Fabiola Santiago

Miami is best choice for Democratic convention — and not because we’re ‘fancier’ | Opinion

DNC site selection committee visits Miami

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks to the Democratic National Committee in Miami in October 2018 as they visit the city as part of their 2020 National Convention selection process.
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Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks to the Democratic National Committee in Miami in October 2018 as they visit the city as part of their 2020 National Convention selection process.

Wholesome Milwaukee — of “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” sitcom fame — thinks Miami is making the case to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention based on our looks.

“Miami city officials are insinuating Milwaukee isn’t ‘fancy enough,’ ” reports ABC affiliate WISN.

Sure, we look good — spectacular, most people would say — but our being fancier than America’s lovely heartland has nothing to do with why it’s crucial for Democrats to bring the convention here.

Democrats need to win swing state Florida, the tricky state, the treacherous state, the state where everyone hails from somewhere else, and if you’re thinking that refers only to immigrants, think again, because there’s an invasion of retirees from Minnesota, I’m told.

A decision is expected any day now.

The Democratic National Committee was expected to choose a city host by the end of February, but here we are enduring a more tortuous process than a season of “The Bachelor.” And, keeping a television theme going here, the question of which city can draw the bigger TV audience is also something to consider. Miami has never disappointed there — and the exposure comes in at least two languages.

Will the committee put a ring on Miami or Milwaukee? Houston, the third city under consideration, seems more like that third wheel contestant with a long shot at the win.

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View of City of Miami skyline in 2018. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com | File, June 1, 2018

Here’s why it’s imperative to choose Miami.

In case out-of-state Democrats haven’t noticed what’s at stake, let me hand-deliver it: President Donald Trump has been campaigning in Florida already, and setting in stone a narrative he thinks is his ticket to re-election: Democrats stand for socialism. And it’s not a Cuban Miami-only theme. The Wall Street Journal, for one, is taking it very seriously in its opinion pages, featuring intense views and rebukes of European social democracies and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

There’s no better place for Democrats to make a bold, fearless political statement and call Trump’s bluff on socialism as the new boogeyman than Miami, a showcase of the true face of America, a region of diverse stakeholders.

“Our pitch was premised on the idea that we are a city that has figured out how to coexist in ways we couldn’t years ago,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told me. “It’s not only about the mosaic of our community, but it’s how we have matured. We’ve come so far as a community. To me, it’s invigorating.”

He added: “If they are looking to show what America going forward looks like, this is a wonderful community to do that. The American Dream is palpable and real here.”

Already, the diverse roster of Democratic presidential candidates is calling for this kind of podium.

I can see, for example, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is attracting large crowds to her events and polling in high numbers, making in-roads in a state that last year nominated its first African-American candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum. He lost the race to a Trump ally by a very slim margin.

Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, is joining the race for the White House. Ms. Harris becomes the fourth woman currently serving in Congress to announce her presidential ambitions.

There’s a reason why Milwaukee is being considered — and it’s not the right one for 2020.

The Democratic leadership wants to make up for Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing loss in the region. They want to address criticism of her lack of attention to Wisconsin and Michigan — and they’ve bought into the 2016 narrative that Midwesterners felt that the party has lost touch with the American heartland.

But two years of Trump later, your smaller 2018 tax return should be telling you who has clearly lost touch — and it’s the guys who gave the wealthy a tax cut and did away with most deductions for the rest of us. It’s the guys in the Republican Congress who have Cadillac health insurance plans but tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act so many Americans depend on.

Plus, isn’t it about time Democrats left 2016 behind and ran a new race?

It’s in Miami where Democrats need to address why the congressional district with the highest ACA enrollment in the country — Hialeah — keeps sending to Tallahassee legislators who refuse to expand Medicaid and peddle the view that it is sick people’s burden to shop for better healthcare.

But you’ve got to show and tell, not leave the terrain for the GOP to court, as they do day in and day out.

“Miami is ground zero for ground zero,” Gelber said. “This is the place in Florida where elections are won and lost.”

President Barack Obama won Florida twice. Democrats flipped two congressional seats in 2018.

And that’s the best of reason for the Democrats to embrace Miami.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”