What do you get when you take pundits like Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Sally Kohn and James Carville and put them in a room together for two days? The answer is not quite what one might think.
Political junkies united at Politicon, a wonky nerdfest in Pasadena on June 25 and 26 with a blowout first day that included a one-on-one showdown between progressive CNN pundit Van Jones and conservative darling Ann Coulter.
The event saw over 8,000 attendees over the two-day convention filled with people from every side of the political aisle, no doubt motivated by the current election year. Proud Trump supporters lined the halls wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats while Bernie Sanders supporters sported their “Feel the Bern” t-shirts.
Despite the wide range of differing opinions, many of the debates and panels were very civil, with Ted Cruz supporters laughing it up with Hillary Clinton supporters in the seat next to them.
The Jones/Coulter debate drew such a large crowd that it had to be moved to a bigger room to accommodate the overflow. The line of people snaked so far around the hallways that the event began 30 minutes late.
Both debaters came out strong, though Jones was welcomed with a deafening cacophony of cheers, while Coulter entered to mild applause and boos. Coulter came out swinging, interesting enough, agreeing with Bernie Sanders.
“Bernie Sanders is right to challenge Clinton on the corruption of money in politics,” she said. “Both parties are serving the rich and not serving the voters.”
Coulter also echoed the belief that the recent Brexit vote would lead to Trump being elected president here in America. Coulter later received her usual “boos” when she wrongly claimed that Cesar Chavez was the one who coined the term “wetbacks” to describe Mexicans crossing into the U.S. illegally.
Jones and Coulter continued to debate immigration, the black vote and the upcoming election without ever coming to blows. Supporting panels and discussions also included a discussion about Brexit polling with FiveThirtyEight pollster Nate Silver, “How To Get To Mars” with scientist Bill Nye and a Saturday night comedy hour with Larry Wilmore, James Carville and SNL cast member Jay Pharoah.
Sunday was another blowout day with the arrival of former Governor Sarah Palin. With one panel where she delivered a prepared speech to her supporters, and a second one-on-one with CNN’s James Carville, Palin used her time to stump for Trump, defend gun rights and distance herself from the republican machine that she was previously the face of.
“Why is Trump winning?” Palin asked. “Why do we see these floating heads still not grasping this movement? It’s so obvious. Voters are really sick and tired of betrayal.” She further took shots at the Republican establishment by calling them Republicans Against Trump. “Or RAT for short,” she quipped. “They’re not all bloodsuckers, they’re not all bad .. I’m kidding, they are.”
The tone took a somber turn later during a Black Lives Matter panel moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry. Panel members included Black Lives Matter LA members Dr. Melina Abdullah and Jasmine Richards.
Richards has been hailed as a hero and political prisoner while facing four years in state prison after she was convicted of a rarely used statute in California law originally known as “felony lynching.”
Under California’s penal code, “felony lynching” was defined as attempting to take a person out of police custody. Jasmine was arrested and charged with felony lynching last September, after police accused her of trying to de-arrest someone during a peace march in Pasadena on August 29, 2015.
Richards was openly emotional during the panel and received a standing ovation from the audience. Abdullah commented on the charges saying, “Her conviction is not only about punishing Jasmine Richards, but also is the lynching,” she said. “So it’s really disgusting and ironic that she’s charged and convicted with felony lynching, when the real lynching that’s carried out is done in the same way it was carried out in the late 19th, early 20th century, where it’s supposed to punish those who dare to rise up against a system.”
Another much-anticipated debate happened between conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and CNN contributor Sally Kohn. While Kohn and Shapiro found common ground on their dislike of Trump, the debate finally heated up when the discussions turned to sexism, immigration and sharia law.
At one point, moderator Jon Macks had to step in and ask both parties to refrain from personal attacks and keep the debate on topic. While things stayed tense throughout the hour-long debate, both parties shook hands at the end and took a photo together.
The second day of Politicon rounded out with another comedy hour, this time with SNL alums Jay Pharaoah, Darrell Hammond and MSNBC’s Toure, which gave the perfect opportunity for everyone to come together after a day of tense debates and laugh.