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Panic In Portland City
2000-12-12 19:29:38


Anarchy
 
I hope some Arch-Angel Waitress in a tight fitting cocktail dress, with a small nose and really big tat tats, smacks you in the head for sucking down those LFPs and not tipping.
-- Johnnie Royale

 

It’s election night. My wife and I are holed-up in this hotel that my political party has rented out for the evening. Outside, people are being violently beaten for whom they voted for. Is this South Africa? Perhaps we’re in Haiti or some Southern state during the 60’s. Of all the places where this sort of thing happens, it’s mind-boggling that we are in Portland, Maine.

Memo To:Tjames Madison & Mr. Bad From Base Camp Oak Hill - Somewhere in New Hampshire
Subject:It Can’t Happen Here; or Terror, Ugliness and Violence at the end of the Campaign.

“Sooner or later - You’re gonna listen to Ralph Nader
The Buzzcocks - Fast Cars

We’ve come here on Election night in the year 2000 to bear witness to what we know will be a lost war for the Green party, but hopefully will be a battle won. For the past several months, momentum for presidential candidate Ralph Nader & the Green Party has been building up. So much so that the Democratic National Party has taken notice; moved from their back-room belly laughing to a hair-whitening, deathly-pale fear, prompting them to launch an all-out attack. At first, the attacks consisted of nothing more than the expected verbal propaganda. Find the most effective message, drill it into the campaign brown shirts, and send them out in public to verbally hammer into anyone who would dare to consider the idea of voting for Nader. I can say that since August, I’ve heard the phrase “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” an average of three times a day. More, if you factor in the various desperate pieces of E-mail.

As Election Day came nearer, the attacks grew more desperate. Gore supporters began spamming Ralph Nader, The Green Party, and any supporters whose address they could get. Recorded messages and bulk faxes explaining why Greens should vote for Gore, with an “Or else!” overtone, went out at dinnertime to those who registered as Green. Gore supporters began making their presence known through public forums, echoing biblical-esque doomsday messages, with thinly veiled promises of retribution to anyone who didn’t get back in line with the program. This should have been the first clue to my wife and I that the best course of action would be to cast our votes, and fortify ourselves with large caliber guns twenty miles outside of town. However, I am a professional. I go where my instincts tell me the story will be, and in this case, all compasses pointed to Maine.

Our arrival in Portland, Maine, early in the evening was uneventful, offering no hints of the maelstrom we would soon find ourselves in the middle of. Our first objective of the evening was to rendezvous with a friend who had flown in from California at Portland’s Green Party Headquarters. As we drove around the downtown area, Gore supporters were out in mass, displaying signs with the expected “a vote for Nader is a vote for Gore” message. But in addition to this, were additional people who should know better holding up signs filled with hate, fear, and ignorance. “Vote For Nader. Hitler would want you to.” read one sign, “Nader for President - because civil rights don’t matter.” read another. No wonder my mother, a prominent Democrat, said she was voting for Nader.

An air of guarded apprehension choked the room, and with good reason as we were about to discover. Throughout the evening, various Gore supporters had come by, defacing the display window, harassing passersby within their sight, and storming the campaign offices demanding justification from the Green volunteers for casting their votes for Nader. One blind volunteer told us how he had been attacked and severely beaten that afternoon for nothing more than wearing a Nader 2000 button.

As we waited at Green HQ for our companion to make his appearance, I stepped outside for a cigarette. Down the street, I could see a loathsome group of frenzied Gore supporters making their way up to the square, stopping off in various establishments. I reached into the deep pocket of my jet-black duster, and pulled out the safety ring out off my canister of bear repellent. If this mob was looking for confirmation, I’d give it to them. Fortunately for everyone, the rabid swarm turned the corner, for an unknown destination. I put the safety pin back, Snuffed out the cigarette, and went back inside.

Two hours had passed, and our crony still had not shown up. A steady stream of supporters, journalists, and Green candidates had come and gone. Now, the last of the campaign workers were preparing to close up shop, and go to the election night party at a hotel a few blocks away. My wife and I had spied a promising tavern, which boasted to be the oldest restaurant & pub in the city. Because we hadn’t eaten a thing all day, we made the decision to patronize this establishment.

From the outside, we are expecting the pub to be Rustic and Colonial. Instead, we were greeted with an old man sports bar, complete with a handful of TVs tuned into every station ESPN offered. The regulars eyed us with suspicion, which is to be excepted. Any place where a stranger wearing a black duster who isn’t Johnny Cash and accompanied by a beautiful woman will be watched out of fear of said person producing a firearm. With intent to use it. But this was not our aim. All we wanted was food and drink. We walked to the back, looking around for signs of patrons enjoying a meal. There were none. As far as we could see, there was no restaurant either, just a dingy hole in the wall filled with customers downing alcohol, murmuring unknown conversations to one another. We took seats at the end of the bar, and patiently waited for the bartender, who was casually talking with a customer at the other end of the bar.

A good barkeep does more than just serve drinks. They possess the ability to read the collective emotion of those that they serve, thus increasing their sales and tips. I got the distinct impression that our presence was viewed as an unwanted invasion, and the barman knew this. For several minutes, he continued talking, glancing our way now and then, with the hopes we would vanish. A few minutes passed, then the barkeep finally gave up and took our order. We sat in relative silence, playing a video bar table game called Monster Madness, listening to the clientele within earshot talk.

The conversations are what you would expect to hear in a seaport town – talks of fishing, boats and the expenses of making a living. But because this was Election Day, it was natural that the subject would inevitably turn to politics, which spread throughout the room like sickness in Typhoid Mary’s kitchen. I was astonished to hear that the large majority of tavern debaters were supporters of Al Gore.

There’s a good reason why the golden rule of conversation says to avoid talking politics and religion in drinking establishments. These two demon-topics have instigated brawls and riots throughout the course of history. And the drunker you get the more indignant you become. Tonight was no exception. The more beer that was downed, the more aggressive the talk became. When talking to a person with the disposition of a mean drunk, it doesn’t matter what you say, they’ll use their booze-honed skills to maneuver you into a place where it’s an insult against their personal existence. It’s a losing battle that cannot be stopped. With an entire room of mean drunks, it’s worse. Especially when many of them are possibly armed. Because most of the discourse was in favor of Gore, it was only a matter of time before Nader and the Green Party was injected into the debate. To our left, a drunken antagonist took his folding knife from his back pocket, slammed it on the table and said, “Ralph Nader and his supporters should be rounded up and shot. If they had their way, they’d turn the country’s keys over to the communists.” Having a lifetime of experience with mean drunks such as this, I knew that very soon, his attention would focus on us. It was time to leave.

We found our way to The Excelsior Hotel. A four star palace with a lodging price that requires a co-signer. Television reporters and their camera crews prowled the gold and marble art deco main hall in search of a wacky filler story, occasionally interviewing a passing Green candidate or spokesperson. Loud rock and roll music poured out of the rented banquet hall, which seemed to be out of place, yet totally appropriate in these surroundings. The large diversity of people from all walks of life was inspiring. Young, old, rich, poor rubbed elbows together, bonded by the common cause of wanting a better world to live in. The polls were still open, and for the most part people were in a good mood. The band Jeremiah Free belted out their songs, fueling the crowd’s jovial spirit. It didn’t matter our candidates stood a chance in hell of winning, that was a given. The prize of the night was not how many offices could be won, but a simple 5% of the total vote throughout the United States, which would secure several million dollars in matching funds for future elections. Everyone was confident that this goal would be reached and surpassed. No one noticed that in the shadows lurked an unmentionable fear that would soon cut through those in attendance like a frenzied grim reaper.

The organizers of the election party had a television set up and tuned into CNN. We all waited for the polls to start closing, and Ted Turner’s machine to report our much-anticipated victory. At first, the small numbers were expected – just under a single percentage. After all, only two percent of the total polls had reported in. But as the evening went on, the mood of defeat replaced the joyous mood that filled the air. Only a few refused to accept that we were not going to reach our simple goal. A suddenly and justifiably the abuse of intoxicants increased three-fold.

I stepped outside for a cigarette; other Green party supporters milled about in a depressed and dazed state, wondering what in the hell had happened. On the street, a black Ford Explorer slowed, as it approached. The windows began rolling down. The head of an obviously drunken man in his mid-twenties leaned out. “Thanks a lot for putting Bush in the oval office, motherfuckers!” he yelled. A shower of empty Budweiser beer bottles followed his spiteful words, hitting no one. I turned to go back inside, when a woman with the help of two colleagues limped to the doorway, along with her very-upset daughter. “The fuckers decked me in the face while I was holding my daughter!” she cried. “Why?” someone asked, “Because I’m wearing a Nader for President shirt!” she howled back. Inside, I found my wife, and told he of the incidents that happened outside. “We shouldn’t have come,” she said, with a downcast tone. In many ways she was right.

The mood in the party room was too despondent. We decided to sit out in the bar in the main hallway. A sympathetic bartender, who went out of his way to track down the only bottle of Wild Turkey in the entire hotel, served our drinks. More reports of violence and aggression towards Greens began circulating. Every now and then, the hotel security guard, a thuggish man who obviously assigned more importance to his job that was reasonable, would come over to the bar. He was filled with total contempt for those attending the Green Party Election Party. He smugly told the bartender the latest round of incidents of brutality he had heard. The barkeep nodded, tolerating the rent-a-cop’s attitude.

It was near midnight when our comrade from San Francisco walked through the hotel doors. He knew the results of the election so far, and was not going to take it sober. Normally, he is a man who rarely drinks, but under the circumstances of this night, a drunken state was the only sensible state to be in. He knew this, and embraced it with great vigor. After my third beer had evaporated in his presence, we decided to call it a night. We said farewell to our comrade, and walked to our car.

It was closing on 1:00 AM as we took our final jaunt through the streets of downtown Portland. The streets were calm. Had the marauding bands of democrats had their fill of brutality? We did not know. Our only objective was to go home. On the nearly empty turnpike, we listened in as George W. Bush was proclaimed President. The events I witnessed in Portland have left me melancholy. I hope that this is an isolated incident, but I doubt it. It’s only a matter of time before more stories of savagery make their way to the surface.

Aftermath.

It’s nearly mid-December. The Republicrats, as Jim Hightower accurately calls them, fight like a pack of starving dogs over who should be the next to sit in the Oval office (and if they are so damned confident, then why are the attempting to block the recount process?). Hateful pieces of mail continue to come in accusing the Green Party of causing the mess. The general attitude is that everyone who voted for Nader, did so as a “protest vote”, when the fact of the matter is, if Nader wasn’t running and the Green Party did not exist, they wouldn’t have voted for Gore anyway. So all the attempted blackmail tactics used were a waste of time. I will say this: many cowardly voters who did support Nader, then voted for Gore at the last moment are the real group who deserve nothing less than scorn. You see, they did not vote their consciences, rather, they voted out of fear. Fear votes are the same as ones that are cast in dictatorships. Remember that elections took place in the USSR before the fall of communism as well. You have opened the door for a very dangerous future. A future in which intimidation, threats of violence and physical punishment are tools used to garner votes. Think it won’t happen? It already has.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

wary@pigdog.org


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