About two weeks before the midterms, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Ben Shapiro was about to give an hour-long keynote address. It was the second day of Politicon, a relatively new palooza of political punditry that bills itself as a “non-partisan ‘Unconventional Political Convention’ that brings Republicans, Democrats, and politicos of every stripe under one roof to spar, promote, shit-post, and trade business cards. In reality, it is a political Comic-Con.
Izzard’s comment reminded me of the fact that the liberal presence at Politicon 2018 consisted of a cadre of mostly bland personalities, uncommitted socialists, poorly prepared debaters and a serious deficit in cheeky merchandise. There was one “Ben Shapiro is Overrated” t-shirt, but it seemed to ironically favor Shapiro. This isn’t to say politics should be a consumerist enterprise of spectator sport idiocy. But at Politicon, if not here—where? This is where politics meets glossy advertising pitch-meetings on Madison Avenue. This is where Kathy Griffin, Clay Aiken and the cast of The West Wing get equal billing as Chris Christie, Carter Page and James Carville. This is where you oversell your politics as fashionably loud publicity stunts.
Nobody gave a shit. Politicon isn’t where you practice irony. This is where you test campaign strategies, play dirty, expose weaknesses and win over the plebs with a swing of the rhetorical blade. Liberalism failed in this regard. It failed so much that I worry about the future of our republic, which requires both sides to be viable in order to sustain itself.
Trump did this with marketing, not corruption—something the left refuses to learn from.
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Then again, this was Hollywood. But even today, conservatives are finding solidarity following a Supreme Court confirmation where the left’s resistance manifested in Alyssa Milano prepping her cauldron on television for Kavanaugh’s blood—which ended up being a crushing current of liberal tears. Again, this was a tiny sample of potential voters, but waiting in line for Shapiro’s keynote, I saw a family wearing Daily Wire T-shirts and MAGA hats and holding matching “Leftist Tears” mugs. I took a picture. I saw crowds of relentlessly vocal MAGA fan boys and MAGA family vacationers. It was tailgate party for these people. I don't think I saw a single identifiable liberal family or sports fan equivalent.
Trump did this with marketing, not corruption—something the left refuses to learn from. Trump did it by merchandising every inch of his being; first, with the inescapable Make America Great Again slogan, then the red hat, which metastasized as a meme, then a symbol of a grassroots economy of loyalists and Twitter trolls. From there an army organized promoting MAGA at every turn and dressing in MAGA apparel like urban youth in Supreme, successfully turning MAGA into a cultural status symbol rather than a campaign slogan. It was remarkable to see, the optics. We were in Los Angeles, and there were predominantly conservatives headlining a political convention and drawing the biggest crowds.
Inside, a micro-economy almost entirely fueled by the right, at a political convention organized by liberals who were most proud of their ability to lock in a wacky conversation between Michael Avanetti and Kathy Griffin at this year’s event. Here's the kicker: on site, Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky told me, “I don’t like Trump, but Kathy Griffin makes me want to vote for him.”
The fact that these two individuals are the left’s version of political rock stars worries me.
Also, if your only campaign pitch is that displacing Trump will fix every problem facing the country, you should skip the White House and submit your resume to CNN. He became even less presidential by sitting next to a plucky woman whose greatest innovation is writing new dick jokes, and who indiscriminately used the F-word in front of children and adults, referring to the White House press secretary as Sarah “Fuck-a-bee” Sanders.
The fact that these two individuals are the left’s version of political rock stars worries me heading into an election where I certainly do not want to see an unprecedented and blinding red wave. Nor do I want to see “useful idiots” like Griffin and Avenatti hand MAGA complete control by repelling voters, which will give this president more power (as his approval rating slowly ticks up), at a time when we need rational liberals and moderate conservatives in a political wrestling match against the faction of Trumpism. The only way to win is with a center-right outcome, with center-right candidates—not MAGA standing over the two opposing groups and collectively forcing them to scream uncle.