The Jolt: As the DNC finishes, give a thought to passed-over Milwaukee

The sign outside the offices of Milwaukee Downtown, a local business group that had expected a windfall from this week's Democratic National Convention.

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The sign outside the offices of Milwaukee Downtown, a local business group that had expected a windfall from this week's Democratic National Convention.

Our AJC colleague Jennifer Brett took a trip out to Wisconsin this week for a taste of what might have been if the Democratic National Convention hadn’t been forced into one never-ending Zoom call. Here’s what she found:

MILWAUKEE - With the Democratic National Convention headed to town, Loriann Matthews was looking forward to both attending the event and benefiting from it.

“It would have been awesome,” said Matthews, a ride-share driver who figured the massive crowds would mean tons of added trips. “This would have been a good time for all of Milwaukee.”

Coronavirus squelched that plan, but Matthews is looking on the bright side. She’s been able to spend more time with her grandchildren lately.

“I was looking forward to going but you’ve got to practice safety,” she said.

It would have been a glorious time to be here. It’s sunny and mild, with a breeze coming off Lake Michigan. Take a short walk in the downtown area surrounding the Wisconsin Center and you can admire stunning architecture or wave to folks boating down the Milwaukee River or pose for a selfie near the “Bronz Fonz,” a statue of Henry Winkler’s character from “Happy Days,” which, like its spin-off “Laverne & Shirley,” was set here.

You can still do that, of course, without the crowds.

“It would have been a hell of an economic impact,” said David Dobrzynski, who works at Downtown Books, near the city’s bustling Public Market area. “Anyone with half a brain could see it wasn’t going to happen.”

The shop closed temporarily due to coronavirus concerns and has reopened with a mask requirement and other safety policies in place. The convention, repurposed as a virtual affair, has brought only a relative handful of folks to town. Attendees who are here have been asked not to visit area bars or restaurants, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.”I had one delegate come in here yesterday,” Dobrzynski said. “He didn’t buy anything.”

As the convention draws to a close, its host city exudes a resolute strength. The 600 East Cafe is serving only via its carryout window during the day. At night the building is one of many illuminated with red, white and blue lights. The ornately carved statues in the lobby of the grand Pfister Hotel are kitted out with face masks.

“Smaller convention, same big heart,” a sign in the window of Milwaukee Downtown reads.

Mohamed Isaaq is determined to see better days ahead.

“Business is very slow. Most people are staying home,” the taxi driver lamented. “Maybe next year is good.”

***

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday. From her speech:

“We're at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot. And here's the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more. We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work."

Despite those lines above, Harris’ 22-minute address was largely oriented toward her historic moment as the first woman of color on a national ticket. It was left to former President Barack Obama to level the evening’s sharpest attack on the Republican incumbent Donald Trump – by name, which was groundbreaking in its own right. From the Associated Press:

“This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win," Obama said in unflinching remarks on the third night of the Democratic convention. He spoke from Philadelphia, where the United States Constitution was drafted and signed.

Obama's address amounted to one of the most sweeping condemnations ever of a sitting president by one of his predecessors. It was aimed squarely at jolting Democrats, as well as Republicans who are skeptical of Trump, ahead of the November election, casting the contest not simply as a choice between two politicians or two parties, but as a test of the endurance of American ideals.

Through much of Trump's presidency, Obama has been restrained in his public comments, hewing to the tradition of former Oval Office occupants giving space to the current commander in chief. Yet he has become more pointed in his criticism in recent months, and his remarks Wednesday revealed the full extent of both his personal disregard for the current president and his belief that Trump presents an existential threat to democracy in the United States.

Obama said he had initially held out hope that Trump would grow into the job of president — but he has now concluded that Trump not only hasn't, he simply can't. Instead, he said Trump has focused on using the presidency to benefit his friends and family and turned the nation's most powerful office into “one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves."

The real-time, all-caps reaction from Trump, via Twitter:

“HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!"

***

President Trump will return to the battleground state of Pennsylvania today to attack Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden near the place where Biden grew up -- and on the same day Biden is to accept his nomination.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is one of eight Democrats scheduled to speak leading up to Biden’s acceptance speech. She is sandwiched between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Other speakers include U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — all former Democratic presidential candidates.

***

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News reports that Northridge Medical Center, a nonprofit 90-bed hospital in Commerce, will close effective Oct. 31, the second rural facility in the state to announce in recent weeks that it plans to shut down.

***

Georgia’s law that allows courthouse elections to disappear at a moment’s notice has struck again. From the Daily Report:

Voters in five counties cast 22,302 ballots in the June 9 election for a new superior court judge for the Middle Judicial Circuit, but the winner acknowledges the contest was only “the world's most reliable poll."

A spokesman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the Daily Report this week that, according to lawyers in the office, “the election should have been cancelled. As it stands, the election was a nullity."

The good news for the candidate preferred by 71% of voters, Tommy J. Smith, is that Gov. Brian Kemp this week appointed him to the slot.

In May, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the governor could cancel an upcoming election or discard one that has already occurred, if a judicial seat is vacated at any point. A similar law applies to district attorneys in Georgia.

***

Nary a Georgia campaign season goes by without a debate over debates. The twin U.S. Senate races, however, have offered two separate clashes.

The first is between U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger. On Wednesday, Ossoff released a statement that he’s “accepted” five debates, including a WSB-TV showdown co-sponsored by the AJC.

“It is time for Senator Perdue to stop cowering behind his staff and defend his record in public,” Ossoff said.

Coincidentally, Perdue had spoken earlier that day with The Gwinnett Daily Post, saying “hell, yes” to a question about whether he’s ready for a clash.

“I want this guy. Let me contrast his life’s experience with mine,” he said. “Let me compare his socialist agenda with our Democratic, capitalist agenda that is working. Yeah, get me all the opportunities that we can muster. I’m definitely up for that.”

The bluster aside, his campaign still hasn’t committed to specifics.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins seized on the same issue. He responded to news of Ossoff’s gambit with a challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who he’s challenging in the November special election.

“I think it’s about time @KLoeffler and I did the same, don’t you? 5 debates. Head-to-head. Let’s give everyday Georgians the opportunity to hear directly from us. Voters deserve debates - don’t you agree, Kelly?” he tweeted.

Her campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson had this response:

“Kelly looks forward to debating Doug and all his Democrat pals in the fall.”

***

Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, the 14th District congressional candidate, has espoused QAnon conspiracy theories -- and has earned substantial praise from President Donald Trump.

On Thursday, the president was asked about QAnon -- and didn’t disavow the internet phenomenon. From the New York Times:

President Trump on Wednesday offered encouragement to proponents of QAnon, a viral conspiracy theory that has gained a widespread following among people who believe the president is secretly battling a criminal band of sex traffickers, and suggested that its proponents were patriots upset with unrest in Democratic cities.

“I've heard these are people that love our country," Mr. Trump said during a White House news conference ostensibly about the coronavirus. “So I don't know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me."