»Politics: A Personal Perspective
By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
The California Democrats State Convention on Saturday, March 8 held at the Los Angeles Convention Center was my first political convention. I’ve been enthralled by politics since I was 7 years old, since my first journalism class at Paradise Canyon Elementary in the summer of 2002, yet it had taken me 12 years to get to a convention floor.
Admittedly I was quite lost. I thought I would be able to navigate the streets of downtown Los Angeles with ease. But this experience helped me discover that I have a short temper for traffic, one-way streets, cyclists and pedestrians and am easily distracted by bright flashing lights.
Luckily, I did know downtown L.A. well enough to have a rally point. In times of uncertainty, I go to The Original Pantry on the corner of Figueroa and 8th, because scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and hash potatoes are my definition of security. After some late night breakfast, I got directions and headed towards the action.
On Friday, March 7 at about 8 p.m. I finally found my way to the second floor of the Westin Bonaventure. To my dismay, it turns out nothing interesting happens on the first night at these conventions. Nonetheless, I spent about an hour glancing at the various booths, all occupied by traditionally Democratic favored groups from Planned Parenthood to the California Teachers Association.
Despite my haphazard first night, I was determined to bring my “A-game” on the main day. I checked in the following morning, received my press pass and hopped on a shuttle from the Westin to the Convention Center.
I was the second member of the press to enter the almost empty hall. Naturally I took a seat next to the only other member of the press present. He was a middle-aged gentleman, reserved, coffee in hand, typing away. I asked him which news agency he was from. He said Fox News.
This knowledge brought a smile to my face. I couldn’t resist the temptation. I asked him if he was a registered Republican. He said, quite coldly, “No.” And the conversation ended there.
Thankfully two other gentlemen, one reporter and one publisher from a newspaper in San Gabriel Valley, were more than willing to converse. I discovered that the reporter, a man in his early 60s, is a UCLA alumnus.
After exchanging some of our favorite John Wooden quotes, we got into a political conversation. He cracked jokes about the miserable state of the California Republican Party. I would laugh, but take note as well.
After all, as much as I didn’t want to accept it, there is a great deal of truth in the Republican Party’s weakness among minorities, women and millennials.
I witnessed some of these weaknesses on the various past campaigns I had volunteered for.
Finally, the program began. After opening remarks and other formalities from party officials, the speakers rolled out one after the other.
I took my place among the flock of photojournalists. We congregated stage right, at the point where the politician would first appear. We swarmed left, then right, and then left again, kneeling, bending forwards and backwards, ducking over and under one another, just to get the right shot, as we all followed the directions of the distinguished Democratic speakers.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was the first to speak.
“Democrats get things done,” he repeated after nearly every one of the Democratic accomplishments he listed. (I’m proud to be able to say that I now have a selfie with the mayor.)
The second speaker, Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, listed many Democratic accomplishments, too, like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These steps she claimed were consistent with the convention’s theme, which was “Renewing California by Advancing Our Values.”
Next up was Houston Mayor Anisse Parker who, when elected in 2010, became the first lesbian to serve in that office.
She said of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender agenda, “We want to be able to go to school in safety. We want to be able to serve our country honorably. We want to work at jobs we love, so we can pay taxes to the country that sustains us. And we want to protect the relationships and families that nurture us.”
The crowd of 2,000 delegates and volunteers broke out into cheers upon hearing this. She followed that up by addressing how Democrats get elected in red states.
“We get elected through ideas, energy and hard work,” she said, noting that this would be how Democratic hopeful Wendy Davis would be elected the next governor of Texas.
Ultimately, though, the excitement on the floor was building for one man, Gov. Jerry Brown.
Brown, who is up for reelection to an unprecedented fourth term this year, addressed a whole range of issues. He touted accomplishments on immigration with the Dream Act, on healthcare with his embrace of the Affordable Care Act, and K-12 education, which was transformed this year by the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula.
“Keep stuff local and we can respond to it easier,” he told the assembled. “We don’t live in the state capitol, we live in each neighborhood.”
At this point I had been so captivated by the speeches, delegates, lights, chants and all the activity that I was slightly more inclined to remain in this political setting rather than my own neighborhood.
I discovered a of couple days after the convention that I had missed out on the endorsing caucuses and the after party where the real politicking gets done. In other words, I missed out on the chance to get the juicy political gossip that is only spoken when a political official is sufficiently relaxed.
Despite this, the beauty of politics is that there will always be another convention, another election, and a constant raging river of political gossip to absorb the next time I find myself in a place similar to this.
Next week read about the Republican State Convention.