Why This Tampa Democrat Welcomes the Republican National Convention to Her City

I live in Tampa, a city where a Category 1 hurricane and 50,000 Republicans are expected to arrive early next week. As a liberal-minded, suburban-living mom, these are harrowing prospects indeed. And as a Democrat generally opposed to most of the GOP’s agenda, the symbolism that this stormy little act of God pushing up the coast brings with it is not lost. However, I’m actually just fine with the RNC being hosted here. I say “come on down,” and I’m going to explain why I’m rolling out the welcome mat. (And, no, it’s not to trap a heap of helpless conservatives in the eye of a storm, either.)

Someone needs to check the popcorn aisle in grocery stores across America on Monday night. Why? Because, if this storm hits the way that it could, I am quite sure that many of my liberal-minded friends will be popping bowls full of Pop-Secret, searching their televisions for windswept Tampa weather reporters and cheering on the destruction.

I won’t be. That’s for obvious reasons, of course. I live in Tampa. (And my hurricane supplies include a hand full of batteries, a glow-stick from two Halloweens ago and one mango-scented candle.)

But can I blame my friends? With our empty sky-rises and vacant suburban sprawl, funding slashed for extreme government-run programs like public schools and unemployment stuck above the national average, some are saying that Tampa is the perfect example of how the GOP broke our country. This article even describes what’s happened as the “Tampafication of America.”

Ouch.

Oh and let’s not ignore the absurdity of it all. Yes, while Republican leaders explain how rape works in a woman’s body and that homosexuals should never marry, Tampa is readying its strip clubs for an onslaught of new customers. Yes, RNC convention-goers are offered VIP access or the opportunity to see “Nailin Pailin.” No liberals (or minors) are allowed, of course. Did I mention that RNC delegates will be allowed free admission to a local gay bathhouse?

I may be tempted to board up my house in anticipation of a Category 1 storm of lunatics, but I am well-aware that, storm or not, Tampa benefits from all of this crazy.

When I found out that the GOP would be here this election year, I quietly held on to some hope for our area. Could 50,000 people over a few days’ time breathe some life and financial gain into our hopeful little city? Maybe. Could we get a little national attention, show the best of what this city has been fighting to prove and the chance to let our Florida freak flag fly? Hell yes.

I’ll admit it right here. I am GLAD that the RNC is in Tampa. Sure, I call them lunatics, but they are choosing to come down here and enjoy our city for what it’s worth. Any group, that large, that comes here and puts Tampa in the spotlight for a while is fine by me… as long as I can go about my business 20 miles north of the city and have nothing to do with Nailin Palin.

While many of you hope for mass destruction and busloads of delegates floating out to sea, I truly hope the storm passes us by. I hope that it makes a great story for all of these new visitors and that maybe they will come back or write about us or convince some company or another to invest here again.

I also hope that some of us stodgy liberals meet a few fun Repubs, enjoy our time together and take our foot off the generalization gas pedal. With only months left until the election, it’s far too easy to polarize ourselves. Bet you didn’t know that the hottest party in town is Homocon 2012, hosted by GOProud, a gay-rights group of republicans? Hell, yeah!

So, welcome GOP delegates. I’m not sure I’ll agree with what you have to say or the leader you stand behind. But if this hurricane does come, Tampa WILL offer you shelter, all kinds of drink and fun (a hurricane-tradition, you know) and the chance to establish a few commonalities. It will also offer our city and its guests the opportunity to weather these very difficult times together.

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