Riot? Or just a Grand Ol' Party?

By Mark Trapp
web posted December 4, 2000

Remember that movie from several years ago, White Men Can't Jump? It starred Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. The running gag throughout the movie was that Woody, being a dorky white guy, could not dunk a basketball. Hence the title, White Men Can't Jump. I have been reminded of that movie while watching the recent so-called "riots" and "mob violence" perpetrated down in Florida by a bunch of Republicans. These "W" voters were protesting the fact that the Democrats in Miami-Dade County were attempting to count presidential ballots without observers present. If this protest is indicative of what passes for a "riot" in the GOP, I am ashamed to admit that I'm a Republican.

To begin with, no more than a hundred people even bothered to show up. I've seen more people fit into an elevator. Rule number one of rioting - if all of your rioters fit into one room, you don't have a riot - you have a bachelor party. These jokers couldn't even get a single member of their "mob" arrested. How pathetic is that? There were no injuries, no damage, and no fighting. It more resembled a picnic than a protest. These guys couldn't even manage to look like people who would be involved in a riot - most were clean-shaven, and wearing newly-printed T-shirts. Some of them were even wearing suits, for crying out loud. Little wonder, then, that election supervisor David Leahy stated, "I was not intimidated by that protest. I saw it for what it was ... a noisy, peaceful protest."

Compare this so-called "riot" with the violence that erupted in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. Remember that? In the course of a couple days, there were more than 58 deaths, hundreds of injuries and arrests, the destruction of thousands of buildings, and more than $800 million worth of damage. Now that was a riot. Compared to that incident, this effort in Florida looks like a game of patty-cake.

However, this has not stopped the Democrats from acting as if Armageddon itself occurred in Miami. In the past, Democrats have always been all for protests. Most even excused the LA riots as a justified rebellion. Last year, when six students in Decatur, Illinois were expelled from high school for starting a brawl in the stands at a football game, Jesse Jackson excused their actions, saying, "No blood, no injuries, no guns." The same was true of the Republican effort last week. However, now you can hardly turn around without some Democrat bemoaning the "mob violence" that took place in Florida. Why the big switch? One reason - Democrats feel that protesting is their turf, and they don't like Republicans infringing on it. Bush already stole the social security issue and (unfortunately) the prescription drug issue - no way are the Democrats gonna let him make off with their sacred cow, the take-it-to-the-streets, Sixties-style protest.

Indeed, most of today's Democrat leaders cut their teeth by staging sit-ins and takeovers of their university's administrative buildings in the Sixties. They also held countless protests of the Vietnam War. Bill Clinton himself organized and participated in protests against this conflict. To a Democrat, their first protest is a sacred rite of passage, akin to a Republican landing his first time job. These ex-hippies are not gonna stand still and let some clean-cut, corporate, tax-paying moralists steal their very soul. Thus, when a hundred Republicans got together to protest the endless mining for Gore votes in Florida, they were attacked by Democrats for their attempt to "create mob rule in Miami" as Jenny Backus, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee put it.

Funny, (well, not really), but I didn't hear Ms. Backus complaining when it was Reverend Jackson leading the protests in Florida. Within days of the election, Jackson was in Florida, shouting that people too stupid to figure out a ballot had somehow been "disenfranchised." The DNC was also silent when Jackson led hundreds of students at Florida A & M University in protests similar to the one decried by Ms. Backus. Apparently, only Democrats can protest. Republicans are not accorded this privilege.

Representative Peter Deutsch, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, stated of the Republican protestors, "A group of out-of-state, paid political operatives came to south Florida in an attempt to stop county-wide recounts. They crossed state-lines and intimidated the counting in a federal election, which is a violation of the Voting Rights Act." I wonder if Representative Deutsch has ever read the Constitution, especially the First Amendment, which guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Probably not. Also, I'm sure the Democrats have never had people brought in from out of state to protest. Yeah, right. Jesse Jackson has enough frequent-flyer miles racked up flying from one protest to the next that he could take a space-shuttle flight to Mars and back for free. First class. And I guess we're all supposed to believe that every lawyer working for Al Gore is a native Floridian, and is doing his work pro bono. Give me a break.

Even Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman has joined in the hand-wringing, stating that "This is a time to honor the rule of law, not surrender to the rule of the mob." What mob? Lieberman's lawyers outnumbered the protestors five to one. Al Gore has also been whining about the "organized intimidation" in Miami. Remember Al, you don't have to get snippy about it.

These comments and reaction seem to suggest a feeling among Democrats that, apart from their not being very good at protesting, Republicans do not even have the right to do so. In other words, only Democrats have the moral standing to conduct protests, or have their voices heard. That is why Democrats didn't complain when Jesse Jackson was leading the charge, but can't control their contempt when the Republicans respond in kind. We can't have Republicans out protesting - can you imagine?

This is quite similar to the Democratic argument on votes. They say that they "only want to count every vote," but in reality they only want to count every vote for Al Gore, and ignore or dismiss any vote for George Bush. This is why they systematically tried to exclude military votes, while at the same time resorting to something along the lines of reading tea leaves to find votes for Al Gore among supposed Democrat ballots. Likewise, they are all for riots and protests when it serves their interest. However, when Republicans protest, we hear people like Ms. Backus whining that "the Republicans are out of control."

This has caused me to wonder -- what if the Democrats could no longer count on the fact that Republicans would never take to the streets in protest? This is the Democrats worst nightmare - imagine if the Republicans, like the recent voters in Yugoslavia, decided that they were no longer going to tolerate these election shenanigans -- what would happen? Keep in mind, that at the end of the movie White Men Can't Jump, Woody Harrelson finally did dunk the basketball. It was a happy ending to an otherwise pointless and dull movie. Much like the inauguration of George W. Bush will be a happy ending to an otherwise pointless and dull campaign.

Mark Trapp is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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