The 2020 GOP Convention Isn't Worth Having – Unless You Work for the Trump Campaign

Flickr via Gage Skidmore
Editor's Note: The following is Their Town, a column of opinion and analysis.

The 2020 Republican National Convention is like the snarling stray dog that nobody wants to take in, except for Charlotte, N.C.

As Current writer Sanford Nowlin has pointed out, there’s no shortage of reasons to take a pass on this convention, even for a city as tied to the visitor industry as San Antonio.

In fact, especially for a city like San Antonio, where 64 percent of residents are Hispanic and 14 percent of the population – 204,000 out of more than 1.4 million people – are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census. About 67 percent of the naturalized citizens living here are Hispanic. Nearly 80 percent of the noncitizen residents are Hispanic. Many are from Mexico, and have a bunch of family, work and community ties to native San Antonians.

From the border wall to screwing with NAFTA to toying with the lives of Dreamers, President Donald Trump has attacked immigrants from Mexico and flirted with policies that would hurt trade with our southern neighbor.

San Antonio exported $5.6 billion worth of merchandise in 2016, with Canada and Mexico being by far its two biggest trading partners, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration. Local exporters sold $2.3 billion in products to Canada, and $1.9 billion to Mexico. China was next, buying $175 million in San Antonio goods.

So, why exactly would Mayor Ron Nirenberg take last week’s taunting, teenage-y Twitter bait from Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale? The Trinity grad and Internet troll wants the convention to be in his hometown. But even the upside – thousands of hotel nights and millions in delegate spending – would come with the likelihood of San Antonio being the backdrop for mass protests in the streets and an orgy of nationalism in the convention hall.

How much of a boost did the bruising 1968 Democratic National Convention give to Chicago’s tourism industry?

But from Parscale’s point of view, San Antonio might make good strategic sense as a host for the 2020 convention. It would certainly be a great political foil.

Regardless of what happens in this year’s midterm election, whether Democrats take the House of Representatives or come up short, the 2020 presidential election is going to be ugliness on steroids.

On Monday, the Real Clear Politics website put Trump’s average approval rating at a little less than 42 percent. His rating has been lodged in the low 40s and high 30s for months. While more than half of the electorate thinks he’s doing a lousy job, four in 10 Americans are cheering him on. He has broad support among Republican voters, which makes a serious intraparty challenge unlikely. At the same time, Democrats and a lot of independents will be desperate to oust Trump.

In that likely scenario, if you’re heading up Trump’s campaign, you want a national convention that thrills the GOP’s core voters and keeps them motivated and feeling under threat through election day.

A city like San Antonio – presided over by a liberal mayor and city council, close to the U.S.-Mexico border and easily accessible to delegates and protesters from all over – would go a long way in setting up the kind of rowdy convention Parscale and the rest of Trump’s campaign team might have in mind.

Speaking of 1968
In all the talk about the 2020 GOP convention, the 1968 Democratic National Convention has come up a few times as a preview of what could happen. The biggest likely difference: Republican delegates will be solidly behind their guy, unlike the Dems who fractured over the Vietnam War 50 years ago. But what happens in the streets could look familiar.

Norman Mailer wrote the best account of the 1968 Democratic convention I’ve read – Miami and the Siege of Chicago. He was a terrible person – a woman-hater, narcissist and a lot more – but he had penetrating vision.

He demonstrated his ability to see into the heart of circumstances when he surveyed news coverage of Chicago police beating reporters, and concluded: “The counterrevolution had begun. It was as if the police had declared that the newspapers no longer represented the true feelings of the people. The true feelings of the people, said the policemen’s clubs, were with the police.”

Today, we're experiencing the late stages of that counterrevolution.

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