I should have dosed myself properly for day of walking around the Los Angeles Convention center in patent leather Calvin Klein pumps, as rolling a joint on the patio during lunch break just did not seem like the proper thing to at Politicon, the fourth annual west coast convergence of politics and media. Still, I wasn’t going to let a little high heel pain get in the way of me soaking up as much as possible over the two day event. Often referred to as the Comic-Con of politics, this convention is a nerdy and joyful gathering of voters, candidates, political pundits, celebrities, comedians, podcasters, and so much more. From Ann Coulter to Dennis Rodman, this was a lively meeting of the minds from all sides of the isle.
The convention floor was lined with booths full of eager faces ready to tell every approaching attendee their elevator pitch for the politician, book, march, or platform they were representing. MSNBC had staked out a corner and set up an actual printing press where they were making cute little canvas tote bags that said “I Studied for the Midterms.” Character actors dressed as founding fathers such as Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin roamed the floor striking up conversations about the Gettysburg address and bifocals—I felt like I hadn’t seen people this engaged with politics since the election of Student Body President and Rally Commissioner during my senior year of high school.
Comedian Kathy Griffin, who received much backlash after posting a staged photo of her holding Donald Trump’s decapitated head spoke plainly alongside Stormy Daniels’ Attorney, Michael Avanetti, to a crowd of hundreds about how dire the situation in this country truly is when it comes to stifling speech and the corruption of the Trump administration. “I’m just a comedian,” Griffin said, “and they’ve made my life hell.” Avanetti, who is known for his no-nonsense approach and vehement pursuit of Donald Trump, confirmed that he would run for president if there was no viable candidate that could beat Trump in the 2020 election. The crowd boo-ed and cheered equally, and the room was tense.
The following day news came that the Trump administration may be pursuing policies that would, as the New York Times put it, “define transgendered people out of existence.” Eddie Izzard a British gender fluid comedian who identifies as trans, spoke to a diverse audience about his views on sex, gender, religion, and politics, and spoke of his intention to run for a Parliamentary seat in the coming years. While the strict no heckling policy protected any interruptions for the first hour of the Izzard’s talk, the question and answer period quickly became volatile, as certain attendees truly did not support the fight for LGBTQ human rights, and had no problem letting the convention, and Mr. Izzard know it. I asked a question about sex worker rights near the end (Izzard responded with grace and positivity) and I was nearly spit on by a woman who saw me after the talk had wrapped.
It was not uncommon to see grandstanding and harsh words thrown around during panels, as this convention brought moderates, conservatives, and liberals from all walks of life. Every topic discussed was controversial, and no one could be sure who’s side anyone was on, but in essence we were all there with the intention of forming a more perfect union.
While there was certainly a bit of an irreverent rock and roll vibe to the whole event, there was a distinct lack of sex and drugs—two hot topics in the recent legislative cycle, so I was surprised not to see some sort of programming that spoke to these parts of the political conversation. Ten states now have legalized the recreational use of cannabis and 33 have given the okay to medical. Additionally, this year the United States saw sex work decriminalization proposed from sea to shining sea, and the sex worker rights movement has been kicking ass and taking names since the deceptively titled SESTA (the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) passed in April. SESTA has since had devastating consequences for the communities most at risk of being trafficked, and the problem the bill was intended to address has only gotten worse. I was able to find one single booth that featured cannabis related content, but it was more of a lifestyle platform rather than a political action committee or an organization. Hopefully next year Politicon will allow a few more of us deviants at the table.
I survived the weekend without getting into a scuffle with any conservative prohibitionists, but boy did my feet hurt by Sunday evening. Thank goodness for topicals and cannabis bath bombs—and democracy, I suppose.