Adventures of an Accidental Delegate
Day 4 of the convention, and—under the effects of extended sleep deprivation, liver poisoning, and an unvarying diet of corn dogs—the delegates have lost that patriotic glow and are red-eyed and shambling, speaking only in a series of guttural grunts. It's like an episode of Star Trek in which the crew is hit by a radiation beam, causing them to devolve to caveman status—culminating in a duel in which Kirk and Spock, armed with rough clubs, circle each other warily while invisible bongo players play samba rhythms. Conversation, which at the beginning of the week tended to touch on such topics as campaign-finance reform and community-outreach efforts, now consists solely of the primitive currency of the hunter-gatherer society that has formed here in Denver's downtown hotels: credentials, floor seats, and Thursday night's Vanity Fair/Google party.
The delegate schedule is grueling. Breakfast is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., but if you get there after 9, all of the place settings will be taken, so you have to scavenge for whatever abandoned seat you can find and use whatever leftover cutlery looks reasonably clean. (This morning I was trying to eat a large piece of ham with a coffee spoon.) Breakfast is key, both because it's probably the only non-concession-stand food you'll see all day and because it's where credentials are handed out. Various luminaries also give speeches, which everyone ignores as they're frantically texting each other trying to arrange that day's quota of credentials, guest passes for friends and relatives, and tickets to the hot afterparty of the evening. (As with early man, the use of opposable thumbs differentiates those who will survive and reproduce from those who will sink into Neanderthal oblivion).
Meanwhile, members of the press—who outnumber delegates at the convention by about 3-to-1—circle the New York delegation, hoping to spot the distinguishing snarl of that elusive prey, the PUMA. I nearly bit the head off a reporter who—mistaking my impotent rage at the lack of coffee for the signs of a "disgruntled former Clinton supporter"—approached me with a series of ham-handed questions clearly intended to elicit an anti-Obama comment. Another reporter tackled me precoffee as I stepped off the elevator one particularly headachy morning, asking me what I hope Obama would say about foreign policy in his acceptance speech. The results—which, natch, showed up online that day—made me wish I hadn't taken that third cocktail and had taken the time to put on makeup, or at least showered.
The local currency—credentials, tickets to Invesco Field, and Vanity Fair/Google tickets—is probably the world's most volatile. Just yesterday, people were promising the world for Invesco tickets. (One friend's secretary was offering to book a last-minute flight at 1 this morning.) But by noon today, the market had crashed. All of my friends who had been begging me for extra tickets for days suddenly went into "Thanks but no thanks" mode.
Hot tip: the stock of the Vanity Fair/Google party tonight—which has for the past four days enjoyed unquestioned front-runner status as the hottest ticket of the week—is about to tank. After an unbelievable amount of fuss, I finally scored a ticket, only to find that the line to pick it up is almost two hours long. I'm already trying to make it to Invesco, where floor seating is first come, first served, so I decided to test the exchange rate, walking up to the front of the line and asking if anyone will take an Invesco ticket in exchange for switching places in line with me. No takers. I make a snap decision: How cool can this party really be if all the attendees are willing to wait in a cement courtyard for two hours just to pick up tickets? I am a New Yorker. I only party with the impatient. So I decide to ditch Google and go to the Onion's party instead. I give the extra ticket away—to a fellow delegate's mom.
Monica Youn is an attorney in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.