Obama will be the guy in dad jeans kissing babies, and Biden will be the white-haired fellow whispering obscenities under his breath. How do you spot the other 34,998 people expected at the Democratic National Convention? Here are a few hints. Mostly, look for lanyards. Lots of lanyards.
THE CONVENTION DELEGATE:
Easily the happiest people you’ll meet at the convention, the delegates will be known to you by their patriotic attire and the abundance of political flair they’ll wear on their persons. They’re a mix of grassroots activists and people with great political connections. The job of the convention delegate is simple: They hold signs for the television cameras for hours. Still, they pull this off with superhuman levels of enthusiasm, somehow. They will likely be exhausting to talk to.
THE SECURITY GUY:
Chiefly responsible for the long line you’ll be standing in, security personnel will be out in force, reminding you that they exist, and that you should not mess with them. The good news is that they will generally treat you with simple, reasonable suspicion -- checking your bags and making sure that you are not carrying weapons or contraband. You won’t have to submit to a scan of your genitals, or remove your shoes (probably). The bad news is that the convention’s security perimeter tends to evolve over time as the venues change and as more important VIPs swing into town, so you should never count on getting to the same place in the same way every time. Also worth remembering: The next line you stand in will be even longer, so while you’re standing there, savor the moment!
Whether it’s your favorite cable news star or just an anonymous reporter on the politics beat, you will know the members of the press because they look to all the world as though they’ve started a private collection of lanyards around their necks. There are many different types of credentials, each offering different levels of access -- some to the convention floor, others merely to the venue itself. Some journalists won’t even have passes to get inside the venue and will be relegated to some offsite media tent. These are the saddest of all, because reporters typically weigh themselves down with various passes to measure their self-worth. Should you envy their access? Well, yes. Those with the best credentials typically enjoy access to restroom facilities that most human beings in first-world would deem “civilized” -- and, if they’re very important, the “CNN Grill.” Befriend those people and get access yourself, because they will have free booze. They also have food, of course, but the wait times for food orders are typically “the 2014 off-year election.” That said, CNN is markedly better at “grilling” than they are at “newscasting.”
THE GUY WHO REALLY THINKS YOU’D BE INTERESTED IN THE PANEL DISCUSSION HE’S HOSTING:
You will probably run into these people in line, or at one of the many “after parties” that will pollute your favorite bars. The conversation will probably go something like this: “Bro, did you hear about my panel on the future of the media, or the future of democracy, or the future of the media in democracy? Yeah, man, we’ve got a lot of the big innovators on hand, talking about how socially enabled citizen-journalists are disrupting the paradigm at the grassroots level on Twitter. Yeah, it’s in Ballroom C at the Marriott at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. We’re gonna have bottled water, so you should totally check it out.”
Obviously, we cannot have some sort of politically themed gathering without also having a gathering of people who are vehemently opposed to the political themes being celebrated, so you should look forward to seeing a lot of protesters at the convention, as well as the occasional instance of those protesters being maced in the face by the aforementioned security apparatus. The Christian Right tends to come out in force for these things, so plan your meals around the occasional sight of gruesome fetal remains. But at the RNC they’re more likely to be inside cheering than outside protesting, so expect to share the sidewalks with a smorgasbord of the Left, from labor unions to Occupiers to Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s favorite specters, the “anarchists,” likely the primary beneficiary of all that mace I mentioned earlier.
BANKER YUPPIE DOUCHE
You know the guy. You might work with him. Maybe you went to college with him. And chances are, come September you’ll troll for chicks/do blow/fist pump/discuss your portfolio with him. Together, these guys are like a pastel-polo-wearing, boat-shoe-hawking army, infesting Charlotte’s bars and banks like germs multiplying in a petri dish. Maybe it’s something in the water -- Evian, of course -- or maybe there’s a douchebag factory in Cape Cod (that would explain the “summering”). Suggestions on how to avoid them include pretending to be a member of Occupy or claiming an exotic ethnicity.
THE WISER, MORE BITTER VERSION OF YOURSELF:
Once the convention is over and the madness has moved on, you’ll have a chance to take stock of what you’ve just experienced. If you’ve come to the convention city, you’ll have eaten too little, drunk too much, and not had a normal night’s sleep in days. If you’ve endured the convention as a resident of the host city, you’ll be relieved to have your streets clear of security checkpoints and your bars free of out-of-town douchebags. If you’re smart, the convention is something you won't want to do again anytime soon. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to.
Illustrations by Andrew Spear