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Plans For Upcoming Democratic National Convention Remain Unclear

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivers remarks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When the Democratic National Convention (DNC) first announced it would be coming to Milwaukee, there was a lot of hope for what it would bring to the city. Now, the future of the convention is unclear.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made large gatherings risky. And while the Democratic National Committee has pushed the date of the convention to August, it seems almost certain that we’ll still be dealing with this pandemic in some form.

So what will that mean for the convention?

Thomas Holbrook, the Wilder Crane Professor of Government at UW-Milwaukee, says it's likely that the DNC planning committee has many contingency plans based on what the country looks like in June and July. But no matter what, he expects fewer people in Milwaukee and more focus on conducting party business digitally. 

"Certainly, some of the behind the scenes meetings that always take place at conventions could be done digitally," says Holbrook. "But the business on the floor could be harder to pull off digitally."

He says the biggest thing missing from this year's convention is the money brought in to Milwaukee's service industries. 

"This was going to be a big boon for [the service industries], all the way down to the Illinois border potentially, and nothing on that scale is likely to happen now," says Holbrook.

But for those wondering if the lack of a large, in-person DNC will hurt the Democrats chances of winning in Wisconsin, Holbrook says there's little evidence that these conventions make a big difference for either party. 

"Over the past 40 to 50 years of conventions, the research shows that it doesn't end up mattering very much at the local level," says Holbrook. "It turns out that the cities, counties, and state pretty much vote the way they normally would."

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
Jack Hurbanis started as the WUWM Digital Intern in January 2020, transitioning to Assistant Digital Producer in July.