The Democratic National Convention, we're told, will be the best thing to happen to Milwaukee since malted barley and hops; finally transforming this backwater beer town into a bourgeois metropolis.
This misses the point entirely, and if Democrats believe it they run the very real risk of missing their last chance at recapturing the voters who put Donald Trump in the White House.
In short, the Democratic Party needs Milwaukee a whole lot more than Milwaukee needs the Democratic Party.
In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by just 22,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast as the vote total in Milwaukee County (the most Democratic county in the state) dropped by 43,000 from the 2012 presidential election.
If Democrats get them back, they are in a strong position to win back the White House. If not, they have almost no chance. Assuming traditional swing states Ohio and North Carolina continue their rightward trend, President Trump will essentially start with 220 Electoral College votes. His Democratic opponent can count on 232.
Only Florida (obviously the big prize with 29 electoral votes), Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin remain true toss-ups.
Like Ohio, however, Florida defied the national blue wave and elected Republicans in two statewide races (Governor and Senator) last year, seemingly indicating that it too is more of a Republican-leaning state than many realize. Adding that to Trump's likely electoral vote total alongside Arizona (which has gone Republican in every presidential election except 1996 for the past 60 years) puts Trump tantalizingly close to winning reelection.
In this scenario, Trump would be short of victory by just 10 electoral votes--Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes. He could lose the traditional Democrat strongholds of Michigan and Pennsylvania (which he surprisingly) picked up in 2016 and still win the election by keeping Wisconsin red.
Democrats understand this acutely, which is a major reason why they chose Milwaukee for their 2020 convention. It's far from the only reason, though. The Democrats don't just need Milwaukee's voters to return after staying home in 2016, they need Milwaukee's worldview to again align with theirs.
The traditional Milwaukee Democrat--a blue-collar, union dues-paying, beer-drinking, deer-hunting league bowler--no longer has a home in the modern Democratic Party. Ironically, the radical lurch toward neo-Socialism has alienated a city that elected three Socialist mayors.
Cities like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland that were once the backbone of Democratic politics are now just parts of flyover country--tiny blue ships adrift in a sea of red so disdained by liberal coastal elites that Hillary Clinton never even bothered to visit Wisconsin in her general election campaign.
She didn't think she needed to.
"Those rubes will vote for me no matter what I do," was the perceived calculation, and even if it wasn't the actual one, it still needs rectifying; not for the voters of Wisconsin per se, but for every blue-collar, union dues-paying, beer-drinking voter in every flyover state just like them.
The Democratic Party doesn't just need to prove that it still values them--it needs to prove that it can still stand them. After years of identity politics cast these supposed hicks as oppressors, many of them rightfully feel as though they are in fact their political party's enemies.
It should have come as no surprise, then, that they voted for Trump en masse, costing Clinton Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the presidency.
Now, as Democrats are invested even more heavily in the socialism and identity politics, they are also more desperate to win these voters back. And Milwaukee is ground zero. Winning back those 43,000 votes in Milwaukee County is key to winning back Wisconsin. Winning back Wisconsin is key to winning back the Upper Midwest. And winning back the Upper Midwest is key to winning back the presidency.
Milwaukee is the key to it all. Milwaukee is everything. Sure, hosting the Democratic National Convention will be nice for the city, but losing the city simply isn't an option for the Democrats.
Viewed through that lens, Democrats picking Milwaukee for their convention wasn't so much a nice surprise for an oft-overlooked underdog of a city, it was a desperate inevitability for a Party that couldn't afford to go anywhere else.