Charlotte may have dodged a big one.
If President Donald Trump and the Republicans follow through on their threat to pull their nominating convention from Charlotte, it may well be the best thing to happen to our city during this miserable year of angry protests and Covid-19.
Let’s examine some facts and offer some perspective:
Fact: Three months into a pandemic and our numbers are moving in the wrong direction. At last night’s county commissioners meeting, Health Director Gibbie Harris said Mecklenburg has seen a sudden rise in hospitalizations and the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, she said, too many people in and around Charlotte appear to be reverting to business as usual, ignoring the advice of health experts who say we should all be wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.
While our economy might be slowly reopening for business, Harris has warned, we have not seen the last of Covid-19.
Perspective: With the GOP refusing to even consider a scaled-down convention with public-safety measures in place, they left Gov. Roy Cooper no good choice but to stand his ground.
Fully one-third of all laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Mecklenburg have been among our Latino brothers and sisters. Another 25% have been among Black people.
These are the same Black and Brown families who would be called from the safety of their homes to make the beds, clean the bathrooms and serve the meals to GOP conventioners who, ignoring all medical advice, insist on putting themselves and others at risk.
In the name of racial justice, we must not allow that to happen.
Fact: Our nation is in a fragile state. Witness the last eight days of (sometimes violent) protests that have rocked major cities following the strangulation death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis.
Perspective: Sadly, our president has decided that he can make political hay with his GOP base by stoking racial tensions at every turn, going back to events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and even before that.
His latest stunt was to have peaceful protestors teargassed across from the White House so that he could stroll to an empty church nearby to pose for a picture while holding a Bible. If protests erupt here in Charlotte during a GOP convention, what’s to say that Trump won’t call out the Secret Service once more so that he can pose with our statue of Queen Charlotte on College Street? Given what we have seen, does anyone seriously doubt that he might actually do such a thing?
The controversy that swirls around this convention coming to Charlotte has always been about one man – Donald Trump – and not the Republican Party. It was a bad idea to bid for the event in the first place, and the folly of that decision has become more apparent with every infuriating headline.
Fact: Charlotte businesses (and the city’s tax coffers) will lose millions of dollars if the GOP goes elsewhere. The event was expected to bring 50,000 people to Charlotte to eat in our restaurants, drink at our bars and sleep in our hotels. It also would have put badly needed dollars into the pockets of rideshare drivers and hundreds of small, independent business owners. (It would not create lasting jobs, as some have suggested.)
Perspective: I get it. As a small business owner who has to make payroll twice each month, I know firsthand how financially draining the coronavirus pandemic has been. But one of the first business lessons I learned is that all money is not good money, especially if that money drags you away from your cherished values.
We in Charlotte have too many failing schools, too much racial inequity, too much pent-up anger and too many economic and social injustices – in other words, too much work we must do to repair the breaches of this nation’s troubled history. The last thing we need is another emotionally draining flash point that will tear us further apart and distract us from the hard decisions we have to make.
Trump and convention organizers say they can find other cities eager to host their event. That may well be true. If so, let’s wish them well then thank our stars that Charlotte may have dodged a big one.
Let’s get busy making Charlotte better.