Politicon was bar-none, the event of the year. In all my years in politics, I have never seen so many young people, so engaged in politics, and so questioning of leftist orthodoxy.
Indeed, we are in the throes of a conservative awakening. Everywhere you looked there was a young person you could engage. And I mean engage – they were open to new ideas, even curious. I met artists who wanted to ditch the Shepard Fairey leftist drumbeat, a 20 year old reading the Economist article on Venezuela, a marine reading the Drudge report, and a whole lot of kids wearing conservative regalia: from Trump caps to Reagan/Bush t-shirts.
As for the panels – the best way to describe the mood was asteroid versus dinosaur. You had all the old guard television personalities and strategists who had Russia on the brain and wanted to undermine Trump by any means necessary. Meanwhile the new guard were self-made internet personalities who want to forge a new identity and new politics from Trump’s victory.
I went to a number of panels, a few of the most interesting ones:
Tomi Lahren v. Symone Sanders: this was a debate of new media vs. old media. Tomi Lahren managed to build quite an online following after she was fired from TheBlaze, apparently for revealing her pro-life stance. Symone has a career as a Democratic Party strategist and is a regular contributor to CNN. Both are about the same age. Tomi showed a gift for triggering Symone, who kept invoking her black history every time she was asked an uncomfortable question.
Now What, Republicans? Dennis Prager, David Frum, Michael Steele, Tomi Lahren. Again, David Frum and Michael Steele represented the dinosaur, thinking the GOP can recapture the center by yielding to Democrat demands, like single payer, Russia collusion, or smearing Trump as a rapist. Tomi tried to explain why people voted for Trump and how we can move forward with it, but was unfortunately talked over way too often. And in the dinosaur vs. asteroid debate, Prager was the eternal mammal. He was one of a small minority who are hip to the social revolution we are going through.
And finally, the Cenk Uygur vs. Ben Shapiro debate. This was well deserved as the headline event: both internet media giants, reflecting the philosophical divide between right and left. Both with raucuous devoted fans. I’m withholding announcing who won the debate, because I think there’s a lot of confirmation bias coming into this: Cenk’s people cheered everything he said, Shaprio’s everything he said. So who won depends on who you ask.
But Shapiro did tear into some of Cenk’s arguments, and if we focus on continuing to tear these apart we can make inroads into disaffected leftists. Cenk is still blaming the right not just for the Iraq War, but for Southern Strategy. He kept avoiding Ben’s argument on health care “who will pay for it?” Which you’ll notice Ben Shapiro also is going after leftists for Venezuela. I don’t share Ben’s purist laissez-faire streak, as did many others I talked to. But we do all agree government is too big, spends too much, and we need to pare down entitlements, especially to non-citizens.
So, what does this mean for us? What can we do with this now?
We can look to Mike Cernovich for a bit of advice. He pointed out that the CNN stars barely got any draw, while conservative online personalities dominated the popularity contets. Politicon featured some surprise stars, which shouldn’t be all that surprising. Ann Coulter, Tomi Lahren, Ben Shapiro – they all had huge draws. Other conservatives with smaller draws, like David Horowitz or Dennis Prager, still did well and are aware of this new trend. And they are all sympathetic, even enthusiastic, about our cause. If we can get in touch with them and court them in any way, we’ll get far. Dave Rubin wasn’t there but he’s another classic disaffected leftist with his own online draw. He’s got his show “The Rubin Report”.
And it’s not just the personalities but the new gatekeepers we need to look out for. Breitbart, Drudge Report, Daily Caller, Daily Wire – if we can get more press releases and contacts in these groups, we can get far more publicity than by contacting newspapers or television stations.
And if we can keep pushing our way into the colleges, kids are yearning to talk to us. Milo is doing a “Troll Academy tour” at the college campuses, and in September we’ll have another controversial free speech week, hosted by conservatives, in Berkeley.
Meanwhile, we need to push our own presence online. We can have a separate talk about this. But I feel our efforts are much better spent pushing for online reach than using telephones or sending snail mail.
I’ll end by saying I took my stepdaughter to Vidcon last month – this was the YouTube creators’ convention. I’d say between these two conventions we had everyone under 25 in the city. Both have enjoyed explosive popularity, reflecting a new generation that gets all its information through online sources. I imagine in the next few years these two conventions will merge. But we need to keep on top of this.