It's always fun watching conservatives work themselves into a sweaty pinkish lather on the floor of their presidential conventions. Here are the usually subdued leather-chair sitting, National Review subscribing defenders of order and their vice-like sphinctered Mercedes SUV-driving, white-shorts wearing wives bouncing up and down as if the yacht club of their collective unconscious had just won the 2000 White Man's Cup. Their pearled daughters can sometimes even be seen jerking their Anne Taylored booties to the Republican approved pop stylings of Dave Matthews. No doubt about it, the impossibly stereotype confirming GOP convention is pure entertainment, a window into a freak, alternate universe. And two hours of these people every four years is just about right.
But the preppy pep of their last convention was nothing compared to the conservative angst on display in Miami-Dade County this November 22. Indeed, there were moments of what appeared to be real Republican rage there. These were not the angry men and women of the fully-armed hospital-invading Christian Right, or the Ford driving Midwesterns of Dittohead Nation, but rather the honest to goodness country club party faithful, Golf tour polo shirts ablaze. Watching them stand in the rain and sloganeer, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen these people really angry since I impregnated one of their precious teenage daughters with lower middle-class sperm in the back seat of my Mazda seven years ago. I have since seen them tight-lipped, condescending and rude, but not angry.
Furious that the Florida Supreme Court was impeding Jebbie Bush's imitation of a 1960 Richard Daley, it seemed these protestors had caravanned Yippie-style from upscale suburbs across the land to fight the power. The thought almost allowed a mouse of respect to slip through the door of hate that separates Me from Them. Almost. It soon came out that there was no caravan, no grassroots mobilization of golfers, no real sacrifice of time or comfort at all. Party operatives paid for their first-class plane tickets and their rooms at the Sheraton; everything was pre-arranged, safe. So their 'protest' doesn't count. Rather, it was a made-to-order luxury pseudo-event. The brick that smashed through the Dade election office window adds only the minutest bit of cred to the farce. It was probably launched by a 4-Iron.
But oh what a spectacle to see Republican party activists 40 years after Greensboro feel the power of the sit-in, clenched fists thrust into the air. Oh, these proud oppressed crusaders; the wretched of the earth! Doubtless this experience on the other side of police lines will change their view of the next major protest that pits banner wielding citizens against the legions of law and capitalist order. Republican lawyer Miguel DeGrandy has already seen the light, claiming in the Washington Post that to "very loudly complain" is "basic First Amendment" and that "people have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances." Apparently this includes intimidation and obstruction of government business. So much for the party of Reagan, who as governor of California threatened to turn an insurgent Berkley campus into a "bloodbath." ACLU is the GOP's new middle name. No doubt state troopers at the next Seattle will have to step over Tom DeLay's dead body to lay one finger on those patriotic protectionists.
Or maybe Republicans will just revert to their relaxed fascist sympathies, murdering black and retarded people with taxpayer poison, strip-mining Alaska and building big shiny nuclear arsenals.
This is the more likely course following the Republican day of rage. The reason conservatives won't make a culture of protest is because--shock--they don't have to. It isn't necessary to protest police brutality when the police never abused anybody in your family; or to protest the arms industry when you own it; or to protest the un-reason behind arms racing when you don't see it; or to fight for better health care when you have the best; or to protect social services like public schools when you don't use them. And so the Florida 100 will return to letting their lobbyists protest oppressive structures like the estate tax, maybe half-heartedly fighting the culture war on the weekends. (But the lawn comes first.)
But there I go again, launching into a predictable and tired liberal sermon, thus confirming another conservative trope: not only do liberals protest all the time, but we have no sense of humor. And again they are correct to note a divide. Just as they are free from the need to take to the streets to have their voices heard, so too are right-wingers in a position to let loose their wit without the leash of conscience or pity. Consider the creative latitude that opens up when you can piss on minorities, the environment, poor people, and women's rights. If you honestly don't care about these things, then there is little stopping you from booming off easy and relentless cannonballs in their direction. But if you are genuinely pained by what our 'conservative' social and economic order is doing to the world and its people--that is, if you're heart bleeds like a human being, or a Christian--then it is normal that your tone would be more reserved, more earnest; in short, more serious. It would also be normal to protest seriously. Like with signs and straight faces and stuff.
In any case. The next time I see the country clubbers protesting, I hope it's for real. I hope they lose a golf course to a low-income housing development or a public transit line. I hope President Wellstone doubles the luxury tax and triples the capital gains tax. Then maybe Chip and Peachy--these names are more common than you think--will actually need something so bad they march without being invited, without hotel reservations, without plane tickets. I want to see that. But most of all I want to see their pearly daughters come face to face with tear gas and the unfriendly force of police batons and a cell block--a cell block so real even a teary-eyed call to daddy in his corner office won't make it go away.
So here's to humorless, protest happy lefties. If the alternative is the busload of rent-a-jokes we saw last month in Miami, I wouldn't have it any other way.