- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Al Gore's attempt to win the presidency through the courts has made Republicans so angry that a group of them decided to do something that practically none of them had ever done before skip work for a political protest.

I wanted to see what this "orchestrated mob" of lacrosse moms and insurance salesmen looked like and find out how they could possibly intimidate Democratic veterans of Kent State and Seattle.

I arrived at the Supreme Court at about 9:30 on the morning of the election hearings, much later than many of the Republican protestors who had arrived at about the time they would normally be teeing off or dropping their kids off at Catholic school. They were dressed to stay, too it looked like the L.L. Bean Christmas catalogue had exploded. Sweatshirts, sweaters and overcoats covered everyone, festooned with Republican pins and stickers in military-like rows.

Republicans of all ages and races were there; retired Marine veterans of Desert Storm with their hair still cut to regulation length and university students with backpacks presumably stuffed with the works of Thomas Jefferson and Friedrich Hayek. There were insurance salesmen, physical therapists and a lot of moms. In fact, the Republican women as a whole were far better looking and far better dressed than anyone on the Democratic side.

Mom Lanelle Hilling brought her 18-month-old daughter Nina to the protest in a stroller. Polash Chowbhuri, an American from Bangladesh, was walking around with a Bush-Cheney sign and a pork-pie hat banded with a Bush sticker. He was marching up and down the sidewalk yelling, "No moe Goe. No moe Goe." Chris Cusmano, 18, was with his 19-year-old friend Frank Galasso, both students at American University. Teri Nagel, a middle-age mother, was almost hoarse from shouting. She said that this was her first protest, although she immediately qualified it as only a true conservative would, "Well, I was out at the vice president's house over the weekend."

Most of the Republicans I talked to had left work or cut classes to be there. Many had taken their children with them so that they could see civic virtue in action. It was as if not just the silent generation, but also the silent half of the 1960s generation had finally found a voice. Again and again they would say, "The Constitution has to be protected." "Gore is setting a terrible precedent." "I've never done anything like this so I just had to be here." "I'm a veteran and I can't believe what is going on." "Our voice needs to be heard."

Perhaps because they missed the protests 30 years ago, there were no chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Albert Gore has got to go." Instead they sang, "Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, Good-bye." And chanted "No more Gore. No more Gore." At one point a group of them recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The only time they took a breath was when they were explaining to members of the media why there were so many Republicans there. An attractive female student summed up the prevailing sentiments by yelling, "I'm scared of stupid Democrats."

Unsurprising for a group that consisted mostly of Republicans, the crowd was well-behaved. There were no attempts to "take back the steps" or to rush the court. No one was even jaywalking, and the only profanity I heard the entire time came from me. The police, though occasionally gruff, seemed far more at ease than they were during the World Bank protests in D.C. last spring.

Republicans were constantly waving placards and signs, many of them homemade, and most done in red, white and blue. "Sore Looserman" and "Bush-Cheney" signs were ubiquitous, but there were others too, ranging from "Al Gore, Chad Molester" to a parody of the movie "The Grinch" with Mr. Gore in florescent green as "The Gorinch." Steve Heilmaier, a real estate broker was there with his wife Sandra, carrying a "Democrats for Bush," sign.

Mr. Heilmaier seemed to be practically the only happy Democrat there. The Democrats had separated themselves from the Republicans, not an easy thing to do, considering that Republicans outnumbered them by at least three to one. They were an older crowd, and far more morose than their Republican counterparts.

At one point I walked through a large group of Democrats, and it was as if I had entered a cone of silence. I didn't hear a word until I ran across an individual who looked like Ichabod Crane having a bad hair day trying to explain to a group of senior citizens how to line up for a bus.

At least a few of the Democrats were angry. In fact, the only intimidation I saw the entire time was when a clearly agitated 30-something man told a Bush supporter he had been arguing with, "Come on boy," at which point two officers encouraged him to walk away. A few individuals attempted to start chants which were weakly echoed, but the only organized Democratic action I saw was when Al Sharpton showed up at the head of a parade at the leisurely hour of noon.

Yet the protesting Republicans had far more certitude and far more passion for their principles. Radio host Dennis Prager recently opined in the Wall Street Journal that the actions of Democrats have galvanized and unified Republicans as almost never before, and judging by the protests at the Supreme Court, he may be right.

Perhaps Mr. Gore has learned more than he realized from his boss. After all, while President Clinton produced a Republican-controlled Congress, Mr. Gore has produced Republican-dominated protests.

Charles Rousseaux is Commentary Forum editor and an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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