Politicon 2019 made its Nashville debut for its fifth convention, all of which have previously been held in Los Angeles. This year the theme of civility and a way forward couldn’t be missed even with the looming and divisive subject of impeachment dominating many of the discussions.
Attendees sporting red “Make America Great Again” caps sat next to others wearing Bernie Sanders T-shirts or any other variety of political merchandise with little in the way of arguments among the crowd of several thousand who seemed to find ways to express their differences and binge on the collective love (or at least obsession) of politics.
Peri Boltz traveled from Colorado Springs to Nashville for the first time where she attended what may have been one of the most important panel topics entitled “How The #$@%#! Are We Going to Get Along?” featuring one of her favorite YouTube personalities, political commentator and host of Secular Talk Kyle Kulinski.
“I think everyone in here is very passionate no matter what side you’re on and so it’s just been interesting to see so many passionate people all in one place,” Boltz said.
“I think it’s promising that people can co-exist in a space and have intellectual discourse, but it’s not a great representation of what’s happening in the county because we are people who are passionate on both sides. There’s a lot of people who are in the middle and there’s a lot of people who are apolitical and that’s kind of our job as people who do care about politics is to bring those people along with us. How can we inform them, how can we get them to news sources that are going to resonate them? Since all of us have kind of found that in our own lanes, it’s bringing those people who are apolitical or bringing those people that have been disenfranchised I think is really the way that we can make an impact in 2020 — here we’re kind of preaching the choir,” Botlz said.
The debate, which also featured J.D. Durkin, Lauren Chen, Tim Black and Tomi Lahren, was packed with a large section of the audience standing and flowing out of the room to hear the spirited debate that touched on everything from the possibility of the break-down of the two-party system to Colin Kapernick.
Tim Black, host of TBTV on YouTube, analyzes news, politics and culture to over 135 thousand subscribers, said that independent media is continuing to grow and will foster platforms that allow discussions and discourse across political lines.
“This is what my reality looks like everyday. I don’t have one of those hard-line, liberal shows where only those people call in — I get Trump supporters, Tulsi supporters, Bernie supporters and people who haven’t made their mind up. There’s some people who can’t stand politics, but happen to like me because I’m funny because I do it in an entertaining way,” Black said. “So like I said, this is not new but we shouldn’t demonize each other because we disagree unless you’re doing some demonic shit, then we should demonize you.”
Nolensville High School junior Jack Bratten sported his MAGA hat as he attended Politicon for the first time with a group of politically-passionate friends, stating that attending a keynote address given by U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn was a highlight of the convention.
“My friends here don’t necessarily agree with me on everything, but we like to talk and share our opinions and where we fall. I’ve also talked to other people who agree with me or don’t agree with me and I think it’s been pretty civil and I enjoy the conversations,” Bratten said. “I think that’s where healthy politics comes from — from people talking and just getting to know each other and saying, hey, I disagree with you but I think that at the end of the day I want what’s best for America.”
A variety of booths were set up throughout the convention selling everything from political causes to every form of kitsch a political junkie could want but one stood out among them all.
Blake Johnson, business developer for Inspire Kindness, a Nashville-based group that was founded in 2019 to, according to their website, “amplify the power of kindness through the things we do, words we say and the clothes we wear,” was one of several representatives staked out on the conference floor with their knew “Keep It Kind” merchandise that features an elephant and donkey with hearts.
“We find that it so imperative for both political parties to bridge the gap and to really try and be kind to each other,” Johnson said. “There’s such a political divide in our country as we see it, and so kindness, I truly believe, is going to be the vehicle that’s going to be powering our society forward and kindness is the thing that is going to bridge the divide between everybody, both Democrats, Republicans and everything in-between.”
The issue of civility was echoed in the campaign of third party presidential hopeful Lisa Simpson, who legally changed her name to that of The Simpsons' oldest daughter Lisa Simpson. In an television episode from the year 2000, 38-year-old Lisa became the first “straight, female President,” taking over after a disastrous Trump presidency. The real-life candidate Simpson is running a campaign with stickers that read “Peace and Love Art Movement Unity Through Healing."
Politicon founder Simon Sidi said that while the conference is a great place to bring people together for an exchange of ideas, it’s also up to those in attendance to take the ideas and discussions outside of the convention halls, “We’re doing our bit, they’ve got to do their bit,” Sidi said.
“We want this to be non-partisan, we want for people from all sides of the political divide, spectrum, whatever we want to call it, to come and talk about stuff. There’s so much to talk about and there’s so many things going on and people seem to be so split in this country,” he said. “I’m not convinced that they are always as split as people think but, you know, Politicon is one of those place that anyone can come.”
Sidi said that he is forever hopeful for the future pointing out the ability of the convention to bring people together, both to see the various talent and to discuss their ideas including some laughs along the way as seen with Saturday night’s mock debate between “Bernie Sanders,” portrayed by comedian James Adomian and “Donald Trump,” portrayed by comedian Anthony Atamanuik, is one of the ways that the convention hopes to continue to attract new attendees and spark new conversations.
“We try and get interesting people that aren’t necessarily strictly political,” Sidi said. “It’s not always about politics, politics, politics. It’s about life really.”