"I Can't Believe I'm Losing to This Idiot"

A Not-So-Special Election 2004 Report
Austin Dispatches No. 73
Nov. 8, 2004

The cocktails added a warm glow that warded off the lingering, death-like chill outside as the republic entered the final stage of its quadrennial convulsion.

I sauntered about the Legends Sports Bar, Scotch in hand, and chatted with many friends and acquaintances at the Badnarik campaign’s election night party.  The election returns were almost an afterthought. The crowd’s murmurs and cheers drowned out the multiple TV sets. Occasionally, when my curiosity peaked, I’d visit the tabulators who occupied a nearby conference room in the Holiday Inn. Otherwise, I depended upon the candidates, or Texas LP chairman Pat Dixon or Executive Director Wes Benedict to update me.1  

Businessman Alan Weiss touted me to out-of-state Libertarian activists, including former vice presidential contender Tamara Millay of Missouri, as some sort of mastermind political strategist.

Other luminaries included Arkansas LP chairman Robert Reed; guitarist Jimmie Vaughan;2 Reason magazine Senior Editor Brian Doherty; radio hosts Angela Keaton3 and Scott Horton; former Libertarian Longhorns co-president Jessica Caplan; former Duality magazine Publisher Wendy Land;4 and Elaine Badnarik, Michael’s mom and LP nominee for Indiana lieutenant governor.5

It was the fabu soiree of the season. Even the Austin Chronicle acknowledged that.6  Disappointingly, only Lillian Martinez Simmons and Realtor Neil Stokes showed up from among the dozens of people I personally invited.  If you’re one of them, and reading this, you missed a great party. What gives?

Nonetheless, I’ve never before so badly wanted an election to be over. Domestically, the election ruined workplace productivity, proof politics warps and wrecks when it’s not kept in check.7

Four years ago, Miss KT and I disagreed over the best worst-case scenario. She thought it was a Bush victory; I thought Gore.8  Within a year, I conceded she was right.9

This time, I steeled myself to either likely outcome. Election night, the worst worst-case scenario of a Dubya victory happened.10

Now that it’s over, we can look forward to at least four more years of unconstitutional war11 and economic hardship,12  including a likely halt to the fragile, if artificial, local recovery.13  The administration’s foreign policy hasn’t even removed American sovereignty from the shackles of a nascent world government.14  For example, U.S. forces in Afghanistan serve under foreign command.15  Ironically, the Bush family’s close personal and business ties to the Saudi elite may be a significant factor in preventing an all-out ethno-religious war with Arab Muslims.16

On the other hand, the defeat of U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass.,  and the subsequent dismay and disillusionment of his most vocal, annoying supporters, cheers me.17  Also gratifyingly, the electorate shunted aside Ralph Nader,18  who spent much of the year being knifed by Democrats and Greens, especially on ballot access battles.19  Don’t get me wrong. I’d just as eagerly cheer Dubya’s defeat, with the same effect on his equally annoying supporters.  

That’s how I steeled myself to the likely outcomes. One should never underestimate the role of spite in human affairs.20  

The Schadenfreude doesn’t stop there. Soon, Dubya’ll wish he’d lost. Whoever sits in the Oval Office the next few years will be the pincushion for everything that goes wrong as the cumulative culmination of bad federal policies, stretching back decades in some cases.  I wouldn’t wish that on Michael.

In Other Races…

Overall, the LP retains ballot access in Texas, based on the strong showings of its statewide candidates.21

Locally, Libertarian Rob Fritsche, whom I recruited, beat the Democrat in a three-way race for the re-gerrymandered U.S. House District 10.22

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, muscled the re-gerrymandering through two years after everyone, including the GOP leadership, had already agreed to the congressional district boundaries.23  Normally, I would applaud such a move as a brilliant power play, but I thought he pushed it far past the acceptable time limit. Also, the wrangling over DeLay’s gambit made my job recruiting Libertarian candidates for the U.S. House tougher.24  For that, I want him punished. On the other hand, the re-gerrymandering forced out several targeted Democratic incumbents. However, Chet Edwards in District 17 and Lloyd Dogsh— er, Doggett in District 25 slithered to re-election.25

Libertarian Greg Knowles, whom I also recruited, took away enough votes in House District 50 from Republican incumbent Jack Stick, a.k.a. Jack Slick, to cost him the election.26  Even the Republicans shouldn’t complain. (But they will.) The Republican Liberty Caucus threw him out of the group last year when he betrayed them by voting for a tax increase.27  Originally, RLCer Don Zimmerman was going to challenge Stick in the GOP primary, but Alan Sager, Travis County Republican chairman, sabotaged Zimmerman’s paperwork.28  Naturally, Sager’ll deny it, but everyone in the know understands that’s the way it happened.

I’ve known Don about three years, and each year his attempts to coax me back into the Republican Party are increasingly dispirited. I still welcome him into the LP, because I figured out long ago the GOP establishment had no desire for people like us, except as beasts of burden come election time.29  What say you now, Chairman Sager?

Another local Republican legislator, Dist. 48 Rep. Todd Baxter, endured a toilet-paper attack on his house by five women, including a neighbor, early on the morning of Nov. 2. A Travis County deputy caught and ticketed the perps.30  

Meanwhile, Capital Metro conned the voters into approving a 32-mile commuter line from Leander to Austin, at a cost of billions. That’s before overruns and embezzlement.31

Outside Texas, in U.S. Senate races, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Clintonista Erskine Bowles, D-N.C., went down to defeat. Bowles sought the seat warmed by pretty boy ambulance chaser John Edwards, who wound up the donk veep pick.32

Also, Republican beer baron Pete Coors lost the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, probably spurned by anyone whoever drank Coors.33  

On the minus side, U.S. Rep. Philip Crane, R-Ill., a longtime stalwart of liberty, lost to a Democratic challenger.34  Also in Illinois, Alan Keyes, half-patriot, half-neoconservative, wrecked his credibility in a carpet bagging challenge to former coke-snorting mulatto Barack Obama in that state’s U.S. Senate race.35

Washington, D.C., voters elected Marion Barry, former mayor and convicted felon, to a new term on the City Council. Say what you will, but Barry was D.C.’s finest mayor, gram for gram.36

Halloween Pas de Deux, and Other Excursions

Oct. 29: Joyce Carol Oates appeared at BookPeople to flog her very latest published novel, “The Falls.” She read about a disastrous wedding night at Niagara Falls in the ‘50s that culminates in the groom, a repressed faggot, leaping to his death.37  Of course. No Oates novel is complete without a major character dying gruesomely.38  

I still intend to read – or attempt to read – this latest addition to her oeuvre, though I suspect she’s done better, e.g., “What I Lived For,” about the life and times of Jerome “Corky” Corcoran, real estate hustler and Democratic city councilman in a thinly disguised Buffalo, N.Y., during Memorial Day weekend 1992.39

Despite what you might think, I’m a fan of her work in general, and have been since I started reading her at about the age of 12, along with her contemporaries.40  I attended her reading, timed to coincide with the Texas Book Festival, because I wanted to see in person someone whose work has inhabited my imagination for so long.41  Oates hails from near Buffalo, where my mom’s parents used to live, and still sounds like it.42  She’s one of the few women writers I esteem. Tellingly, the feminist movement ostracized her, along with Joan Didion, in the early ‘70s, after they’d already established their reputations with works at odds with the feminist ideology – basically Marxism with PMS.43  Oates has never really needed feminist approval, though she continues to genuflect toward Received Opinion in her milieu: the social democratic idiocies of the Northeast.44  I think that’s sad. Ironically, it’s left to me, a “right-wing extremist” and “male chauvinist,” to champion her output.  

Oct. 31: For the price of a can of vegetable soup, I danced at the Street Salsa Halloween Party at Ruta Maya in the afternoon.45

Later, I attended a free avant-guard show at The Church of the Friendly Ghost. It wasn’t very avant guard. John Zorn was doing this stuff back in the early ‘80s.46  It wasn’t even all that entertaining. I was about to leave, bored, when the set ended. A violinist from the Austin Cobra Players bounded down the front steps. We made eye contact while she was talking to some people she knows. Then she started talking to me.

Three hours later, after strolling about the neighborhood, under the orange glow of the street lamps, I had a new friend.

In that time, I learned quite a lot about this woman, a Daria-esque lawyer/avant-guard musician/Pilates instructor who moved to Austin from San Antonio recently.47  

Beyond that, who knows? This was not what I anticipated happening. We’re both turning 35 this month, and have reasons aplenty to want to avoid another aggravating attempt at romance.48  A common plight these days. We circled around the possibility like a couple of boxers, feinting and sparring toward some sort of mutual initial accommodation. We’ll see.

Nov. 4: Attended Gallery Night, sponsored by the art galleries on West Fifth and Sixth streets. Saw a lot of expensive artwork. Some of it was actually good.49

Nov. 5: At a Metropolitan showing of “Ray,” a coupla bruthas behind me got into an altercation. “Hey, man, I didn’t pay to hear you sing.”

I’d include more scintillating dialog if I could remember it. I became preoccupied with whether the several rows of seats between us would slow down stray bullets in time for me to duck. The situation de-escalated, however. Fortunately, the spat happened during a lull in the movie, between the period Ray Charles matured as a musician, and the period he spent a lot of time arguing about money and contract clauses.50  

Neighborhood News

The Microelectronics & Computer Technology Corp., a research consortium at Braker Lane and MoPac Expressway, will be dissolved within three years.51  

E-mail: austindispatches@swbell.net

1 Beach, Patrick. “Sigh of Relief for Badnarik.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A13; Montgomery, Amanda. “Students Endorse Political Partying.” DT 3 Nov. 2004: 6; Mottola, Daniel. “Libs Know How to Party.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 20.
2 AD No. 48n17 (Mar. 10, 2003).
3 AD No. 34 (Jan. 14, 2002).
4 AD No. 60n55 (Dec. 20, 2003).
5 “Indiana Statewide.” Cincinnati Post 3 Nov. 2004: A14.
6 Mottola, op. cit.
7 Fetterman, Mindy. “Elections Captivate Workplace.” USAT 3 Nov. 2004: 1-2B.
8 AD No. 22 (Nov. 22, 2000).
9 AD No. 47 (Feb. 15, 2004); Frum, David. The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush. New York City: Random House, 2003.
10 Herman, Ken, and Scott Shepard. “White House Cites Mandate to Move on With Agenda.” AAS 4 Nov. 2004: A1+.
11 AD No. 53n3 (July 30, 2003); Dodge, Richard et al. “What Now for President Bush?” DMN 4 Nov. 2004: 18A; Ritter, Scott. Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwacking of America. New York City: Context Books, 2003.
12 Kirchoff, Sue. “Bush’s Challenge: Deficits, Health Costs.” USAT 4 Nov. 2004: 1B+; Wessel, David, and Bob Davis. “For the Winner, a U.S. Economy With Some Stubborn Problems.” WSJ 3 Nov. 2004: A1+.
13 AD No. 70n5 (Aug. 26, 2004); Kaspar, Mary Alice. “Austin Poised for Major Rebound.” ABJ 29 Oct. 2004: 1+.
14 Paul, U.S. Rep. Ron, R-L-Texas. “Another United Nations War?” U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C. 26 Feb. 2003.
15 Hodge, Nathan. “U.S. Forces Under Foreign Command.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A32.
16 Fregosi, Paul. Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests From the 7th to the 21st Centuries. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998; Unger, Craig. House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties, rev. ed. New York City: Scribner, 2004.
17 “Trench Warfare.” Newsweek 15 Nov. 2004: 71.
18 AD No. 54n29 (Aug. 22, 2003).
19 Finer, Jonathan. WP. “Nader Slams Activists Who Tried to Derail His Race.” San Antonio Express-News 3 Nov. 2004: 13A.
20 Ames, Mark. “Spite! It Wins Votes.” NYPR 8 Jun. 2004: 10.
21 McNeely, Dave. “Texas Voters Ensure That State Will State on the Republican Road.” AAS 4 Nov. 2004: A9.
22 Wardlaw, Molly. “Lorenzo’s Toil.” DT 5 Nov. 2004: 8A.
23 Lindell, Chuck. “A New Map, a New Rise to Power.” AAS 4 Nov. 2004: A1+; “Texas Democrats Divided, Conquered by DeLay, GOP.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A26.
24 Pasztor, David. “High Court is Asked to Stop Redistricting.” AAS 10 Jan. 2004: B1.
25 Clark-Madison., Mike. “Doggett Seals the Deal.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 25; Lindfell, Chuck, and Ralph K.M. Haurwitz. “Four of ‘Texas Five’ Fall to GOP.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A18; “The Texas Five Minus Four: Only Edwards Escapes DeLay’s Axe.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 24.
26 Copelin, Laylan, and Jason Embry. “1st Term is Last for Stick; Win for Rose.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A1+; Smith, Amy. “Stick Sunk; Barely Baxter; Rose Reblooms.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 26; “Texas House of Representatives.” Idem., A25.
27 Mottola, op. cit.
28 Copelin and Embry. “DeLay Link Plays a Role in Some Travis Races.” AAS 4 Nov. 2004: A8.
29 Karp, Walter. Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America. New York City: Saturday Review Press, 1973; Rolling Stones. “Beast of Burden.” Some Girls. Rolling Stones 39108.
30 Said, Karem. “5 Ticketed in TP-ing of Candidate’s House.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: B1+.
31 Clark-Madison. “The Little Engine That Did.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 28; Wear, Ben. “Getting Up Steam.” AAS 5 Nov. 2004: A8; Wear, Ben. “62% of Voters Approve Capital Metro Plan.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A1+.
32 Clark-Madison. “Drowning in the Red Tide.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 22; Mollison, Andrew. “Republicans Maintain Hold on Power.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A17; Wood, Skip. “North Carolina.” USAT 4 Nov. 2004: 12A.
33 “Election 2004: States: West.” HC 4 Nov. 2004: K3.
34 Bethea, April. “GOP Keeps Control, Picking Up at Least Five New Seats.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A18; Clark-Madison, “Drowning in the Red Tide,” op. cit.
35 Wills, Christopher. AP. “Overnight Sensation Obama Wins U.S. Senate Seat.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A17; Wills. “Rising Political Star Obama Coasts to Democratic Victory.” USAT 3 Nov. 2004: 13A.
36 AP. “Ex-Mayor Marion Barry Easily Wins D.C. Council Seat.” AAS 3 Nov. 2004: A19.
37 Oates, Joyce Carol. The Falls. New York City: Ecco, 2004: 1-39.
38 Friedman, Ellen G. Joyce Carol Oates. New York City: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1980: 1.
39 Oates. What I Lived For. New York City: E.P. Dutton, 1994.
40 Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow, 1991: 279-294.
41 Beach et al. “Texas Book Festival Panel and Readings: Critics’ Choice.” XL 28 Oct. 2004: 28.
42 Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York City: Dutton, 1998: 25-26.
43 Didion, Joan. “The Women’s Movement.” 1972. The White Album. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1979: 109-118; Johnson, op. cit., 169.
44 Johnson, op. cit., passim.; Moore, Stephen. “Is the Northeast Necessary?” TAS Dec. 1997: 36.
45 AD No. 56 (Oct. 1, 2003); Brenner, Wayne Alan. “Calendar: Halloween and Día de los Muertos.” AC 29 Oct. 2004: 81.
46 “Zorn, John.” Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, 2nd rev. ed. Ed. Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski. New York City: Fireside/Rolling Stone Press, 2001: 1108-1109.
47 Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. “Daria.”  The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network & Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, 8th ed. New York City: Ballantine Books, 2003: 278-279; Herman, Ellie. Pilates for Dummies. New York City: Hungry Minds, 2002.
48 AD No. 26 (Apr. 27, 2001); AD No. 53.
49 Jimenez, Jessica. “West End Galleries Throw a Party for Art Lovers Every First Thursday.” XL 4 Nov. 2004: 26.
50 Ray. Unchain My Heart Louisiana LLC/Crusader Entertainment LLC/Anvil Films/Baldwin Entertainment/Bristol Bay Productions/Universal Pictures, 2004.
51 Higginbotham, Stacey. “Final Bell Ringing for MCC.” ABJ 29 Oct. 2004: 1+.