The Nay-Sayers Misread Our RNC Convention Appeal
© Jack Cashill
The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling drew one specific lesson from his attendance at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, and it was not a charitable one: “Kansas City almost certainly doesn’t have the pieces in place to host a national political convention.”
Helling cites the usual suspects: shortage of nearby hotel rooms and the absence of a “robust” public transportation system. For a would-be convention city, he assures us, “The lack of both is near fatal.”
Happily, the folks organizing the city’s bid for the Republican National Convention, known as Kansas City 2016, don’t pay much attention to The Star. Although the KC 2016 team has a long way to go, two contending cities have already dropped out of the competition, and our organizers believe old Possum Trot may well have the edge in securing the convention. It would be our first since 1976.
Organizers took great heart from a successful and unprecedented reception they recently staged for 130 RNC members in Los Angeles. The KC 2016 team showed off the city’s potential with sufficient élan that the RNC leadership decided to change the location of a the 13-state RNC Midwest Leadership Meeting from St. Louis to Kansas City this coming September. That would seem to be a promising start.
One reason Helling and his colleagues tend to underestimate Kansas City’s chances is the near-perfect absence of Republicans at the newspaper. Too many on the editorial staff have no idea how Republicans think. Given that 97 of the 100 counties closest to Kansas City routinely vote red, this leads to what the inimitable Strother Martin once called a “failure to communicate.”
In Star-speak, “robust” public transportation translates into “light” rail, two words that would seem to be at war with each other. Although some Republicans do like the idea of light rail, for Democrats it is very nearly a fetish. Lack of the same might actually dim their enthusiasm for a given city. Most Republicans could care less about light rail; ditto for public transportation in general.
In my one and only convention experience, I drove up to St. Paul for the Republican shindig in 2008. Although I had my own car, and live in Missouri, I was a guest of the Kansas delegation. We had much nicer and closer digs than the Missourians, but still we were at least a half-hour away from the convention center. The Missourians were close to an hour away. No one in our crew grumbled about the bus rides. They proved to be good bonding experiences.
Yes, RNC delegates could be staying 30 miles away from the convention site, but Kansas City has a distinct advantage over every competitive con-vention city in America. In this region, 30 miles almost always equals 30 minutes. Yes, the airport is 20 miles from Downtown, but that 20 miles dependably translates into 20 minutes.
Our progressive friends see our abundance of freeway miles—the most in the world per capita—as wasteful and self-indulgent, but visitors love the fluidity of driving here. The last time I drove from my sister’s house in suburban Newark to LaGuardia, I checked the route on Google Maps. Google told me the trip would take somewhere between 1 hour and 8 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes. That was helpful.
And the last time I flew out of LAX on a morning flight, I had to give up a gorgeous hacienda 40 miles away to stay at a dumpy motel two miles away because I could not safely calculate the rush-hour drive time.
Only a handful of cities in America—maybe just one, come to think of it—could put most conventioneers within easy reach of the convention site via public transportation. In 2004, New York City had the opportunity when it hosted the Republican convention. I am sure some Republicans must have taken the subway. I just haven’t talked to any of them. Republicans prefer cabs.
Personally, I spent too many years riding those subways to see the romance in them. Muggings may be rare, but “incidents” are commonplace. I would define an “incident” as something you really wish you’d never had to see. For verification, just go to YouTube and type in “NYC subway incident.”
Some of my non-violent favorites include “Insane Woman Sitting & Walking Around Subway Tracks,” “Crazy Guy Almost Gets Hit By NYC Subway,” and that perennial classic, “Girl Pees Herself on The Subway in NYC and Takes a Shower.” On my last trip to New York, I could have contributed, “Toddler vomits on man’s shoes,” but I chose not to record that one, let alone post it.
When it comes to attracting a national convention, Kansas City has one major advantage that is rarely seen as such: our bifurcated identity. No metropolis in the country is as split between two states with such Solomonic precision as ours is. If Kansas is safely in the Republican camp, Missouri is still haunted by its post-Civil War legacy. Back in the day, the James boys and other young Democrats made it dangerous to vote Republican, and those retro impulses occasionally kick in and keep Missouri in play.
From the RNC’s perspective, playing to two states is better than playing to one. Its honchos know they will have the complete support of Kansas and hope to make enough local noise to keep Missouri in the red. In any case, Kansas City 2016 has the support of civic leaders on both sides of the state line.
There is, to be a sure, a preponderance of Democrats in Kansas City, Missouri—roughly 13 to zero on the City Council, for instance—but the opportunity-oriented outnumber the Occupy-oriented and know a good business deal when they see one.
On the front lines of social interaction, delegates can be confident that they will be treated well once they get here. Kansas Citians are by nature hospitable. Midwesterners are saner than their fellow citizens on the coasts, and our whack-job percentages are correspondingly low.
Finally, our service-industry workers, regardless of their politics, understand the most essential difference between Republicans and Democrats: Republicans tip better.
And that, my friends, trumps ideology any day.
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