During the last two episodes, we learned of Horace’s personal ghosts involving the death of his son in Vietnam and of how Bush’s deceit in pursuing the War in Iraq has reopened those wounds. But now it’s a new evening in the café, and the conversation, like life itself, moves on . . .
The Last Chance Democracy Café:
Episode 14: Those Crazy, Angry Democrats
by Steven C. Day
Tom was rolling his eyes. He’s a great eye roller — very dramatic: You half expect to see his pupils disappear up into his forehead. “I was watching CNN this morning” he said. “And they’re back on the kick of being shocked, just shocked (he emphasized “shocked” in the classic sarcastic fashion), by how much anger we Democrats have.”
Horace, who was back to his old self, concurred: “Yes, it’s all the rage among the talking heads these days. Those unhinged Democrats and their mindless fury against all things Bush. Whatever is to be done with them?”
“The punditocracy has spoken . . .” sneered Tom.
Zach interrupted. “What’s a punditocracy . . . ?”
Tom answered, “It’s the best job in the world. These are the guys who actually get paid . . . some of them really well, for nothing more than pontificating on the political issues of the day. Hell, I do that here to the Last Chance Democracy Café every Wednesday evening and no one’s ever paid me a dime . . .”
A dime clinked onto the table. Winston had tossed it, beating me to the punch by a second or two.
Tom grinned. ” . . . no one’s ever paid me a quarter . . .”
“Too rich for my blood,” said Winston.
We all laughed, then Tom continued, “Punditocracy refers to the top media opinion givers — the professional yakkers with the networks and the print pundits with the top papers and news magazines. Eric Alterman coined the term in his book Sound and Fury: The making of the Punditocracy.”
“Alterman is God,” said Winston with an expression as serious as Moses, or at least as serious as Charlton Heston playing Moses (as opposed to making an ass of himself holding a rifle over his head at an NRA meeting).
“He’s God, huh?” laughed Horace. As the most devoutly religious person in our group, Horace is confident enough in his faith that it doesn’t bother him when people joke, in unbigoted ways, about religious matters. He told me once that he agrees with something the Smothers Brothers said when they got into hot water for running humorous skits about religion on their show, to the effect that since people have a sense of humor, and they are made in God’s image, God must have one as well.
Winston stood his ground. “Yup, Alterman’s God . . . the God on media criticism, that is. There are others. Paul Krugman on economic commentary, Seymour Hersh in investigative reporting and Al Franken at just generally rubbing the right wing’s noses in it.”
“Hey, they’re all Jewish,” noted Tom. I guess I haven’t mentioned before that Tom is Jewish, although he’s fairly secular in outlook. Then he added with a smile, “See, I told you guys God is Jewish.”
“No,” said Winston. “God’s Unitarian. She just works in mysterious ways.”
Tom chuckled, then continued with his original point. “Anyway, the pundits . . . hell, the major media in general, for that matter, seem to fairly well agree that Democrats, and especially liberal Democrats, must all be stark raving mad. How else to explain our unfathomable refusal to worship at the feet of the Fearless Leader?”
“Morons,” muttered Winston.
Winston always did have a nice succinct way of expressing himself.
Molly dropped off the plates of food. Two Liberal Burgers for Zach and Tom, a Chickenhawk Caesar Salad for me and Bleeding Heart Spareribs for Winston and Horace. Because of all the conversation, it usually takes us two hours to finish the meal. The average tip at the big round table is about 30 percent, but then we’re fairly high maintenance.
“I’m with you, brother,” Tom responded to Winston. “Shoot, what do they expect? Of course, we’re angry. How for the love of Pete could we not be? I mean, have they forgotten that one little thing . . . Let’s see, I’m trying to remember . . . What was that again? What was it we were so angry about? Oh yeah. They stole a presidential election.” Tom’s voice was dripping in sarcasm — no more like gushing with sarcasm. “Did you hear that oh ye all mighty punditocracy? We’re talking about stealing the Presidency of the United States — the leadership of the freakin’ free world — the finger on the button of the world’s only super power. And what? We’re supposed to just say, oh well, so sad, and then go on with our lives . . . ? Like hell, we . . .”
“It really does boggle the mind,” Horace jumped in. “If someone steals ten bucks out of your wallet and you get boiling mad about it, no one is the least bit critical . . .”
“Why the hell would someone steal ten bucks out of your wallet, instead of just stealing the whole wallet?” grumped Winston.
“Could we please try to keep a little focus here,” chided Horace. “It was just an analogy.” But he smiled, before continuing, “My point, of course, is that nobody thinks twice about people becoming outraged over petty crimes. But then someone comes along and steals the very heart and soul of our democracy, ripping it out of the constitution and dragging it through the mud. And we’re not supposed to be even the littlest bit perturbed . . . ?”
“It’s nuts,” said Tom. “It’s like the whole nation has been teleported onto the set of Northern Exposure . . .”
“Hey, I remember that show,” smiled Zach. “My folks used to watch it back when I was in grade school.”
There he goes again, I thought — pouring salt onto my mid-life crisis. Thank God, I don’t have graying hair, a beer belly and increasing trouble hearing things, or I’d really feel older than the . . . Oh, forget it.
Incidentally, in addition to the steady drumbeat from the pundits about irrationally angry Democrats, George W. Bush himself has had a few choice things to say on the subject. “So far all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger,” he said at a fund-raising event in February. “Anger is not an agenda for the future of America.”
Isn’t it just perfect that he was speaking at a fundraiser? I mean that pretty well sums up his entire presidency, fundraisers and vacations.
Republicans used to call Bill Clinton the Fundraiser-in-Chief, but he was a slouch compared to Bush. In the process of running up campaign contributions already totaling $150 million (for use in the uncontested primary race), Bush has found time in his busy schedule to appear at scores of fundraising events, generally traveling at taxpayer expense. Hey, it’s good to know the money isn’t being wasted on silly things like education, extended unemployment benefits or deficit reduction.
And speaking of vacations — as the Washington Post recently pointed out, Bush has spent a total of 500 days since taking office at one of his three vacation retreats — that works out to 40 percent of his presidency. Good work if you can get it, I guess. Unfortunately, he started one of those vacations the very next day after receiving the now infamous August 6, 2001 PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”
And we’re supposed to keep him on as our “war time president” because . . . ?
Still, Bush does make one good point. Anger by itself wouldn’t be much of an agenda for America’s future, if that were all the Democrats had to offer, which, of course, it isn’t. But then, the same can be said for an agenda built upon an anti-environmental environmental policy, an anti-job jobs policy, an anti-peace peace plan, an anti-good foreign relations foreign relations policy, an anti-sex education sex education program, a national insecurity national security plan, a hyper-partisan new non-partisanship, a no middle class tax cut middle class tax cut, a debt increasing debt reduction program and a no economic growth economic growth program.
Face it George — even if anger were all we had to offer, we still couldn’t help but do better than you have.
“So you guys really believe that Bush stole the election, huh?” said Zach, blissfully unaware, by all appearances, of the firestorm he had just set into motion.
“Good God, man,” bellowed Winston. “Where were you three years ago, orbiting Pluto on a gumball machine? Of course he stole the God damned . . .”
Horace jumped in. “Stop Winston! Stop right . . .”
“What? Now you’re a traffic cop?”
“You better be glad I’m not, or I’d have to pull you over for a muffler infraction, as much noise as you’re making.”
“No chance, copper! You’ll never take me alive!”
Zach’s eyes were darting back and forth. I think he was afraid he’d started something. He hadn’t. It was just Winston being Winston and Horace faithfully carrying out his duties as den mother to the others.
Molly served Winston another bourbon. “Sip it slowly and try to be a little less intense, okay?” she told him.
“So which one of you guys invited my mother,” muttered Winston.
Horace turned to Zach. “I know it sounds harsh, but yes, Bush did steal the election. That’s not an argument. It’s not a debate point. It’s the plain and simple, no doubt about it, truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And anyone knowledgeable who says different is just spinning . . . And it isn’t just about the Supreme Court either, although that’s what everybody always talks about . . .”
“And for good reason,” said Winston curtly. “Bush vs. Gore was one of the worst . . . maybe the worst, most politically corrupt decision in the history of the Supreme Court . . . That’s actually one of the biggest reasons why I hope there really is an afterlife: I like the thought of those five bastards having to face all of the great Supreme Court justices of the past . . . having to try to explain to them why they brought this disgrace upon the Court.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Horace. “I agree with you. But in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t the worst crime committed in the Florida debacle, it was just the last one. Maybe my outlook is biased . . . since I’m black myself, but to me, the worst crime committed in the whole shameful affair was the calculated effort by Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and George W. Bush’s campaign to interfere with the constitutional right of African American voters to cast . . .”
“No, you’ve got me on that one,” said Winston. “Hands down, that was the worst.”
“Have you heard the story about how they purged the voter lists in Florida, Zach?”
“I remember something . . . no, not really.”
“As many as 22,000 voters . . . including a disproportionate number of black Democrats . . . probably at least half of the total number, were wrongly excluded from the voter registration rolls. The idea was supposedly to clean up the voter lists by removing convicted felons, who, under Florida law, aren’t permitted to vote. A private corporation, DBT, was paid more than $4 million to do the work. But according to the one county that checked their work product, a full 95 percent of the people they suggested striking off the list as felons, weren’t felons . . .”
Tom, who always becomes very agitated when this subject is discussed, added angrily, “Investigators, especially Greg Palast with the BBC, found clear evidence that state election officials, under Harris’s leadership, pushed DBT to use very broad criteria in excluding potential felons, striking names that weren’t exact matches, for example. They had to know that this would sweep up many lawful voters . . . They also had to know that a huge share of them would be black Democratic voters.”
“So there we have it,” Horace shook his head sadly. “In the heart of Jim Crow, deep in the old Confederacy, and in the year 2000 . . . almost a century and a half after slavery ended, a presidential election was decided based upon the exclusion of black voters. So again, please, someone explain to me why I’m not supposed to be angry?”
“I see your point,” said Zach.
Molly picked up Zach’s plate and my salad bowl. Since neither of us was doing much talking, we had finished long before the others.
“But as bad as the voter purge was, the theft of the election didn’t end there,” said Tom.
“No, that was just the beginning,” agreed Winston. “There was also the riot the Bush campaign organized at the Miami-Dade County Canvassing Board, with the premeditated intent of intimidating election officials from recounting votes. Mr. law and order, himself, sending in his goons to obstruct legal process. And it worked like a charm.”
Tom sneered, “Wasn’t it Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page who celebrated the whole rotten affair by calling it a bourgeois riot.”
“Indeed, it was,” said Winston, “speaking of people who don’t deserve a dime for the claptrap they write . . . But there’s a lot more than that to the story of The Great Theft. Take, for example, the irregular . . . and quite possibly fraudulent, manipulation of military and other foreign votes by the Bush campaign, as confirmed in an investigation by The New York Times.”
“And that’s not even mentioning the treachery of Katherine Harris,” said Tom.
“You remember who Harris is, Zach, right?” asked Horace.
“Isn’t she the one who wears so much makeup?”
“You mean, who looks like a corpse made up for burial?
“Yeah, that’s her.”
Tom continued, “Harris, who was acting as co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign, allowed Republican operatives to open a command center during the recount controversy in her offices . . . her state offices, paid for by the taxpayers, at the very same time she claimed to be operating as a fair and impartial state official in adjudicating the election dispute.”
It was Winston’s turn to vent. “And let’s not forget Bush’s allies in the Republican controlled state legislature in Florida, who made it clear from the start that they intended to select their own slate of pro-Bush electors, even if the recount proved he lost Florida. And the Republicans in Congress weren’t much better, in terms of adopting a we’ll do anything necessary to get Bush in ethic . . . All of a sudden, democracy was no longer about who got the most votes, but about grabbing the presidency through the use of raw power . . . the voters be damned.”
“And yes,” said Horace, “there is, of course, also that business . . . as Winston mentioned, of the Supreme Court deciding the election based, not upon a fair count of all votes, but by a judicial decree handed down five-to-four . . .”
“With several of those five justices afflicted with horrendous conflicts of interest,” said Winston, “and based upon a judicial rationale that was so weak that even the court’s principal defender, Judge Richard Posner, while defending the result, couldn’t bring himself to defend the rationale itself. That’s how pathetic it was.”
“So are we a little pissed off?” said Horace. “You better believe it.”
George W. isn’t the only member of the Bush clan who has tossed in his two cents worth on the subject of Democratic anger. In December of 2003, Jeb Bush described Democratic outrage as “mock anger.” I guess that’s sort of like the mock election Jeb ran in Florida in 2000, resulting in a mock Republican victory, making his brother a mock president, who then launched a mock preemptive war, based upon mock weapons of mass destruction, resulting in many unnecessary mock deaths.
Oh, wait — the deaths weren’t actually mock ones, were they?
Ed Gillespie, the always charming Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has a similar spin: The Democrats, he insisted during his maiden speech as chairman, “serve up raw emotion,” rather then solutions, “and that emotion is anger.” In carrying this theme forward, he said during a later speech that the Democrats are the party of “protests, pessimism and political hate speech.” One can, of course, readily appreciate Gillespie’s exasperation at Democratic negativity, given the GOP’s always upbeat and positive message, as when they accused triple amputee war hero Max Cleland of being soft on terrorism, suggested that anyone who opposed Bush’s policies was giving aid and comfort to the terrorists and that anyone opposing the war in Iraq was worse than the people who had advocated appeasement of Nazi Germany.
I mean, really, how can we be angry with sweethearts like that?
Horace took a long slow swig of his beer, then watched the bubbles rise to the top of the glass for a few seconds, before saying, “Now, there’s a lot more involved with Democratic anger against Bush than the election . . . But it’s the starting point, the original sin, if you will. But there’s so much more . . . I mean, even if you ignore the theft of Florida, Bush still lost the election in the conventional sense that he got fewer votes . . . 500,000 less votes than Gore. Okay, so the constitution sets up the electoral college, as undemocratic as it may be. So in a sense, if you ignore Florida, you have to say it was fair and square . . . but it was still a situation that cried out for an element of grace, for a fair recognition that, whoever had won the contest constitutionally, the will of the majority had been thwarted.”
John Quincy Adams, a man not generally known for his social graces, did precisely what Horace was suggesting when he took office after losing badly in the popular vote to Andrew Jackson. During his inauguration speech, Adams specifically mentioned “the peculiar circumstances” of his victory. There was nothing like that from George W. Bush, of course. Far from it. From the first day he took office, Bush went to work pushing through a radically conservative agenda. This was an agenda that not only a majority of Americans had voted against, and one, which according to virtually every poll taken, the public continues to oppose to this day, but also an agenda far to the right of the one he campaigned on.
Tom summed it up: “He’s gutted environmental protection, broken the social compact that’s existed since the New Deal, turned regulatory agencies over to the tender mercies of the regulated industries themselves, slandered those who’ve opposed him, instituted police state levels of government secrecy, shown disdain for the protection of civil liberties, sent Cheney into secret meetings with energy companies like Enron to let them write their own energy legislation shielded from the light of public scrutiny, started an unnecessary war and then lied, lied and lied some more as to all of the above.”
“The real question isn’t why Democrats are so mad,” said Horace. “The real question is why everybody else isn’t.”
“And that’s what really has the Republicans upset” said Winston. “It isn’t the fact that the Democrats are angry at Bush. It’s the fact that there are growing indications that more and more of the public are starting to understand why.”
* * *
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at .
© Copyright Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001