Last night was really bizarre

Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2000 11:47 AM

Last night was really bizarre, beginning with the election process at the Rec Center.

It was bizarre because for the first time in my life I actually confronted the harsh reality of sound-bite democracy in America. I sat down and read my way through the entire list of idiotic questions on the MSNBC exit poll. And answered them as honestly as I could. 

What a miserable Myers-Briggs morass of a test!!

Did Bush's drunk driving arrest affect my decision tonight?
Are you kidding?!!!?
Check NO

Do I trust either of these men?
Are you kidding?!?
Check NO

Will the Clinton administration be remembered for its scandals or for its leadership?
It will be remembered for the effectiveness of its attacks on the social welfare system and the environment. But is that leadership or scandal?

Does America need a fresh start?
What is that supposed to mean? You want a fresh start, get "None of the Above" on the ballot!!  It has been observed that The Archedruid David Brower probably died on Sunday because he could not face seeing the outcome of this year's election.


The local Green Party was having a celebration at Fort Worden and I was invited - asked to bring my guitar. They had promised big screen TV election coverage, food, beer, espresso, and the company of the majority of the people in town who don't work for the government or drive late model SUVs.

Susen's invite read:

"Hi - Come with your guitar, okay?  Even if you don't like us anymore .....

The Jefferson County Green Party is hosting an Election Night Victory Celebration Tuesday, November 7th, 2000 and wish to extend an invitation to you and the entire community. Please join us for an eventful evening of good humor and cheer filled with food, music, dancing and entertaining skits. Tempt the fates and win an exciting (Shh! secret) door-prize. Don't worry about missing those election returns! Live television coverage will provide continuous local and nationwide results for you to cheer and boo! And what kind of party would this be without spirits to lift our spirits! Beer and wine will be provided as well as non-alcoholic beverages.*
Join us in Celebrating:
* The successful campaign of our Green Party candidate for President who has drawn paying crowds of in excess of 10,000 across the nation. We believe we will astound the pundits and the press and achieve the 5% necessary for official US election financing come 2004.
* The continuation of a powerful grassroots organization that will oversee the health of our planet and political system for years to come.
*  The formation of an official Green Party in Jefferson County.

We want this to be your political party! So come party with us!"


    Even though I was and am convinced that the Nader camp is likely to get Bush elected, and that a Bush administration in this decade, when combined with the first completely Republican controlled congress (a demonic convergence not seen in Amerika since 1952) really is likely to prove far worse for the world than a Gore administration. And I am convinced that this is NOT the birth of an effective grassroots organization anymore than the WTO riots were. Which is why Susen had said "Even if you don't like us anymore ...." in her invite.

And what I saw was just plain picture perfect.


The Greens had rented the Chapel at Fort Worden and right there in the middle of the stage - where the minister was supposed to be, stood a HUGE big screen TV - one of those 4 foot high by 6 foot wide black things - and a proletarian Peavey PA system on poles. The perfect image of Big Brother, there stood Darth Vadar in a box.  But the chapel basically had no electrical outlets for the PA system and nothing (antenna,cable, etc.) to connect the TV to except a VCR.  So the few people who actually cared about the national coverage were standing around near the door listening to a little portable radio, and inside the chapel people were talking and eating and playing the typical music people play on guitars, concertinas, fiddles and harmonicas.

And of course they were standing around the food tables eating a schizophrenic mix of organic hippie-chips from the Food Coop and prepackaged chip-dip from assorted multinationals and homemade sugar cookies and non-organic nitro-packed apples from Safeway and pasta salad that looked like it probably had MEAT in it.

And I went "Wow - here we are again - nothing ever changes! We STILL can't agree on what to eat, after over 30 years."

But the bottom line was that even though I knew over 90% of the people in the room I felt enormously alienated from almost all of them. Because "green as they were", no one in the room was really up enough on the local issues to even discuss them, and almost no one there had campaigned effectively to control the outcome of critical local level elections.

One of these races is now separated by a hundred votes or less, and the candidates are waiting for absentee votes to be counted, just like the critical swing states in the national elections. But the difference is that these are races that really will control the patterns of development in this county for at least the next 4 - 6 years. These are not interchangeable candidates like bush/gore. These races have results you will see on the ground.  So instead of playing music, I went up to the Courthouse where the precinct level results are posted as they are counted.

I have spent election night there every year for at least the past 20 years, watching the balance of power shift - as the individual precinct returns are posted in tidy little rows in green felt pen on the huge whiteboard - issue by issue, column by column. One column for each candidate, side by side.  And I watched closely - adding columns of numbers in my head - looking at the faces huddled around clip-boards running totals in the margins - tight groups of political allies - watched as smiles turning to frowns - heard one side's groans and the other side's muffled cheers when the 70 - 30 balance favoring the Democrats on state and national issues once again collapses and yet another precinct falls to the right-wing developer candidate by 12 votes.

The local election was probably already lost at 9:00 PM with less than 30% of the votes counted!  Marlow and his baddy buddies were strutting around, beaming like they finally owned the place. Long term "adversaries" were hugging and kissing and congratulating the victors for the elegance of their victories.

A few paragraphs back I said "These are not interchangeable candidates like bush/gore". Maybe I was wrong.  Because these folks are all politicians, first and foremost, and as a result, they feel much closer to their opponents than they do to you and me.

Anyway, our side, such as it was, was barely in evidence, so crushing and obvious was their defeat.  So I went back to Greenland and found that it was still the same - all that people seemed concerned about was whether or not Ralph was going to make his 5% to get matching funds. And I was left shaking my head in wonder - all this effort for what? With less than 10% of it we could and should have owned the county courthouse.

So I dragged my guitar in from the car and played bad music that never got close to consensus or balance. Never even figured out a single chord change. No one playing would turn down enough to hear anyone else.

©Joe Breskin November 2000 - forwarding is O.K. with me
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