Live From Outside the Court


As an inside-the-Beltway dweller, let me reveal the real stakes of the election: It's who gets to party down at the inauguration and wear those inaugural gowns. At least this was the case for the Republican women I had the good fortune to follow this morning as I trekked over to the Supreme Court to look at the loonies protesting everything from the election to infant circumcision.

"At this point, the inauguration will be a bag of peanuts and B.Y.O.B." observed Blond Woman, who looked about 50 and was wrapped up snugly in a dark green winter coat with a black fur collar.

"You already got your inaugural dress, right?" asked Twentysomething Woman, obviously learning the tricks of the female Republican operative trade from her elder.

"I've had mine since six months before the 1996 election," responded Blond Woman.

It's quite impressive to stay the same size not only for four years, but through what will certainly become to be known as the Clinton Fat Years, when no itch went unscratched, no urge unfulfilled.

It's not that Blond Woman had actually thought Dole would win (she may have been a Republican, but she didn't appear to be totally delusional). Her mother was in town, she told her protege, which presented a shopping opportunity that couldn't be passed up.

At the Supreme Court, Gore supporters dominated yesterday's demonstration, booing Bush attorney and conservative legal superhero Theodore Olson as he exited that august building. I guess Bush supporters have used up their no-questions-asked personal days from work and, being dutiful boy and girl scouts who never fail to follow a rule or bend a policy (except perhaps when it comes to absentee ballot applications and the tax code), the Bushies didn't think to call in sick. Or perhaps they were just worried about showing up on C-SPAN when the were supposed to be sick.

Whatever. The result of the absence of toddlers for Bush and eight-year-olds masquerading as GOP thugs was a Gore-dominated demonstration, even though I saw no sign of A-listers like the Revs. Sharpton and Jackson, and NOW's Patricia Ireland. Still, for the first time in a while, "Gore Lieberman" signs weren't counterbalanced by "Sore Loserman" signs. "Count every vote" chants went virtually unanswered. Maybe the lack of competition explains why the level of discourse seemed to have dropped.

"If a machine rejected a dollar would you throw it away?" proclaimed one sign. Of course not. You'd kick the hell out of the machine, unless the dollar was a counterfeit or a figment of someone's imagination, which are real possibilities when it comes to counting chads.

John Boyd, president of National Black Farmers Association, brought his mule, "Forty Acres," up from South Hill, Virgnia. Said Boyd, as he grasped firmly Forty Acre's harness, "If you take away our most essential right, our most powerful tool in this country—that's the right to vote—and then say you are not going to count it, that's taking away everything you can take away from a person, the same way they took away 40 acres and a mule from African Americans after the Civil War." A fellow stood astride Forty Acres with a sign, "Stop Voter Slavery on the Jeb Bush Plantation."

It's not that Bush forces were completely absent. I spotted Pamela Casey, who I had met last week at a protest in front of the vice president's house. Last week, she'd been dressed in fatigues and protesting Gore's disdain for the military vote. Yesterday she'd left her military greens in the closet in favor of blue fleece. She was still impeccably made up and wore the same hipster dark shades. Her sign read "Move on Al."

Gore has mentioned the educational benefits of his never giving in. For example, we're all learning that this country is actually a republic, not a democracy. And that Clinton isn't the only one in his administration who doesn't give a shit about historical standards of acceptable behavior. I saw some other valuable lessons being taught. Five members of a class on a field trip surrounded a Gore supporter with a day-glo green sign that read: "George W. Bush is a: 1. A drunk 2. A cokehead 3. A idiot 4. All of the above." The last option had a swinging chad next to it that was nevertheless punched. "That's hilarious," said a schoolgirl who'll soon be hooked on our democratic process.

Then there were the folks who were simply thinking at a different, probably higher level. "Outlaw Circumcision, Not the Electoral College," proclaimed the sign of a fellow with a mountain-man beard, a black overcoat, and a green rucksack resting at his feet. Lest anyone mistake his intent, he had a swastika and an "SS" emblem emblazoned on his sign.

This vote-counting thing is even causing the whack-jobs to get bitter and mean.

It's time for this thing to end.