This editorial from AJC President and Publisher Andrew Morse appears on the front page of the Sunday edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Sunday ePaper.
Any day now, President Joe Biden will pick the host city for the 2024 Democratic National Convention. His finalists are three iconic American places: Chicago, New York City and Atlanta.
It’s time to make a choice for the future.
If the Democrats are serious about energizing their base, staying true to their principles and holding onto the White House and the Senate, Atlanta’s the plain choice.
This isn’t a partisan case.
We’d urge the same to the Republicans, too, had they not already selected Milwaukee as the site for their 2024 convention.
While votes won’t be cast for nearly two years, we already know the likely outcome of the 2024 presidential election in New York and Illinois. The Democrats won comfortably there in 2020. In Georgia, where campaigning and policy cases matter more, Biden won by 11,779 votes – or just 0.3 percent.
Here’s the reality of 2024: a handful of states will determine the next president – and Georgia is one of them.
We don’t mind the Democratic party flirting with New York and Chicago. Their motivation is, well, political. Nineteen labor leaders signed a letter to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison last week, attempting to undermine Atlanta’s bid by pointing out Atlanta has only two union hotels, “Union delegates and guests who choose union hotels as a matter of conscience would need to compete over limited rooms,” they said.
Well, Atlanta sent a letter to Biden, too. And 65 current and former Democratic officials from 12 Southern states joined arms and signed it. And we think it makes a powerful case: “As the cultural and economic hub of Black America, the city embodies the American Dream in the 21st Century.”
No disrespect intended, but both parties need to look to the future, and can do so without abandoning important parts of their past. As the saying goes, “Atlanta Influences Everything,” and President Biden would be wise to heed that call.
The nation watched as Georgia grabbed the center stage in the last two election cycles. Gathering in Atlanta will also invite Democrats to make their case where it counts. Every important issue swirls here; abortion, guns, economic inequality, policing, health care access and on and on.
If you have to convince Americans that your policies are the right ones, you better be able to do it here. Georgia’s painting a picture of America’s future with a transformation of its workforce with new industries – clean energy, film and television and technology. And driving job creation as a result.
Atlanta has hit peak cultural relevance; we’re the center of the hip-hop scene, a destination for foodies and now a motion picture hub.
As far as large gatherings like the DNC are concerned, Atlanta boasts a world class infrastructure. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a state-of-the art facility that has been home to a Super Bowl. National Football League insiders love our city as a location because of its many conveniently located venues and hotel rooms. We’ve proven that there’s no better place to hold college football championships, and the World Cup is coming our way, too.
Mayor Andre Dickens, who has lobbied hard to bring the DNC to ATL, says he’s told President Biden that “no other city and no other state are more emblematic of the future of the Democratic party than the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.”
And the Democratic mayor hasn’t heard any objections from Republican Gov Brian Kemp. Some Republicans are quietly encouraging the effort, hoping they can use an Atlanta victory as a data point to highlight the success of Kemp’s economic policies.
If Atlanta lands the convention, it will notch another economic boon for our great city and state. Some 50,000 people are expected to attend – and spend money. The mega-event could bring as much as $250 million to Atlanta’s economy.
That’s one of the reasons why Mayor Dickens is lobbying so hard. Another reason, he says, is that we deserve it. After all, Georgia is the reason Biden and U.S. senators Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are in office now.
Choosing Atlanta would also be consistent with President Biden’s decision to buck decades of tradition and shake up the primary calendar. The new schedule makes South Carolina first in the nation, with Georgia following 10 days later. The Democrats made the shift to acknowledge both the political importance and the racial diversity of the Southern states.
It makes sense that the president would want to double down on that strategy of focusing attention on swing states and voters who represent a dynamic base of support in his party.
The White House had earlier said the finalists could expect a decision on the convention site after the State of the Union Address.
That was nearly a month ago. The data and demographics haven’t changed.
So why the delay?
If President Biden is concerned about holding on to a traditional power base of his party, pressure from the unions will drive him to Chicago or New York – even though neither will decide the election. Mayor Dickens, himself the son of a union member, wisely notes that “what Chicago and New York were to the labor movement in the 20th century, Atlanta is to the 21st.”
We agree. And every announcement of new, well-paying jobs here supports this point.
If Biden is interested in leaning into the new power base of the party and embracing the future, Atlanta is the only choice.
— Andrew Morse, President and Publisher, for the Editorial Board.