I got to the Supreme Court line at 8 a.m. and was told to
talk to a guy in a yellow Nautica jacket about getting in. He handed me a legal
pad and I wrote my name at 196. The order was self-enforcing, he said, and I
was on the cusp; I might get in.
Right after me, three women arrived, and we formed a loose
little group. The conversation was very careful, because you didn’t know where
anyone was coming from, except the curly-haired woman wearing a Gore button,
and unlike the raucous demonstration in front of the building, you couldn’t
yell at someone else and walk away-you had to live with these people for
We’d been there only five minutes or so when the youngest of
us, a chic woman about 30 with a long pretty face, a white A-line skirt and
white fake fur boots, told us about her dream of Al Gore.
“I was in a hall in a state fair. There were all sorts of
booths and pie-eating contests and rope courses, and off at one side Al was
sitting on a folding metal chair at one of those pressed-board tables like in
high school. There was a feeling of peanuts and sawdust, after the party. I got
in the little line to talk to him, then I told him I just wanted him to know my
family was praying for him. I said he hadn’t gotten a fair shake.
“He thanked me, then he said, ‘Jen, the people must not
realize how ignorant George W. is, they must not understand.’
“I felt so-like I was breaking bad news to a little kid. I
said I think they did know, and they didn’t care. His eyes were full of hurt
and disbelieving. ‘That can’t be true,’ he said, ‘it can’t be right.’”
It was exciting and embarrassing to hear the dream. It was
brave of Jen to tell us, but the two other women were older and one of them was
a little tough, the one with the Gore button. The dream seemed to anger her a
little, suggesting that Al Gore was going to lose.
Then Jen said, “There was another part to the dream. I went
on to a booth where you test your skill. There was a box of tools and a wall of
like plumbing, or electric, to fix a technical problem. I had no idea how to do
it, and then Al came over. He said, ‘I think you want to use this tool.’ He
showed me exactly how to do it, and he was really comfortable-”
Jen said she likes that dream because that’s what she wants
of Al Gore if he loses-not to be crushed by it, but to play a role in public
life, fixing something, to set up a foundation and be like Jimmy Carter.
I said, “But couldn’t Al Gore run in 2004 if he lost?” The
women laughed at me. And the curly-haired woman with the Gore button said that
when people said that if Vice President Gore just exited gracefully he could
walk in in 2004, that was a trap. He’d be branded a loser. So the women
respected him for pushing his rights as far as he could. This was his last shot
at the country fair.
After that I went over to the demonstration for a while,
still in the intimate mood of the women and the dream (it turns out the dreamer
is a Boston artist, Jennie Packard). The sudden grave concern about the
legitimacy of institutions that has been animating the pundits for the last few
days is very patriarchal. It’s about fatherly institutions maintaining a stern
face of authority so that order is maintained. I think of Cokie Roberts
freaking out on TV months ago when someone questioned the legitimacy of the
Electoral College. She surely wants a 9-0 decision from the Court.
But the Court’s 5-4 split has been thrilling, because it
feels intimate. It’s made clear that these are people, too, with passions. Bob
Dylan said, “Even the President has to stand naked,” and that goes for the
Court, too. Soon they’ll be on television.
Out in front of the Court, the Bush demonstration was small
and had lost its edge since I’d last been in Washington two weeks before, while
the Gore demonstration had gotten huge and was wickedly funny. There was a guy
wearing a T-shirt that said “Rednecks Fer Bush.” He had some of his teeth
blacked out. People were shouting about Clarence Thomas’ Coke can, while the
more sober demonstrators wore orange AIDS-style lapel ribbons that signify
Count Every Vote, and some people were holding up a green plastic fence with
hundreds of ribbons woven through it of lost votes, with real names, like an
(Later, when Montana Governor Marc Racicot gave an interview
on the steps over them, the Gore crowd chanted, “Racicot lies,” and when David
Boies came down the steps, looking a little like a Budget rental car run off
the road by Scalia’s semi, the crowd roared with approval.)
Outsiders always have better demonstrations than insiders,
and just in the last two weeks, the liberals have become the righteous
outsiders again, as in old times. They have a good civil rights issue-count
every vote-and they are questioning authority. For weeks after George Bush is
inaugurated, the liberal media will be going to Florida to investigate dimpled
ballots, and stirring up the anger more.
They are exactly where the conservatives were a few years
ago. They also had clear issues involving civil rights and arrogant
authority-from the Travel Office to Waco to the intimidation of Clinton
women-that were brushed aside and stonewalled by the ins. Investigation after
investigation coming up with nothing on Bill Clinton, and the corporate press
dismissing the claims as conspiracy theory, and the same rot about We need to keep legitimacy, so shut up .
Someday when all this factionalizing is over, after some
crisis that reunifies the country along consensual lines, maybe even the libs
screaming outside the Supreme Court will look back on the Court’s 9-0 Paula
Jones decision as a noble one. It was about the right of a citizen to seek
redress from a great man. The Court said that the case shouldn’t distract the
President from his duties, and they were right, it shouldn’t have. Bill Clinton
could have won the case on the merits-and did. As it was, he failed the Supreme
Court’s distraction test, and put his energy into trying to control the
witnesses, and the Court boycotted his State of the Union speech. The Court may
still be reeling from that now. The President gave up his legitimacy in the
name of self-interest, so they’re giving up theirs, too.
I got back in line with the women. One guy walked by with a
poster that said, “Don’t Cry, Little W, The Circus Is In Town.” With daddy
George burping little George over his shoulder and the five conservative judges
portrayed as clowns. Jen talked about her sympathy for George Bush. He seems so
scared and overwhelmed, she said, it reminds her of the times she’s bitten off
more than she could chew.
“Did you have a dream about him?” I asked.
The other two women
“No,” Jen said, but then we talked about our anxiety dreams.
Jen and the curly-haired woman said in their naked dreams they’re wearing bra
and underwear. But the fourth woman, who had black hair, and I said that ours
are stark naked. Not a stitch of clothing. Maybe a book to hold over myself.
A man came out of the Court talking excitedly about what
he’d seen during his five minutes inside. He said he was never going to forget
one moment that seemed real, when the Bush lawyer (actually Joseph Klock) had
kept getting the justices’ names wrong and Justice Scalia had said, “I’m
Scalia.” The place had broken up. That was the history the man was going to
hang on to, a piece he belonged to.
The man went off and we waited. The minutes ticked away, and
it didn’t look good for us. The fourth, dark-haired woman said she’d once been
at an airport with delayed connections, along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They
were out west coming east, and she knew she wasn’t going to miss her connection
if she just stuck to Justice Ginsburg. But Justice Ginsburg had marshals with
her, so you could only get so close.