Not every Democrat feels the urge to flee, even those who aren't obliged to suck it up. Kiki McLean, a Democratic strategist and spokeswoman for Al Gore, said she senses a fair amount of fight within the party ranks, even as the airspace over Washington fills with Republican champagne corks. Unlike in 2000, when the guy getting the parade was not the guy who won the most votes, this year feels more like the time-honored defeats that are nearly inevitable in a political career.
"I don't see a big pity party going on," said McLean. "In 2000, they didn't win -- we did. This time, although we're still very concerned that every vote was not properly counted, I believe that in the end they beat us."
After a day in New York on business, McLean plans to spend tomorrow evening in Washington, at a party with other Democrats. Will they tune into the inauguration? "I'll be a guest," she demurred. "I'll abide by the wishes of my hosts."
Lockhart, too, thinks there is more quadrennial moaning and groaning among the vanquished than actual bag-packing. The usual Democratic watering holes need not close the shutters, he said. "I think Stetson's will make a profit that night," Lockhart said. Stetson's, the Dem-friendly Adams Morgan saloon at 1610 U St. NW, will be open until 2 a.m. tomorrow night.
For his part, Lockhart plans to watch Bush's second inaugural address on television, and then bolt the next day for Seattle to give a speech to a pro-Kerry group. "I'm going to the West Coast to talk about why we lost, to a group of people who were very disappointed that we lost," he said. "Often you're speaking to business groups, and they ask you not to offend anyone. These people asked that I say exactly what I think. That's more fun." At press time, Lastminutetravel.com was offering airfare and three nights (Thursday through Sunday) at Seattle's Days Inn Town Center for $475.99 per person, double. Info: www.lastminutetravel.com.
If there are Democrats out making merry in Washington tomorrow night, Cecilia Saad will not be among them. The D.C. resident and staunch Democrat fully intends to put at least one mountain range between her and the first hours of the second G.W. Bush administration. Saad, marketing director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, spent Election Day holding up a Kerry sign on a street corner in Hedgesville, W.Va. This week she's heading back to the Mountain State to immerse herself in a media blackout at a cabin with three like-minded friends.
"We're going to play board games and ban the radio and TV," Saad said. "The nice thing about D.C. is that you don't have to go far to feel far away. And that's where I want to be, far away." For an extensive list of cabins and lodges to rent in West Virginia: West Virginia Tourism, www.callwva.com.
It's not just that the other side gets to throw this party, Saad said. She's angry that protests are reportedly going to be kept well away from the main parade route and that federal officials told the District government it won't be reimbursed for millions in security expenses. And the sheer scale of the festivities -- an estimated $40 million for the parade, balls and fireworks -- strikes her as unseemly when the country is at war and so soon after the tsunami that killed more than 160,000 in South Asia.
"It's too much," she said. "I would be just as disappointed if Kerry went forward with all the pageantry and the galas. A swearing-in would be fine, of course, and a small parade. But a $40 million price tag? I think that's obscene."
And do Republicans, who endured a few bitter inauguration weeks during the Clinton era, have any advice for despondent Dems? Grover Norquist, the acerbic head of Americans for Tax Reform, said Kerry folks should stay and whoop it up among themselves.
"They should have their own counter-inaugural party like we did back in '92," Norquist said. "It's good to remind yourself that it's not the end of the world if your guy is not the president."
What's this? Words of comfort from a merciless conservative warrior?
"It's probably too late this time," he went on. "But it's not too late to start planning for the next two presidential elections that they're going to lose."
Ah. That's more like it.