Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What CNN doesn't show you

Associate Editor for Street Naomi Nix '10 is in Denver as a Democratic National Convention volunteer. She and columnist Adam Bradlow '11, who is at the convention as a guest of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), will be blogging about what they see on the ground in Denver.

I first became a political junkie during the last presidential election, when I watched both parties' conventions from my living room couch. But this time around, as I saw the convention live, I noticed a few things that CNN didn’t show me four years ago.

1. It’s like a rock concert. The Democratic National Convention reminded me of the first time I watched a concert live (it was Mariah Carey with my friends’ parents). Like any major performance, the amount of people in one space makes everything slightly chaotic. And of course, the convention will overcharge you for buying a box of nachos, a hot dog or even a beer to take with you into the stadium. The amount of Obama merchandise on hand was unbelievable.

2. It’s one big reunion. There are almost as many people inside the stadium listening to the speeches as there are outside networking with colleges. And the Pepsi Center is certainly equipped to handle the schmooze fest. There are televisions everywhere airing the convention so that people can both have a drink with a friend and watch what’s going on in the arena. Some groups represented at the convention have their own special clubs with an open bar and lounge.

3. Tight message control. Now maybe I was naive, but when I watched the convention four years ago from home, I thought that the fact that everyone in the audience would hold up the same sign at the same time was a miracle of the crowd’s collective thought. But really there are staff members walking around in orange jackets handing out signs to match the order of the various speakers and themes presented throughout the night. They started with “Change we can believe in” and ended with “Michelle,” of course.

4. Security and lunchroom politics are one and the same. Everyone who gets into the Pepsi Center wears a badge stating where in the Pepsi Center they are allowed access. If you a lowly reporter from a not-so-important publication, you may get a badge that says "Arena." The prized badge is the one that reads "Floor," giving you access to anywhere in the stadium. People who have those are mostly delegates or VIPs. “Special Guest” and “Honored Guest” allow you access to the second and third levels of the arena.

5. The party doesn’t end at the Pepsi Center. There are after-parties and after-after parties for the various groups represented at the convention. (Delegates, Black Caucus, Finance Committee, press, etc). Some are exclusive, with catered food and live bands like N.E.R.D, the Goo Goo Dolls and Fallout Boy. Someone put it to me like this: “The Democratic National Convention is like the Super Bowl for nerds.” I tend to agree.