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Does Salt Lake really want potentially violent 2024 Republican National Convention? George Pyle asks

An invasion of Trump supporters could make the streets of Utah’s capitol city look like Washington on January 6.

(Jacquelyn Martin | AP photo) In this Jan. 6 photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Washington.

Word is that Salt Lake City is bidding to host the Republican Party’s national presidential nominating convention in 2024. That could be fun, and mean money and lots of media attention.

At best, Utah’s capitol city could be remembered as the place where the Republican Party regained its senses and its good name. Where it finally turned its back on Trumpism and again embraced democracy. Another triumph for “The Utah Way.”

Or it could be embarrassing, violent and leave the name “Salt Lake City” with a black mark through no fault of its own. The way people used to say “Dallas” in a dark way to mean the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or now say “Charlottesville,” “Sandy Hook” or “January 6″ as shorthand for some other dreadful occurrence.

What it will come down to is, which Republican Party will be meeting here? Will it be the fascist assemblage that remains loyal to Donald Trump, who will apparently remain the party’s frontrunner for the nomination unless he is indicted before then? (Or even if he is indicted.)

Or will it be the more mainstream Republican Party, the one personified by Utahns such as Mitt Romney and Mike Leavitt or recent visitors such as Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger?

[Rep. Adam Kinzinger on being ostracized by GOP: ‘Sometimes it feels good’Bryan Schott | The Salt Lake Tribune]

[Here’s who attended a Utah fundraiser for Rep. Liz Cheney — Brian Schott | The Salt Lake Tribune]

If the latter, it is entirely possible that Salt Lake City will inspire the GOP to return to its 20th century roots as the truly conservative, pro-business, internationalist, national defense party and have a strong platform to challenge Joe Biden (if he seeks re-election) or a new Democratic choice (if the effects of age and bad polls push the incumbent out).

If the former, then being the site of the triumphant return of Trumpism to presidential politics could damage Salt Lake City’s international reputation for a generation. Other conventions and gatherings, up to and including a future Olympic Games, might seek to avoid us for a long time to come.

The most threatening scenario, one that is very real, is that the 2024 Republican National Convention, wherever it is held, could be a reenactment of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Most presidential nominating conventions in living memory have been formalities. Everyone already knew who the nominee was going to be before delegates even started to arrive. Each convention was basically a three-day campaign ad that the networks carried for free.

But if the events surrounding the Electoral College certification before Congress are any guide, this one could be a really bad week in SLC.

It is not out of the question to imagine a fractious primary season for the Republicans that year. One where some states may send rival delegations to the national convention — one supporting Trump and one supporting, say, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or somebody we haven’t heard of yet.

Even if there are not floor fights over delegate credentials or convention rules, Trump and his supporters have established that rules really don’t matter to them and they are fully willing to riot in the streets, storm the building and attack law enforcement officers on their way to having they way.

If Utah wants to avoid that fate, our state’s Republican leadership should start leaning hard on its members of Congress, especially those such as Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart, to stop soft pedaling their view of Trump and Jan. 6, empower the House committee now investigating that riot, push the Justice Department to investigate the insurrection’s organizers and funders and send a few people to federal prison.

And to do all it soon enough that, by the summer of 2024, it’s all a distant bad memory.

[Utah’s House Republicans vote against holding Bannon in contempt in Jan. 6 investigationBryan Schott | The Salt Lake Tribune]

They say winning the Republican National Convention for Salt Lake City could bring in upwards of $250 million to the local economy.

It’s fair to question whether that will cover the bill for extra police, calling out the National Guard and all the damage that might be done to our convention center, the shiny new hotel that goes with it, and our city’s global name.

I’d pass.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, might be interested in renting his house to 2024 Republican National Convention visitors. As a way of paying for a trip far, far away.

gpyle@sltrib.com

Twitter, @debatestate

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