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On Political Curiosity - Nick Guthman

What happens when you bring together multi-partisan superstars, social justice artists, and thousands of politicos together? Something intriguing. Something really powerful. And something with a great deal of potential.

One way to understand Politicon is that it’s the Comic-Con of politics. But if you haven’t been to Comic-Con, that description may not be too helpful. For me, Politicon was a space where people from the entire political spectrum can come together, learn, and feel inspired to shape political dialogue with their friends and family.

Politicon brought together Sarah Palin, James Carville, Melissa Harris-Perry, Gary Johnson, and Rosario Dawson, to name a few. The weekend-long conference hosted a series of college debates, live podcasts, exclusive political movie screenings, and featured over 40 local and national politically oriented organizations. But you might be asking:

  • “Why are all these political operatives hosting a convention?”
  • “I thought the Republican and Democratic Conventions weren’t for another couple weeks?”
  • “What’s going on here?”

I had those same questions. And after attending Politicon, some of those questions remain unanswered. But that’s the beauty of Politicon. It keeps you asking questions and it keeps you curious. In the world of politics, so many of us, myself included, think we know what is right and wrong. We align our political beliefs with the respective parties, and we rarely give ourselves the space to be persuaded otherwise. What I found to be so utterly powerful about Politicon was the refreshing feeling of political curiosity.

The event gives attendees the opportunity for a one-minute Speak Out. In this space, anyone can get in front of a group of people and speak their mind. I heard ideas about approval voting, millennial libertarianism, and several calls for creatively re-imagining our political system. A few minutes later, I attended an empowering Black Lives Matter panel. Then I took a little stroll over to Sarah Palin’s book signing. My mind was exposed to such differing and yet simultaneously similar ideas. And as a result, I felt a renewed sense of political curiosity. And that humbling curiosity could unlock a new perception of our politics.

At every point of the political spectrum, though some more than others, divisive tactics are used to advance the political agenda. The idea of promoting political agendas permeates those initial questions I raised earlier about the purpose of Politicon. Our politics are always attached to a purpose, often the purpose is to advance our country. And at the end of the day, everyone wants our country to prosper through equality and liberty, at least I hope. There are just varying ideas of how to get there, causing some of the worst gridlock in history, and maybe that’s because we have forgotten how to be open-minded. So what is at the root of the humbling political curiosity that Politicon creates for its audience?

So what is at the root of the humbling political curiosity that Politicon creates for its audience? Politics without a transactional purpose, nor political agenda. Or better yet, politics for the joy of politics. After all, their slogan is “Entertain Democracy.” What’s more, often our politics drive what we’re against. Politicon gave me a chance to reflect on what I’m for. And if the political dialogue in this country shifted more toward what we stand for, and why we stand for it, maybe conversations at the dinner table and at committee hearings would be a little more productive and we could continue to move forward, together.

To that end, Politicon provided an escape from the polarization that often puts people off to the realm of political dialogue. And for me, I was taken on a curiosity cultivating escape from the not so humbling, and rather egotistic,

What’s more, often our politics drive what we’re against. Politicon gave me a chance to reflect on what I’m for. And if the political dialogue in this country shifted more toward what we stand for, and why we stand for it, maybe conversations at the dinner table and at committee hearings would be a little more productive and we could continue to move forward, together. To that end, Politicon provided an escape from the polarization that often puts people off to the realm of political dialogue. And for me, I was taken on a curiosity cultivating escape from the not so humbling, and rather egotistic, world of politics. And whether or not politics is your thing, this sort of escape is something worth exploring, and more important than ever.

Stay curious, my friends.

Nick Guthman got his start in progressive politics in 2008 and has since worked on several issue and electoral campaigns in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Nick is a Politics, Policy, and Law Scholar and former President of the College Democrats at American University. He currently interns with Democracy Partners.

Twitter: @NickGuthman

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