I went to the official Youth Ball last night, and it was a study in mass chaos and debauchery (read: a lot of fun). Some 7,000 people between 18 and 35 descended on the Hilton on Connecticut Avenue to see Kanye West, Kid Rock, Fall Out Boy, and, of course, Obama. The line to get in stretched around the block, and, once inside, the lines to get drink tickets were almost as epic. (It was a wrist-banded event, since there were tons of attendees under 21, and I felt like I was back in college, watching people try to wriggle bands onto younger friends' hands or slip them gin and tonics when security wasn't looking.)
The place was packed, and I very quickly lost the people I'd come with. So I attached myself to a new crew of people I'd never met, including a guy who said he had worked for the Obama campaign. His buddies informed me that he was quite a big deal. (I never grasped what his job had been.) We were soon caught in the crushing sea of people moving into the main ballroom, where the MTV broadcast and Obama's speech were to take place. It was clear within a few minutes that not everyone was going to get in, and sure enough, just as we were nearing the doors, a line of D.C. police stepped in front of us and announced that no one else could enter. This news was met with dismayed guffaws and complaints. "But I have a ticket!" several people shouted. And, better yet, "But I've worked for Obama!"
The campaign staffer I was hanging with grumbled loudly and whipped out his cell phone. I asked whom he was calling. "Secret Service," he announced. "This is ridiculous! I have to get in." Looking around, I noticed several other people also punching numbers angrily into their phones. My new acquaintance's call wasn't answered, so he tried again. And again. He kept insisting he would find access--after all, he had friends in the new administration!
I wandered back to the overflow room to watch the event on a big screen, and I saw the staffer there a few minutes later, miffed that his entitled entrance had been denied. I'm guessing there were lots of similarly disappointed young folks moping about the room, their fifth or sixth cocktail in hand, complaining of being VIPs left out in the cold.