Outrage and frustration crowded the streets of Washington along with GW freshman Rachael Whitley and thousands of other protestors as George W. Bush made his way along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route four years ago.
“I wasn’t even near where the parade was and it was unbelievable – there were so many people distraught and enraged by that election,” Whitley said.
Though inaugural and world politics have shifted significantly since Whitley first took to the streets of the capital in protest, her disdain for the commander in chief remains intact.
Unable to attack the legitimacy of the election, Whitley will abandon the angry cries of four years ago, marking the occasion by silently turning her back on Bush.
In that plan, she is not alone. While Whitley, a GW campus organizer for the nationally-orchestrated Turn Your Back on Bush campaign, foresees only a small number of local students participating, national organizer Jet Heiko projects at least 10,000 dissidents congregating to turn away from the president upon a given signal.
“I think a lot of protests don’t really have a lot of direct impact on anything, but I see Turn Your Back on Bush as being in his face so that he can see that America stands against him, at least 50 percent of it does,” Whitley said.
With a clear victory for Bush confirmed, however, many Republicans, including former chairman of the GW College Republicans Lee Roupas, believe the time has come to end the protests and reunite the nation.
“I think the inauguration is about a peaceful transition of power in America. I don’t see why we’re protesting such an honored tradition,” Roupas said. “The truth is we had an election, people had their chance to express their opinions and I think it’s time for some of those people to move on and respect the bipartisan nature of the inauguration.”
Regardless, the silent statement, one of a myriad of options planned for protestors on the 20th, will play out within the shadow of the most highly secured inaugural celebration in history. While many fear the precautions may violate basic freedom of speech rights for those opposing the president, Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry insisted otherwise.
“The Secret Service respects the rights of all people to express their opinions without distinction for rhetoric or intent. We want this to be a safe inauguration for everyone, including the protestors,” he said, adding that everyone is free to express their opinion in public access areas along the parade route.
As with many far-flung groups throughout the nation, however, the highly motivated chapter of the College Democrats at Ohio University refuses to remain at home while the president takes his oath. Group members may have watched in dismay as their pivotal state joined the red portion of the nation in ushering Bush to victory, but say they intend to make their voices heard in their 24-hour whirlwind trip to the capital and back.????
“I’ll be there to make a statement personally – to be another person in the crowd saying that President Bush has lied to us and has led our country into ruination,” said Amy Flowers, president of the Ohio University College Democrats.
For those unable to congregate near Pennsylvania Avenue, discussion of the candidly phrased “Not One Damn Dime Day” has sparked interest throughout the country for dissenters to “take action by doing nothing.” In an attempt to remind the political elite of the power of the American public, organizers are asking protestors everywhere to shut down the economy by boycotting all forms of consumer spending for the entirety of the day.??
In stark contrast to the harsh words and plans coming from many individual party members, official rhetoric from the Democratic National Committee is far less controversial. DNC spokesman Brian Richardson said the party will be listening closely to Bush’s words on Inauguration Day and promised the DNC will hold the president accountable.
“I think it will be a mood of apprehension because we’ve seen what George W. Bush has done these last four years. We’re tired of his divisive rhetoric and his talk of a mandate that doesn’t exist – this was one of the closest elections in history. We’re ready to work with (the Republicans) but they control everything. And so far they’ve said no,” Richardson said.
Despite the absence of official DNC festivities on Inauguration Day itself, the Democratic Party is planning a celebration titled “375: An Inaugural Party,” emphasizing the number of electoral votes John Kerry would have received if voters between 18 and 29 had determined the election. Organizers have planned the event for MCCXXIII on Connecticut Avenue and will feature DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., among others.
In 2000, Al Gore won the youth vote by about two points, while John Kerry won the same vote by about nine in 2004.
“We’re focusing on an upbeat message and we think there are things to be optimistic about from the election,” said Dan Geldon, executive director of the College Democrats of America, which has grown from 500 to 1,200 active campuses since June.?”Everyone knows how important it is to continue fighting for the values they believe in and spreading the Democratic message on campuses. People are focused on the future and not the past and we’re going to do what we can to keep the momentum going.”
Like many GW students, senior Jenn Drapisch plans to take part in the inaugural celebration despite her opinion of the president.
“I was definitely not happy about Bush winning, but at this point there’s not much I can do. I’m not going to cheer or anything but I’m not going to throw anything either,” Drapisch said. “I’ll just keep my mouth closed and maybe button my lips a few times. It’s cool to be in D.C. on Inauguration Day, regardless of the fact that I don’t like the president.”