As 2020 presidential prospects begin to announce their candidacy in the coming months, Charlotte will be preparing for the Republican National Convention set for late August. Charlotte City Council voted this past summer to host the convention in a 6-5 deliberation.
The RNC, looking to re-nominate Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump this fall, has Charlotteans skeptical on how the city will manage an overflow of supporters. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, wants to show that the city itself has the ability to host the convention while remaining politically neutral. She said in a public address last month, regarding winning the bid for the convention, that “any time we can bring jobs to people, particularly our hourly-wage workers, any time we can showcase our city to potential business and opportunities that they can see in our community, but more importantly, what we can showcase in Charlotte is the open discussion we are willing to have … that makes a city special.” Charlotte’s City Council is looking for bipartisan support on putting Charlotte on center stage for the entire nation.
Political conventions bring in large amounts of capital. Since the DNC in 2012, Charlotte has developed several barren lots into parks and stadiums. Locations previously used for convention events were transformed into the Romare Bearden Park, BB&T Ballpark and First Ward Park next to the UNC Charlotte Center City campus. Fourteen new skyscrapers have been built since the 2012 DNC that will be open during the RNC to show off the famous Charlotte skyline. One of the most prominent city investments is the extension of the LYNX light rail. The influx of capital seems to be the main incentive for hosting the convention for both parties. As the Charlotte Observer put it, “Forget red and blue: Most of the arguments in favor of bringing the 2020 Republican National Convention to Charlotte are focused on green.”
UNC Charlotte scholars discuss the RNC
The presence of the RNC will be an opportunity for UNC Charlotte students to experience the colorful and differing ideas that the convention will offer. Members of the UNC Charlotte community are mobilizing to ensure that voters have information about the goals of each political party. Local UNC Charlotte scholars and leaders, such as political science professors Eric Heberlig and Suzanne Lelan along with Charlotte attorney Robert Hagemann, held informal presentations focused on stimulating public discourse. UNC Charlotte’s Director of Public Policy said to Inside UNC Charlotte, “[Political banter] also plays a vital role in engaging the public, informing them of important public policy debates and drawing them to the polls.”
The first of these talks focused on the future, looking into how the RNC will impact the Charlotte community. The second panel will be produced by the “We’re the Future, We Vote” campaign, focused on motivating voters, and Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson to educate Charlotteans on how elections work. Betty Doster, special assistant to the chancellor for constituent relations at UNC Charlotte, has stayed in contact with the RNC to connect it with the University.
“We have had several meetings with the host committee, Charlotte in 2020, about how the University can engage in a non-partisan way in the upcoming convention,” she said. “We have also met with The Washington Center for Academic Seminars and expect to be their academic partner.”
RNC impact on campus
The RNC is set to begin on move-in day and will coincide with other campus events, such as the New Student Convocation, inevitably impacting the transportation and movement of students and their families. The position of the University is to rely on the light rail to transport students and alleviate traffic congestion.
“A big difference from the 2012 convention for the City and for our campus is the opening of the light rail from uptown to campus,” Doster said. “We expect that the light rail will run to our Center City campus during the convention. Riding the light rail, including those who will be staying in the University City area or beyond, will provide an ease of moving around the city.”
Public demonstrations on college campuses are a shared experience of most students. There is no doubt that, with the RNC coming to Charlotte, there will be some form of demonstration performed by members of those in support or in opposition with the RNC. This may come in conflict with campus activities because the start date for the RNC coincides with the first day of class.
“Demonstrations are very common on our campus,” Doster said. “With the convention due to come in two years, how will campus administration plan to deal with some demonstrations that may conflict with classes or other campus activities?”
Campus has witnessed demonstrations based on religion, politics and other messages. The University’s primary focus is to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff.
“The University will address protests and demonstrations according to our policies and ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff and property,” Doster said.
The RNC will provide opportunities for students and other Charlotteans to learn and experience the wave of political discourse but will also provide a challenge to those moving into dorms and apartments.