A week of presidential tweets and racist chants has rekindled a lingering tension in Charlotte, where the mayor and City Council are facing calls to revisit their decision to host the 2020 Republican National Convention. On Monday, council members passed a resolution condemning years of “racist and xenophobic” remarks from Donald Trump, but that’s not enough for some community leaders. They want the city to walk away from the convention.
It’s a tempting notion, especially after the “send her back” chant at Donald Trump’s Greenville rally last week offered Charlotte a disturbing preview of what we’re welcoming next fall. But what would happen if the City Council decided to say “no thanks” to the convention? What would come next if Charlotte simply left its keys on the counter and tried to walk out on this deal?
First, Republicans would very likely and very quickly sue. They would not be interested in damages, at least not at first, but for a judge to provide injunctive relief and make Charlotte live up to its part of the RNC 2020 contract.
Also very likely: That judge would not be sympathetic to Charlotte’s case, for at least two reasons. First, city leaders knew who Donald Trump and his supporters were long before they agreed to invite everyone to Charlotte. But also, as City Attorney Patrick Baker noted Monday: Trump is not a party in the convention contract. The RNC and RNC host committee are, and to this point neither has done anything to breach the contract.
The result: Charlotte would be told it has to provide the venue and security it agreed to provide, like it or not. In other words, the city would be back where it started — except it would be facing new and bigger costs. Our reputation as a reliable host of big events would be in tatters. Equally important, our city’s detente with Republican lawmakers in Raleigh would be over. While that fragile relationship doesn’t particularly bear a lot of fruit, Charlotte has enjoyed a recent stretch of not having a target on its back.
And for those who think that the GOP would quietly slink away from holding a convention in a city that doesn’t want them, perhaps we should introduce you to Donald Trump. The president and his party are not the slink-away types. More likely, Trump and his party would vindictively use convention week to attack our city or its leaders, perhaps by showing the country all of Charlotte’s problems that Republicans can fix.
Hosting this Republican National Convention was a bad choice for Charlotte, one that looks even worse as 2020 approaches. But Charlotte bought this house “as is,” and it doesn’t matter if the plumbing is worse than we thought or that there are loud, scary noises coming from the basement. A year ago, this editorial board and many others worried that Charlotte had little to gain and more to lose by hosting the 2020 convention. That would be even truer if the city tried to walk away now. The mayor and council are right to own the decision they made.