, I wrote that the city should say yes.
What I thought back then was that it would be a moment of history we ought to look at up close – that we shouldn’t shy away from confronting what Donald Trump has done as president. I figured there would be so much security that it would overwhelm any chance at serious violence. And mainly, I figured, the convention has to be somewhere.
It turns out that’s not really true.
There’s not going to be anything like the Republican convention as we know it. Gov. Roy Cooper wouldn’t give in to what Trump wanted, which was a full arena with no social distancing. So the showy stuff of the convention – Trump’s acceptance speech – is moving to Jacksonville, Florida. Despite the coronavirus, Florida has welcomed large gatherings -- maybe because there are so many other things in Florida that can kill you.
Charlotte is left with one day of business meetings. Instead of 50,000 people coming here, it’ll be more like three or four hundred. One of the potentially biggest and most contentious moments in our city’s history has been reduced to a blip.
Considering what this year has been like already, I think that’s a good thing.
We’re dealing with two national crises at once. The virus has had much of the country locked down since March. And cases are bound to go up as states relax their restrictions – and, of course, because of large groups protesting police brutality and racism after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Those protests are now starting to lead to action in city councils and state legislatures, as well as in how we all see and treat one another on a basic human level. That’s not a short-term project, and it’s one that requires our time and energy – especially right now, when many people can see the racism in our society in a way they didn’t before, or didn’t want to.
To pile the convention on top of that would be – well, you know that phrase “gilding the lily?" The opposite of that.
We should stop here and remember that losing the convention hurts a lot of local businesses – all the hotels, restaurants and other places that would’ve been able to fill their cash registers from the convention. Those places have already taken a huge hit from the virus. As things start to clear up, part of our civic duty should be to spend as much as we’re able at our local favorites, and tip like rock stars.
There’s a lot of starting over we’ll have to do in this city over the next weeks and months. Most of us are worn out and on edge. So let Jacksonville have this one. We’ve got more important work to do.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at email@example.com.
Want to read all of WFAE’s best news each day? Sign up for our daily newsletter, The Frequency, to have our top stories delivered straight to your inbox.