CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some of us owe Cleveland an apology. When the Republican National Committee announced the host city for the 2016 convention, the smart set put it down to pure political calculation: the GOP needs Ohio to win, hence Ohio.
There were jokes, too — like the “hastily made Cleveland tourism video” inviting visitors to “look at both of our buildings.” (OK, even locals had a laugh.)
But what Cleveland showed this week is that a city isn’t made of buildings, but people.
There was, first of all, the convention site itself. As Brandon Darby and his team documented, the Cleveland authorities, with help from law enforcement all over the state and the country, kept everyone safe. (Maybe open carry isn’t such a bad idea, either.)
The protests were largely a dud. There was no real violence and hardly any controversy. It was appropriate that the man who tried to set an American flag on fire set himself on fire instead — and was put out, quickly, by waiting firefighters.
The Quicken Loans Arena was a great venue — though the media facilities, which had been moved to a converted parking garage, were a tad cramped and chaotic. Rivals were placed in dangerously close quarters: the Twitter booth was directly across from the Breitbart set, for example. (Awkward.) One of the reasons many journalists prefer Democrats may be that Democrats give them more stuff — more free food, more comfortable chairs, you name it. But overall, the venue worked.
Most of all, the people of Cleveland made the convention a success. Trump told volunteers in Cleveland on Friday morning that it had been “one of the most peaceful, one of the most beautiful, one of the most love-filled conventions” anyone had seen, and it wasn’t hyperbole. It was the universal experience of Breitbart reporters — and we had a huge team on scene, spread across a huge geographic area — that every single person we met in Cleveland was friendly and eager to help.
The city did not have enough hotel rooms. But it was overflowing with hospitality. One part of the Breitbart team was based in distant Akron (near LeBron James). The first day, our shuttle — organized by the convention — failed to arrive. So a local volunteer simply drove us to the convention site — 45 minutes there, 45 minutes back. He wasn’t even a Republican — “Don’t look at my bumper stickers,” he warned us, laughing. He was just a guy from Ohio, and he wanted to do his best for us.
Small business did very well — and were very grateful. “A lot of people are gonna eat off this convention,” one woman told me. I climbed into an Uber one evening and the driver, an African-American man, recognized me: he is an avid Breitbart reader. He high-fived me: he had been ferrying liberal journalists and the foreign press around for a week. We bonded over our grief at Ted Cruz’s speech. I’ll take that memory with me forever.
Cleveland rocked! Even without the museum.