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Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and the alphabets are entertainment. Watch these channels with the sound off, maybe after a whiskey, and you will see it clearly. These are trained actors who have perfected outrage by reading political lines under the guise of informing. Cable news benefits from dividing us, continually. This has led to folks on both sides to become more intransigent, more entrenched. Our anger is palpable. It’s cancer. However, once we leave our tv’s, and are removed from the Twitter-verse, facebook and other social media, people are people. We all live and breath the same air, send our kids to the same schools and root the same home team (Go Dodgers!) Yet at cocktail parties, or events where mixed political company attend, many of us head to toward like-minded souls where we can vent our frustrations about whatever outrage the other side did today.
Case in point: Politicon 2018. Charlie Kirk told me “Politicon is Twitter in real life.” It’s an annual event held in Southern California (the last three years in Pasadena and this year in downtown Los Angeles at the sprawling LA Convention Center). The two days of panels, debates, and raucous main events feature the leading politicos from both Left and Right. Where else in America can people come and watch (deep breath) Tucker Carlson, Touré, Dennis Rodman, Ben Shapiro, Alyssa Milano, Adam Carolla, Ben Rhodes, Charlie Kirk, Hasan Piker, Joy Reid, Ann Coulter, James Carville, Michael Steele, Cenk Uygur, Dan Bongino, Sally Kohn, Andrew Klavan, Ana Kasparian, Michael Knowles, Elisha Kraus, and even a handful of Never Trumpers like Bill Kristol, David Frum, Jennifer Rubin, and Ana Navarro. By the way, this is probably not even a tenth of the speaker’s list.
Waiting for a panel to begin (the gross Michael Avenatti and certifiable Kathy Griffin) I was seated next to a 50-something couple. The woman said something about “we need less testosterone at the top.” I was in a playful mood so I bit.
“So you will vote for the gender over substance?” I asked.
“Yes, we need women,” she replied.
I asked “So, if Nikki Haley was at the top of the ticket in 2024 you would vote for her right? She’s a woman”.
“Oh, no, no. A Democrat woman. We need to defeat the patriarchy.” Her husband sat silently, looking bemused at his wife telling the white man how it is (they were also white).
“So, you don’t believe in the content of character, but the color of skin, gender, sexual preference? You see, I don’t care what you are. Meritocracy will always get my vote. Don’t you think voting for someone because of gender is sexist? If I said that I voted for Trump because he wasn’t a woman, you would have a problem with that, right?”
She looked at her husband and said something about “mansplaining.” He just sat there being her husband. Not sure when he lost his testosterone, but it seemed more than acceptable to her.
“I’m a doctor,” she said “and I can tell you we need more women. They understand. Sexual harassment, the lack of women at the top. As a woman, I want someone who understands me.”
I replied (paraphrasing), “well that makes sense from an emotional standpoint, but you do know there are already a great many female office holders. But let’s say Hillary or maybe Kamala would win. What would you want them to do that hasn’t already been done? I mean, sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law right? You also can sue your employer and probably stand to make quite a lot of money. What else, besides the laws on the books, would a female politician implement that would make you feel better?”
“She would understand. She’s female. So, I want someone who understands.”
She was quickly becoming a cartoonish Leftist debating squad; Heavy on bumper sticker phrases, very light on actual facts. And she was supposedly a highly educated Doctor.
Side note: My friend Jeremy was cursed at by Kathy Griffin who had him kicked out because he simply replied to her comment about the Honduran Caravan with “Let Mexico Pay for It.” In front of a thousand people, she cursed and had security remove him. Some people can only perform for their sycophants. We saw Avenatti later, who’s truly a scumbag and thinks he can run for POTUS, but he said he disagreed with Griffin kicking him out. So we chatted for a few minutes, I thanked him for being in the media as it helps the Right and then took a picture. We’re not smiling, just laughing because we called him “creepy porn lawyer.”
Our good friend SABO quickly created this piece of memorabilia.
This was one of several conversations I had with people on the other side of the political divide. I walked away from each conversation somewhat stunned at the intransigence in peoples thinking.
On the second day, I was taking a break in the private VIP room where many of the speakers and some good friends would congregate. Here I was able to do several interviews. In between, I would rest and found a half-empty sofa next to a wall outlet to charge my phone. A beautiful black woman was sitting on the other end of the couch. I introduced myself and we started chatting. A friend came up to us asking if she was Tyra Banks. She could have been. Long story short, we started talking politics and she wanted to know if I supported Trump.
I replied in code because you never know who you are talking with, “I support his policies, yes.”
“Well, there’s nothing we can talk about. You support racism. You support sexism. You then are a racist and sexist.”
I’ve heard this before and didn’t take it personally. I could have ended the conversation, but I was tired of roaming the convention halls and watching panels, the couch felt good, not to mention had only 10 percent battery life.
I said “So let’s say I wasn’t. Let’s say I approve of his policies because I vote for economic issues. Let’s say I don’t like much of his tweets, and that I am one of the least racist people you would meet. Would you want to talk then?”
Forty-five minutes later, we were still talking where we had also been joined by one of her black female friends who was wearing “The Future is Female” T-shirt and a guy who introduced himself as a leader in the local chapter of the Democrat Socialists of America.
By the time we had finished talking, we covered everything from education, teachers’ unions, Trump’s economic successes benefitting all people, the reasons for the 2008 financial collapse (the DSA guy loved my point on Glass-Steagall as it confirmed his belief in government regulations) to the media causing us to not to want to even talk with each other. After all, once I was identified as a Trump Supporter, the conversation wouldn’t have happened.
We walked out together as almost friends. On Twitter we would have argued at each other for hours, calling each other names and probably threw in a few memes. Neither of us would have changed minds and only increased our vitriol.
Did I plant any seeds for their consideration? I believe, at most, they didn’t change their minds, but possibly opened them. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t fall into the trap of treating anyone with a different political opinion as evil.
When bombarded with the tribalism from our preferred media sources, it’s important to remember, if the space aliens landed and attacked tomorrow, we are all human.
*We are working on putting a series of short interviews together as well as highlights of some debates at Politicon.