A Conventional Viewpoint: The Armenian Community at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions

An Interview with Khatchik Mouradian

From August 25 to 28, and again from September 1 to 4, our sister publication the Armenian Weekly, provided daily coverage, first, from the Democratic National Convention in Denver Colorado and then Republican National Convention in St. Paul Minnesota.

The Armenian Weekly, and the Armenian National Committee of America were fully credentialed for both conventions. Having set up special election blogs for both events, the Armenian Weekly offered daily coverage of both conventions, including interviews with Democratic and Republican officials and other tidbits from both sides of the isle.

Below is an interview with Khatchig Mouradian about his experience blogging at the conventions.

Allen Yekikan: Talk about the importance of Armenian-American Media being at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Khatchig Mouradian: Thousands of journalists and bloggers covered the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, including a few ethnic newspapers. For the first time, an Armenian newspaper, the Armenian Weekly, was present at both Conventions and provided daily coverage.

Covering the Conventions gave us the opportunity to share with our readers an Armenian perspective on the proceedings, and on the other hand, raise the concerns of the Armenian-American community in our interviews and discussions with Congressmen and political leaders. In our interviews and meetings, we discussed the importance of the ethnic vote in the Presidential election, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, Foreign Aid to Armenia, the Karabakh conflict and other issues of important for Armenian-Americans. But we also went beyond that and asked the Congressman and delegates about the presidential and vice-presidential candidates and their vision for the country.

Conducting dozens of interviews and meeting with Congressmen, delegates and renowned political commentators constituted the bulk of the work the Armenian Weekly did, in coordination with the ANCA, at the Convention. We also had an opportunity to talk to local Armenian activists in Denver and St. Paul and sharing their own experiences with our readership.

A.Y.: Why create a blog to cover the conventions?

K.M.: The blog was a novel idea for an Armenian newspaper. To be fair, there are many successful Armenian blogs, but few, if any, Armenian newspaper around the world have set up blogs and provided rich daily coverage of events there. We decided to use blogs because it was a fast and efficient way of getting the news out. The response we have received has far exceeded our expectations and we have decided to blog from other venues as well in the future.

A.Y.: How did the Armenian community participate at each convention?

K.M.: Representatives from the ANCA attended both the DNC and RNC. ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian and ANCA Easter Region Executive Director Karine Birazian, as well as Ani Hagopian from Armenians for Obama were at the DNC; ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian was at the RNC. They met with party representatives and Congressmen as well as attended various events and meetings, like the Ethnic Council meetings at the DNC.

A.Y.: Talk about the importance of the Armenian-American vote and the importance for our community to be involved in politics.

K.M.: The Armenian-American vote is as important as Armenian-Americans themselves consider it to be. If the community participates actively in the political process (not just in elections), then it can realize its full political potential and have a greater say in what goes on here in our country on all levels, from the towns and counties to Congress and the White House.

Having said that, I have to note that the Armenian-American presence from Town and City Councils to State Senates is not representative of the true political potential of the community. We can do better.

The combined number of Armenian delegates at the DNC and the RNC did not exceed 20. Nearly half of those were from states where there are no sizable Armenian communities. It was a pleasure talking to some of these delegates and seeing how they are passionate both about their political party and the Presidential election as well as issues of concern to Armenian-Americans. The Armenian Weekly interviewed some of these delegates and shared their insights with the readers.

A.Y.: What can we do different for the 2012 DNC/RNC?

K.M.: We could have more activists involved in distributing literature on Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide Resolution at the Conventions. I noticed a few other groups and lobbies actively involved in that. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be as well. The Conventions bring together the rank and file of party loyal and we can do more than just interact with the leadership. Ii would also be great to have a bigger Armenian-American media presence.

A.Y.: How do you think Armenians will be voting come November? Do you think Republican Armenians will cross over and vice-versa?

K.M.: I do think the general enthusiasm in the nation has also generated enthusiasm in our community. Armenian-Activists and Armenian-Americans in general tend to vote for candidates who are supportive of their issues, and this year, they will probably vote for the Obana/Biden ticket in even higher numbers.

Although the Obama/Biden ticket is clearly the best choice for Armenian-Americans, many conservative Armenians I know continue to support the McCain/Palin ticket and manage to justify their choice one way or the other. Difference of opinion is a good thing, of course. What bothers me is the thought that some Armenians-Americans, like some other Americans, might refrain from voting for Obama for reasons that have more to do with race than politics.


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