Many political events, TV channels, and magazines claim to be non-partisan and “fair,” but few achieve it or even mean it. Politicon, billing itself as the unconventional political convention, actually means it and achieves it. The result is a stimulating and entertaining event for political junkies. The second iteration of Politicon took place June 25-26 in Pasadena, California.
This year saw bigger, younger crowds than the first year and provided a better lineup. I was disappointed by only a couple of the presentations, and especially enjoyed the trade show called Democracy Village.
Young Diverse Crowds
The crowds seemed larger and younger than last year’s. This is no doubt in part because of the election. The relocation of Politicon to Pasadena from downtown LA this year probably also helped by putting it conveniently near CalTech and Pasadena City College. Also, nobody in their right mind would choose hanging out around LA’s convention center over Pasadena’s. Pasadena has a beautiful, friendly city center. Good move, Politicon.
No one likes standing in lines, but the lines at Politicon provided an opportunity to engage with people with varying points of view, from libertarian to Bernie-socialist. If you enjoy political discourse, not just yelling into an echo chamber, this event provides many opportunities for communication in a non-confrontational environment.
The presentations were fun, many pitting right and left against one another for your entertainment. “Ann Coulter vs. Van Jones” was my favorite, but you could have also seen Sarah Palin talking with James Carville or Ben Shapiro battling Sally Kohn. The opening keynote came from Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Other speakers included Senator Barbara Boxer and former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Beyond elected officials, there were many folks from internet media and talk radio as well as political consultants on stage, including S.E. Cupp, Brian Unger, Dana Loesch, John Favreau, and Leslie Marshall.
Bill Nye, the Science Guy, filled the biggest hall to standing room only with a mostly non-political talk on “How We’ll Get to Mars.”
The only one-sided, disappointing presentations I attended were “Right to Life” and “Islam in the 21st Century.”
The “Right to Life” panel, which included Dr. Alveda King, niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., was one-sided only because no one from the pro-abortion side would sit on the panel. According to the panel this also happened last year. They did take questions from the audience, which added some give and take.
The other disappointment was “Islam in the 21st Century” put together and hosted by actor/singer Robert Davi. Essentially, his argument boiled down to “All my Muslim friends in Hollywood are nice people, so Islam is not the cause of terrorism.” Not exactly sophisticated geopolitical analysis. This was the only presentation I walked out on halfway through.
There were no disappointments, however, in Democracy Village. The village was an art show and trade show that presented many viewpoints and many things that were just plain fun. I’ve included some of the best images from the art show in the video below.
The organizations in the Democracy Village booths reflected serious, silly, and innovative aspects of the political world.
On the serious side, I spoke with representatives of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. For over 50 years they have been bringing speakers to LA from the corporate, political, and cultural fields. Recent speakers have included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Other groups on the serious side included the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters.
My favorite group in this area is ProCon.org. They, like Politicon itself, work to provide a balanced exposition of controversial issues. Their page on gun control is a good example of what they do.
A serious surprise to me was a booth that opposed California’s tax on women’s sanitary products. They are taxed as a luxury item. That hardly seems fair.
Technological innovations in politics centered on new ways to vote.
The Center for Election Science advocates, among other reforms, “approval voting.” This would allow people to vote for multiple candidates. Instead of having to choose, for instance, between Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton, you could vote for both.
This method of voting would encourage people to support parties other than Democrats and Republicans. It might have changed the results of the 1992 election in which the candidacy of Ross Perot tipped the scale in favor of Bill Clinton over George H. W. Bush. Similarly, the Center for Election Science claims that with this voting system, Ralph Nader would not have caused Al Gore to lose to George W. Bush in 2000.
Another advocate of bringing technology to voting is FollowMyVote.com. It’s working to develop software that will allow people to vote from their cell phones, know when their vote is counted, and guarantee the integrity of the process.
And, we all need to laugh a little. We The Internet was there promoting its web-based satire which often punches both left and right. The Upright Citizens Brigade displayed its funny take on the Democracy Village stage. My favorite in this category was Decision 2016 Trading Cards. Yep, just like baseball cards, but with people who can’t throw straight.
Now I need to figure out where to play my Trump card.