Remembering Why I Don't Do Conventions
The last time I went to a national party convention was 1992, and I vowed never to go to another. But when Tina Brown asked me to “do” the conventions for her soon-to-start web site, I suddenly couldn’t remember why. What could be nicer than to be in the middle of the action, representing what is bound to be a “hot book,” and yet with no actual deadlines or obligations -- other than sharing my thoughts on no fixed schedule with Washington Post readers?
Well, one answer is home, watching it all on C-Span. There are all sorts of reasons people might not be enjoying themselves here. They might have been Hilary supporters—they might even be Hilary, or one of the disappointed Veep hopefuls. Or they might just be one of the thousands of journalists here, all chasing after the same negligible story. And, unlike 1992, there are now blogs by the thousands as well. My sources tell me that Obama will probably get the nod on Thursday evening. Get ready: it will be “historic.” In his speech, Obama will attack John McCain, George W. Bush, and Republicans generally. He will promise to end the war and improve the economy.
But enough inside dope. I had forgotten the curse of status anxiety. (Not that I care, of course.) A political convention, even that of the party of the people, is a festival of doors within doors. And the badge you wear around your neck tells the world how many doors you are authorized to pass through even if you’re in a Starbucks far from the convention site. Do you have a Hall pass or only an Arena pass? What? Only a PERIMETER pass? My dear!
Passing out the passes is always an occasion for much bustle and self-importance. (Cell phones are another post-1992 development that makes things worse: self-importance is now portable and universal.) This kind of pass must be collected every day, that kind is good for the whole week. A parking pass? You must be joking. Those applications were due weeks ago.
The desk where you collect your press credentials was supposed to close at 5 on Sunday. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it still open at quarter-to-six. Even more pleasantly surprising was the friendliness of the fellow at the computer. It was almost as if he was importuning me, not the reverse. My name? Not on the list. But no problem—just sign here anyway. Your driver’s license? No—what for? (Good grief, I thought. Someone call Homeland Security.) And here is your badge that will get you into all of our events. And here is a ticket to a party. We hope you’ll attend the governor’s press conference tomorrow.
Wait. The governor? Is this the DNC press credentials office? Why no, it’s just the state party of New York. Mr. Friendly directed me to the place where the real press credentials were handed out. Or rather, weren’t handed out. They had closed at 5 as promised.
Then there is the question of hotels. How far is yours from the convention arena? Mine is so far that it is even beyond the range of the shuttle bus system, forcing me to rape the environment by driving 40 minutes or so each way every day like some kind of Republican. Actually, my hotel is at the airport. When Denver International Airport opened some years ago, it was so far from everything that supposedly it was impossible to return your rentacar with a full tank of gas. In the years since, a few sprigs of commerce have sprouted, and the misleadingly named Days Inn Denver Business Center is one of them.
Finally, there is the question of parties. Were you invited to this one or that one? I ran into a friend who claims to be throwing the best party at the convention – it’s such a hot ticket that a former cabinet member has been begging for admission. My friend says he’ll get a ticket to me. I hope he doesn’t plan to leave it at my hotel.
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