President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee seem hell-bent on going forward with plans to host a traditional GOP Convention in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center starting August 24.
But some in the state — citing projections the U.S. could be hit by a second outbreak of COVID-19 by then — aren’t so sure a full-blown, week-long gathering of more than 50,000 out-of-state visitors is still a good idea. Some of the doubters are North Carolina Republicans.
“I think it’s very clear it may not be possible to host a convention as planned,” City Council member Edmund H. Driggs, a Republican, told The New York Times.
Even Senator Thom Tillis has his doubts. “Clearly if we’re a couple months away from opening businesses in Mecklenburg County, then that would be very difficult to host the convention,” Tillis said in the Times.
With more than 2,000 cases of the coronavirus and 61 deaths as of May 10, Mecklenburg County is North Carolina’s hardest-hit jurisdiction. But the GOP isn’t concerned about the public health risk its convention might have on Charlotte, the state or even the entire country. “We’re full steam ahead,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said on Twitter. “No one who is actually in a decision-making position has discussed alternate plans for our convention.”
But someone beyond the GOP’s reach may be in a position to overrule the GOP’s decision makers. Governor Roy Cooper could very well re-impose restrictions limiting gatherings in the state if the data on COVID-19 cases dictates he should.
Yes, the convention is a sorely needed boost for Charlotte at a time when financial recovery is an important factor. But does the economic benefit outweigh the health risk? That’s a decision Charlotte residents, public health officials and the governor — not solely the national GOP — will have to make.
The Democrats are making plans to conduct their national convention responsibly and safely. They’ve already postponed the event in Milwaukee from mid-July to the week of August 17. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is suggesting the convention be held over a one-day period in a large, outdoor stadium to observe social distance guidelines.
If the recent past is any indication, Governor Cooper will make his decision on whether to impose crowd restrictions based on science and the safety of North Carolina residents — whether they’re Republicans, Democrats or independents. It’s clear Trump and the RNC currently think otherwise. They don’t have the long-term interests of North Carolinians in mind as they press ahead with their convention plans.
Something else to keep in mind when we go to the polls next November.
By Arthur Hill