Dateline: Charlotte, North Carolina.
For the participants, and I don’t only mean the delegates, political conventions are all about status, logistics and choices.
Status determines if you have credentials and what kind. There are Floor Credential, Hall Credentials and Arena Credentials. It would take a Jesuit or a Talmudic scholar to suss out all the distinctions which can dance upon the head of a pin. There are passes for Delegates, Press, Guests and Finance Committee members. There are special dispensations and secret handshakes.
Status determines whether you can get into any parties, and whether the party you attend is a blogger event featuring pizza and four different kinds of wings, while Ben Smith is eating lobster and caviar next store with Michael Kinsley.
Status determines how long it takes for you to get somewhere, and whether you can get in when you get there.
Logistics is figuring out how you get from A to B or A to C, and whether you can still do D at any of those locations. Choices are the gambles you take after deducing the odds of success of each option.
The longer you to take to deduce, the fewer options you have left.
Four years ago, Denver let everyone with a convention credential ride the light rail for free, but getting a free meal was tricky.
This time, anyone with a press credential can eat free at Arianna Huffington’s Solon (a new age respite within an otherwise chaotic carnival), or a southern restaurant called the Blackfin Saloon, which features a hospitality suite with an open bar sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce (and that’s in addition to the parties).
Of course, free food has its perils.
The Blackfin’s food is high in cholesterol, and the guy sitting next to you might turn out to be Staten Island pol wannabeee St. Jermaine Endeley, who might then spend over an hour chewing your ear off about how unfair you were to him and how much he dislikes Colin Campbell (which might be understandable).
More to the pint, the real problem is one can go broke getting to the free food and to everything else.
Yesterday, I felt obligated to attend the New York delegation breakfast, even though I knew of two available for free Uptown at places of better quality and easier accessibility.
This morning’s choice, to blow off the New York delegation’s breakfast, owes to the state’s seeming pariah status at the convention, which makes covering them extremely inconvenient.
It also owes to the logistical fact that if I don’t write now, the flood of events, the tyranny of the clock and the absence of reliable wifi may mean another day without a piece.
If you want to cover the substance of a convention (perhaps an oxymoron), you are best off staying at home.
But if you want to smell the elephant shit, you have to be there is person (just understand the view is better on TV).
If you want to read about the speeches, go elsewhere; like my party and the country, I am up to my neck in elephant poop.
On the other hand, being at this convention is is probably the best place in the world to get the breaking news on the Vito Lopez stuff, as long as you ignore what is being said during the formal presentations at New York delegation meetings, which take place in a world where Vito no longer exists (as opposed to the real world which is concerned with the disposal of Vito’s remains).
Anyway, as I noted four years ago, Americans are supposed to eschew class divisions, and Democrats are supposed to be the most classless of all Americans (as opposed to the Republicans, who just lack class).
But Republicans and others who worry that a Democratic Party Utopia would create a classless society have yet to live in a place actually controlled by Democratic Party apparatchiks from top to bottom.
That society is called the Democratic Convention.
It is the most hierarchical society ever created by mankind.
Take the subject of accommodations.
States with Most Favored Nation Status and other heavy hitters stay in Uptown Charlotte.
Uptown hotels have a vibrant nightlife within easy walking. You can then roll into bed and still be fresh for the delegation breakfast the next morning.
By contrast, delegates from states which are easy wins or sure losses get exiled.
Last night, I talked with Scott Stringer as he contemplated bolting before Michele Obama's speech so he could avoid the nightmare of the shuttle ride back to the hotel.
New York’s delegation is staying at the beautiful Doubletree Hotel in beautiful South Park, a neighborhood of palatial southern mansions redolent of mint julep and magnolia.
South Park is technically within the Charlotte city limits, but aside from the government fiat that makes this so, it is part of Charlotte in approximately the same manner that Chappaqua is part of Manhattan.
It is only a $35.00 cab ride from the Doubletree to Uptown Charlotte.
Bus connections that far away require the cunning of a fox and intrigues which would have shamed the Borgias. The light rail doesn’t run anywhere nearby.
Helpfully, the DNC does provide shuttle busses, which allegedly run every half hour, but at peak times. they are always late, always fill up too rapidly, and always feature drivers who’ve never been to Charlotte.
One doesn’t need a GPS to figure out when a driver has gone the wrong way (although the ever-efficient Brian Ellner had one), one only need look at the skyscrapers getting further away in the distance.
Yesterday morning, Gate and Ellner had to virtually commandeer a bus from the driver to avoid ending up in Charleston.
We really couldn’t have done worse if David Paterson had been behind the wheel (luckily, the Governor will not permit David to have that large a role).
The Governor is not present, except in spirit, which is physically manifest by a small army of staff who control every detail of every aspect of the State’s participation, in collaboration with the Speaker.
That is, every aspect within their control.
Given the limited aspect of what is actually within their control, this is sort of like being the Judenrat under a not so benevolent Czar.
New York’s pariah status extends to it’s the high ranking special guest sent by the DNC to highlight its breakfast on Tuesday:
No, I still don’t know who he is and I heard his introduction.
New York’s status resembles that of a Democratic State Senator in SkelosWorld (which is at least preferable to a SenDem’s status in AndyShellyWorld).
A highlight of the breakfast was Shelly introducing all the present and past assemblymembers in the room, but forgetting all the State Senators (by saying “forgetting,” I am actually giving him the benefit of the doubt—it is just as likely that he did it on purpose).
New York’s status is also reflected in its less than preferable seating, which is clearly better than the half empty area reserved for unassigned media like yours truly (though, after an initial bout of bureaucratic chaos, I’ve had an extremely easy time getting 20 minutes floor passes), but pales in comparison with the seats given to important delegations like Guam and Democrats Abroad (admittedly, some of those folks cast absentee ballots in swing states.
I have actually been luckier.
My hotel, a Super 8 (for the Super 8 Blog) found through Expedia’s Blind Man’s Bluff function, is only a $10 to $15 ride to Uptown, but a $20 ride to the Doubletree.
My little motel, though more modest than the Doubletree is also right by a bus stop (20 minutes to Uptown for $2, and featuring an opportunity to see the cute Charlotte version of low income housing) and is also close to light rail.
It ain’t much, but there’s a bed, AC, shower, better wifi than at any DNC site, a pool and coffee in the morning.
Plus there’s no access to the godawful DNC shuttle bus.
I will leave today for Uptown after posting this and showering, and will likely still beat New York delegates who left an hour before I did so.