Week of 6.6.08
Excerpt: "The Uprising"
More From NOW: Dialogue with Dictators? | The Power of Populism | Excerpt: "The Man Between War and Peace" | Excerpt: "The Uprising" | Feedback Forum | TranscriptExcerpted from The Uprising by David Sirota. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
I'm pretty sure I'm still at the Riviera Hotel here in Vegas. I know this not because I can see through the blurry haze of my hangover or think past this pounding headache or feel anything other than the sharp pain of dehydration in my stomach, but because I can still smell the cigarette smoke embedded in the wallpaper. The Riviera is one of those last hangers-on in Vegas—an aging hotel that still tries to show a little leg and pose as a competitive casino, oblivious to the sleek billion-dollar palaces just a few doors down. Each wing is named after luxurious spots on the French Riviera (I am here in the Monaco Tower)—the names are supposed to make you ignore the decor's distinctly Nixon-era feel. Plenty of twinkling lights surround the faded wall mirrors in the casino—but every ?fth light or so is burnt out. Where the registration desks at the newer casinos are adorned with giant ?sh tanks, or expensive modern art, the Riviera has guests check in at what appear to be bank-teller stations. And forget about amenities. As the clerk barked, "At the Riviera, you can't even reserve a nonsmoking room." The hotel has a collision-of-two-worlds feeling about it. In a city now dominated by luxury resorts only the wealthy can afford, the Riviera is for the commoner, the everyman. The guests who stay here are the wide-eyed, middle-aged, round-bellied Joneses taking their one big trip of the year from places like Dubuque and Bismarck—they are not the reconstructed-with-plastic nouveau riche from the coast who jet-setted in for the weekend. This is not the place that would host a big pay-per-view prize?ght—but it is a hotel where I am not surprised to see a minor-league billiards tournament taking place.
The Riviera is Flyover Country's embassy in Las Vegas—the place where The Rest of Us go when we visit Sin City. That's why it's a damn good place to have the ?rst annual YearlyKos Convention.
This 2006 summer gathering is for those who read, write for, comment on, and are otherwise connected to the weblog Daily Kos. It is a boisterous band—mostly young, middle-class lefties, with some unreformed '60s hippies, '70s environmentalists, '80s anti-Reagan liberals and '90s-era Clinton political operatives mixed in. Imagine a Democratic National Convention and a Star Trek convention having a drunken one-night stand and producing a love child: that is YearlyKos.
Since I have my own blog, I was asked to speak on a few panels. When I checked in to get my convention badge, the volunteer recognized my name and asked me about a blog post I had written a few months back. Minutes later, a woman excitedly introduced herself as "McJoan"—expecting me to know her by her Internet screen name (and I'll admit I did). In another moment, a twenty-something in a seersucker sport jacket covered with political buttons asked for my autograph. I was surprised by the attention.