Editor’s Note: Carrie Sheffield, a conservative commentator, is the founder of Bold, a digital news network committed to bipartisan dialogue. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
On Monday night the city council of Charlotte, N.C., showed the country how to be inclusive at a human level while disagreeing at a political level.
By voting 6-5 in favor of making a bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC), the Council – which comprises nine Democrats and two Republicans – showed that bipartisanship is possible and created a model for moving our nation beyond conflict.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles – a Democrat and the city’s first black female mayor – showed true leadership as she championed the bid, recently writing that: “While our country is at a tipping point of incivility, Charlotte is a place where we value diverse experiences and inclusive dialogue … if Charlotte is the site for the RNC, we can show that our city is about inclusion and leverage it as an opportunity to demonstrate our values of respect while honoring our differences. After all, the best opportunity to change minds and influence decisions is through engagement. I focus on inclusion, not exclusion.”
News reports indicate Republican leaders are favoring the Queen City over other municipal bids, and so Charlotte is poised to reap an economic windfall while also helping our country move past partisan gridlock.
Organizers of the RNC in Cleveland, site of the 2016 GOP convention, estimated that the gathering generated $188.4 million of economic activity, including $10.2 million in state and local tax revenue.
Charlotte now can expect a similar shot in the arm, a fact that wasn’t lost on Lyles, who wrote that “the RNC’s economic impact on our city’s working class can make a genuine difference in the lives of families. This convention would provide our community with opportunities for employment and business growth.”
The deliberative process in Charlotte was rigorous; on Monday night the council met for several hours and heard from more than 100 community speakers. The debate was contentious – the Observer reported a 50-50 split in the comments and that several council members were concerned about whether hosting the convention meant a tacit endorsement of President Donald Trump’s comments and policies.
Yet many observers pointed out that if Charlotte had rejected Republicans in 2020 they would have displayed a blatant partisan discrimination, given that the same city hosted Democrats in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. If the councilors had chosen to reject Republicans, they risked generating a public backlash of sympathy for President Trump and his supporters.
That is the irony created by anti-Trump resisters like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen restaurant.
Waters called for whipping up hostile crowds to shout at Trump officials that they’re “not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Wilkinson showed incredible disrespect by ejecting customer Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
Their exclusionary behavior displays their hypocrisy – inclusion for me, but not for thee – and voters see right through this. When Hillary Clinton bragged this year that in her failed 2016 presidential bid she “won the places that represent two thirds of America’s Gross Domestic product,” voters see the backwardness of her political instincts.
American democracy, while far from perfect, is fueled by the notion that money doesn’t mean superiority, that we should be fighting for those left behind, not crowing about our ability to please the wealthy.
As a former resident of the Charlotte metro area, I’m proud to see this leadership. I would have been equally disheartened if Provo, Utah, my former residence in a deeply conservative place, had chosen to reject Democrats seeking to gather there.
Charlotte showed a sense of optimism and investment in the future that mirrors the broader country: Gallup recently found that 55% of US adults believe the United States’ best days are “ahead of us,” while 41% say they are “behind us.” Gallup reported “Americans are more optimistic about the country’s future than they were the last time Gallup polled on the question, in December 2012.”
Gallup found 69% of Republicans say America’s best days lie ahead and 27% said they were in the past. But to anxious Democrats (and gloating Republicans), this too shall pass. In 2012, Democrats answered nearly identically to Republicans today (69% of Democrats said our best days were ahead, while 28% said they were in the past).
Given these trends, progressives should take heart and Republicans should be empathetic for when tables turn. Scorched earth tactics from either side won’t mean victory because true victory means growth for everyone. As Abraham Lincoln said, unity comes “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” in order “to bind up the nation’s wounds.”