It is no secret that Kansas City was up for hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention. It is also no secret that I was, initially, opposed to it. Having lived in NYC during the 2004 RNC I saw what one of those things could do to a city. I had friends, protesters and non, during the convention herded like cattle in the streets by police and arrested in mass. Most of those arrests would be found to be unsubstantiated and result in costing the city 18 million dollars in lawsuits. But the clean up job had accomplished what it wanted with taxpayers footing the bill once again. And of course the billions speculated (yet never confirmed) of revenue received by a city hosting such a convention surely softens the blow. Right?
Later in the process I had a change of heart about the RNC convention being held in KC in 20 16. Mass anti Republican protesting in such a liberal town as New York City isn’t exactly a fresh idea. But happening in America’s heartland, one of the most politically conservative areas in the country, well that might be something to see. The more I thought about it the more excited I got. My head started swirl with ideas for planning Anti RNC protest parties to maybe even putting on a music festival?! But wouldn’t you know, before I could even start imagining what slogan I was going to paint on my protest sign, the RNC went with Cleveland. Cleveland? I guess even Republicans are choosing Rock ‘n Roll over The Blues these days.
The silver lining to this whole ordeal is that though Missouri might not be the most socially progressive state in the country it just so happens to have some very progressive ideas about the transparency of politics and commerce. And that reveals itself in the form of the Sunshine Act. In the wake of KC’s failure to receive the convention, thanks to the Sunshine Act, local KC reporter Dave Helling was able to put together an excellent report about why: Documents reveal KC’s Spending plan for the 2016 Convention. Not surprisingly, it had a lot to do with money. More specifically, is was about fancy spaces to woo deep pockets. Amongst a flurry of typical concerns about freebies, hotel rooms and security, one of the key sticking points for the convention was whether the Sprint center (KC’s own Madison Square Garden) had “sufficient suites for entertaining high-dollar donors.” Pretty gross. But sadly not totally surprising.
I wouldn’t say that I was naive about the point of these big presidential conventions. I know it’s big business for hotels and restaurants and other less mentionable commodities. But I think there was something in me that still wanted to believe that at least a portion of them still had something to do with involving average citizens with government. I thought at the very least they motivated people to rally behind their chosen political representative and help solidify and spread their message on important issues for this country. You know. To make it better.
Following this process I can’t help but feel like it’s really all about money. Why would a political party choose to hold a convention in one arena over another: Money. Why would a Democratic Mayor do a dance to convince an opposing party to host their National Convention in his town: Money. Why would anyone even give a crap about anything going on in politics today unless it was going to some how result in a better job or more money for them? The story of KC’s quest for the Republican National Convention helps reveals what is so wrong in present day politics. And what’s wrong with us: Our obsession with money and consumerism. So, this time, Kansas City, we didn’t get the convention. And we didn’t get the money. Hey, but maybe we learned a little something along the way? That’s gotta be worth something, even if it’s just good inspiration for a Blues song. – MMM