Words, Words, Words

December 11, 2000

Never before in living memory has the Supreme Court acted in such a naked display of partisanship. The Constitutional questions raised by Bush were frivolous, save for the question of disparate standards in the recount; and, in that case, the harm caused by varying standards is as to the harm caused by stopping the recount as a gnat is to an elephant. The variations between counties caused by differences in voting machines can at best be partially mitigated by manual recounts; any recount that includes the most heavily damaged areas is better than no recount. Yet this court makes the preposterous argument that Bush is the one who faces irreparable harm, on the grounds that the legitimacy of his Presidency might be damaged if it turns out the other guy got more votes. Well, yeah. That's the way it's supposed to work.

Nor is one's confidence in our nation's highest court increased by listening to the oral arguments. Simple fact, guys: if what was going on with the hand recount isn't constitutional, then Florida's entire election wasn't either. And if you stomp on the Florida Supreme Court two weeks ago for supposedly making new law, it may not be a great idea to stomp on them this week for not making new law. A few of the justices do seem to have figured that last point out, but on the whole they sound remarkably clueless about the consequences of their actions. They care more that the Florida Supreme Court hasn't explained their decision in a case that's now moot than that democracy is in crisis. Join the real world, guys, before it's too late.

There isn't much an ordinary citizen can do in times like these. Nevertheless, I did what I could, which was to take a vacation day and go down to 1st and Maine SE to protest. On the way over there I felt very small. It seemed like a lot of effort to do something that would make no difference. Still, I knew I would feel better for having done all I could.

The crowd outside the Supreme Court was mostly Democrats. I'd say we outnumbered Bush supporters three or four to one. (I think there may have even been more reporters than Bush supporters.) I found a box of Gore/Lieberman 2000 signs in front of a man with a bullhorn. They were out of reach for me, but I tapped a passerby on the shoulder and asked her to hand me one. Then I worked my way into the crowd and tried to figure out where would be a good place to be visible and to be heard. Eventually I drifted all the way to the front, so that after about an hour I was able to take some of the weight off my feet by leaning against the police barricade. This helped me last longer than I otherwise might. (I was still awfully stiff when I finally left, but after I walked a couple blocks I was able to find a place to sit, and five minutes of rest restored me well enough to get the rest of the way home, where I tucked my sore legs and my sniffles into bed for a few hours.)

The dynamic of the chants seemed to be governed by the fact that everyone ran out of breath, and couldn't really spend more than half the time chanting. So each chant died down after a bit, giving fresh choices the chance to start a new chant, which people could join in with. Some of what I heard:

Two, four, six, eight,
Count the vote, it's not too late!

Every vote counts!
Count every vote!

What are you afraid of?
Count the votes!

Oh no, Gore's ahead!
Better call my brother Jeb!

This is a democracy!
Count the votes!

This is democracy--(point)--that is hypocrisy!

Gore got more!

Chants I refused to take part in:

Cheney needs a heart! Bush needs a brain!

Dump the court!

Dumbest chants from the Republicans:

Gore needs a job! (...so give him one?)

Na na na na, na na na na,
Hey hey hey, goodbye!

Just say no!

Best sign:

Dear S.C.,

All I want for Christmas is a legitimate election. Let the count go forward.
(and DC, Florida, and the rest of the U.S.)

One-liner overheard:

"I can almost hear Thomas snoring."

Most obnoxious:

The admitted "trust fund baby" (who complained about losing half a million dollars in the stock market since March--cue the violins), shouting "God bless Clarence Thomas!", "Thomas for Attorney General--not now, later!", and "We got Thomas, har de har har!" (Yes, "har de har har" is an exact quote.)

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