By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Ed, the lawyer, was prone one second, ramrod straight the next. It was a hazy hour between November 7 and 8. His face was slack with drink, with bloodshot eyes and sallow skin that made his cheekbones jut out like volcanic rocks from the surf.
"What the hell?" he asked, pointing at the TV. The throngs of cheering Bushies assembled outside the state Capitol were now silent, disquietingly so.
"Gore withdrew his concession," I said.
"He withdrew his concession," I said, slowly and succinctly.
Ed blinked, twitched, and lay back down, muttering about civil war. I knew he was ready for any hostilities; a month earlier I watched him bull's-eye headshot after headshot through the scope of his Mini-14 at a firing range in Austin. Ed voted Republican this year, just as I had, but we were very different people.
A choked gurgle from across the room drew my attention. There was Chris, age 30, working a glass bong like some horrible wind instrument. He looked scared, like U.N. blue-helmets were already gathering to storm his Austin apartment and make us swear allegiance to the new Fuehrer, Al Gore.
"My God, it's really falling apart," he said, each word formed around exhaled smoke. "We have to go back down there!"
"No way," I said. "It's your fault we missed it. Now we're dry, safe, and warm. You're not dragging me away."
We left the rally before witnessing networks blunder and give the presidency to George W. Bush and the subsequent crushing reaction when Gore called Austin for the second time to take back his concession while telling Bush not to get "snippy." Chris' ex-girlfriend had rematerialized in Austin, popping up like a horrible succubus after years of isolation. Earlier in the evening the pair had sought refuge from the torrents of freezing rain under a picnic table and immediately started groping. That made it harder on Chris when the woman, a hypochondriac traveling nurse, stalked away from the bitter cold and left him for the night as he called her name like some fool out of Nabokov.
I'm sorry we missed the high and low points of the Austin street party. It must have been something, to have victory snatched away from a crowd of thousands. We were in the crowd when Florida was put back in play after the networks called it for Gore; it was like winning a playoff game. Hearing Bernard Shaw call the Presidency for the Texas Governor must have been like winning the Cotton Bowl. And then losing it on an offsides, a bum call.
The TV images of the crowd--moon-faced, silent--were eerie compared with the festive group we were part of earlier, the one that sang "America the Beautiful" with Wayne Newton and Bo Derek. It was a party mood when we got there; beer was flowing, and the cold did little to dampen the Republicans' thirst. One unfortunate woman, doubled over with hysterical hallucinogenic-fueled laughter, was escorted out of the throng. Then something bad happened, something scary. Election night was ending with a power vacuum. Now anything was possible, and even the addled half-conscious remains of Ed the attorney knew it.
We knew that whatever was happening was happening to us. We felt it, even safely ensconced in Chris' Austin apartment with a shotgun. Everyone we'd seen that day voted for Bush in 2000. We knew degenerates across the country, a mixed bag of middle-class drones in our mid-20s, holding a similar concept of personal independence, who voted Republican for the first time out of disgust for Gore, which really is an extension of our hatred for the man who got away.
Ed and Chris are a new breed of young Republican that may actually thrive in the new millennium, the Degenerate Right. We're the furthest thing from most Republican stereotypes, the Archie Bunker/Alex P. Keaton/Ralph Reed monsters that liberals trot out to literally scare up votes from moderates. We are sorely misrepresented in the GOP, and we know it.
A guy like Chris, who publicly gropes women under tables in the rain, would seemingly be attracted to the party and person of Bill Clinton. Maybe he saw too much of his own weakness in that president's misdeeds, or maybe he knows from experience that one can gain a simple dignity by getting caught and fessing up rather than dragging your friends and supporters into your complicated lies. Also, he points out, he never perjured himself in court to cover up a blowjob.
Chris and Ed are educated. They are NRA donors. They jettisoned religion and abortion as core issues and concentrated on the right to be left alone, to own guns and make money without having more than half go to taxes. They don't take part in any organized religion; they are humanists to the core. They loathe hate-crime legislation and affirmative action because they think it's awful for the government to make official distinctions of race in law. "It's something the Nazis would do," says Chris. They laugh at shirts with guns on them that say, "This tool kills fascists!"