So the Democrats are going to nominate their presidential candidate in … Milwaukee! Let’s talk about this for a minute. It may not be the biggest news of the week, but it’s a lot more fun than analyzing Donald Trump’s budget plan.
Wisconsin, of course, is the state Hillary Clinton took for granted/failed to visit/lost in 2016. This is definitely a makeup bid. While nobody believes, deep down, that people base their vote on convention location, it can’t hurt.
“Where you hold our convention is a very strong statement of your values and who and what we are fighting for,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in making the announcement.
Possible Milwaukee convention slogans:
A) “This Time We’re Showing Up!”
B) “Milwaukee — Why Not?”
C) “More Hotel Rooms Than You’ve Heard”
Or maybe just “Let’s Meet in the Middle.” The Democrats have begun to realize that the Midwest is a problem. Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.9 million, but she lost the electoral vote due to tiny, tiny margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the Democrats have not held their presidential convention in the Midwest for more than 100 years. Except for Chicago. Which is sadly known to some members of the party as “The Place Between New York and Los Angeles.”
Ah yes, St. Louis in 1916. Woodrow Wilson didn’t bother to show up, but a good time was had by all.
The civic leaders who spent the last year and a half trying to make the deal called themselves The Good Land Committee after a scene in “Wayne’s World,” where the guys meet Alice Cooper after a Milwaukee concert and ask him if he’s there often. Cooper, stone-faced, then reels off a list of factoids about the city, including that its name is “Algonquin for the good land.” The Milwaukee Public Library quietly issued a correction, explaining that it comes from “terms originating in the Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Menominee languages.”
Really, sometimes it’s hard to get this stuff right.
More possible Milwaukee convention slogans:
A) “Not About the Algonquins”
B) “Ninety-two Miles North of Chicago”
C) “Not Socialist at All — Ignore the Republicans!”
As soon as the site selection was announced, sniping started from the right. “No city in America has stronger ties to socialism than Milwaukee,” said the director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, veering off into a mention of Bernie Sanders.
Milwaukee did once have a few mayors who called themselves socialists, although the last left office in 1960, and their goal was not so much taking over the means of production as tossing out crooked politicians. Which of course has no relation whatsoever to anything going on today.
Now, the city has strong union ties and a kind of working-class aura. The DNC passed up the glitzier options of Miami, which is sometimes known as “The Magic City,” and Houston, which once called itself “The Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt” and is now supposed to be nicknamed “The City With No Limits,” which perhaps refers to the lack of zoning laws.
Milwaukee doesn’t have a slogan. In 1995, some promoters came up with “Genuine American,” but nobody really liked it. (“I didn’t think it was possible to come up with anything worse than ‘A Great Place by a Great Lake.’ … I think they’ve done it,” a county supervisor moaned.)
“As a city we haven’t prioritized a slogan because we can’t wrap up all of the wonderfully random experiences that make up Milwaukee in just a few words,” said Chris Jenkins of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce in a phone interview.
I used to live in Milwaukee, long ago, and I can attest that it’s a fine city full of lovely people. The wonderfully random experiences must have come along after I left.
By the way, Wisconsin’s official motto is “Forward,” which is certainly hard to argue with. Although given the Democrats’ sensitivity to the events of 2016, it might very well change that to “Ignore Us at Your Peril.” The state hasn’t really been pressing the slogan thing since it tried to drop “America’s Dairyland” in 1985. The contest for a replacement stumbled when the screening committee rejected the people’s choice of “Eat Cheese or Die.”
I really love the whole state slogan thing. Did you know Idaho’s used to be “Great Potatoes, Tasty Destinations”? Indiana went from “Restart Your Engines” to “Honest-to-Goodness Indiana,” a while back. Sounds kind of bland and I think you should feel free to blame Mike Pence, whether it was his fault or not.
But about Milwaukee. The city likes to push its connection to the brewing industry — Perez celebrated the announcement with a toast of beer. Maybe this will inspire the presidential candidates to appropriate some of the old, spirits-related slogans for their campaigns.
For instance, which wine or beer tagline would you prefer for Joe Biden?
A) “Perfect for When Friends Drop In”
B) “Good Things Take Time”
C) “You Only Go Around Once”
OK, definitely not “You Only Go Around Once.” But still, I think we’re onto something here.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.