I’m standing in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton across from the Time Warner Cable Arena on the second night of the Democratic National Convention. The room is packed with delegates, journalists, and hangers-on; Bill Clinton is giving a speech in a few hours and everyone is attempting to get as many business cards before then as possible. There are no tickets here—you just collect one credential after the next and add them to your lanyard. There’s a table devoted to recharging your iPhone, because you are terribly important and have been using it incessantly. John Kerry walks by me, as does Arianna Huffington and Terry McAuliffe. For what has thus far been a very “populist” and “inclusive” Democratic campaign, there is also an absurd display of wealth.
Every night, there are dozens of sponsored parties to attend. Media companies like Buzzfeed and Politico host parties at various art galleries and hotels around the city. I ended up at one party where the planners intentionally kept a line of people waiting outside to make it look cool. Which is really what this whole convention is all about: the club, the in-crowd, reveling in the proximity to power.
Standing on the floor while the President gives his speech is a wholly surreal experience. The move from the stadium at the last minute is impressive in terms of event production, but also in terms of optics on television, it worked out well for the Obama campaign in the end. No one wants to see a president running for reelection in a mostly empty stadium. As is the case with most of the events, there are rumors of supporters being bussed in to fill seats. But the place is completely packed and they have to turn away thousands of ticket-holders. Everyone likes the situation of having a fire marshal shut us out; it makes what’s going on inside the convention hall seem that much more elite.