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The Anti's Antidote For the Bush Blues

Counter-Inaugural Ballgoers Don't See Red

By David Montgomery and Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page C02

No moping around at home in front of the tube. No out-of-town getaways to escape the incoming red tide. For thousands of protest partyers last night, it was time to counter-inaugurate.

There were more than a half-dozen Opposition Parties for the disaffected to attend. The diverse flavors showed off the range of dissent against President Bush -- from punk rockers to ballroom dancers, from angry activists who think Bush's reelection was stolen to well-heeled Democrats raising money to defeat the Republicans next time.

The satirical troupe Billionaires for Bush perform at the Alternative Inaugural Ball at the National Press Club. (Len Spoden For The Washington Post)

They were in a Blue State of mind, but they weren't singing the blues.

"Political depression is not a luxury we have time for," said Amy Isaacs, national director of Americans for Democratic Action, which hosted a Counter-Inaugural Gala, where 300 partyers danced to a blues-funk band at the Washington Court Hotel near Capitol Hill. "Tonight we have fun and tomorrow we go back to work."

"If you want to stay home and get drunk and be sad, then this is not the place for you," said David Lytel, organizer of the Counterinaugural Ball at Dream, the club in Northeast Washington. "If you want to start organizing, then you should be here."

At the ADA party, the band the Oxymorons, played a set list with wink-and-a-nod titles such as "Fortunate Son," "American Idiot," "Life During Wartime" and "For What It's Worth." The ADA was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, and the partyers, who skewed older than dancers at other anti-balls, still tithe at the church of high liberalism. A few dancers wore Kerry-Edwards buttons, while on sale, like honored relics, were buttons for Jack Kennedy, plus FDR pamphlets and Women's Lib ties. Tickets started at $50 for finger food and a cash bar, and everyone hooted over the vast sums being spent for the Republican galas.

"A costly war in Iraq and a party in excess at home -- it doesn't make sense," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), ADA's president.

The party stopped for a moment of silence for the troops fighting in Iraq.

"I think my mood tonight is more reflective than anything else," said David Yamada, a law professor from Boston. "How liberals, how Democrats can make a better case to the rest of the country. I think our ideals and values are both humane and patriotic, and we've got to figure out a better way to communicate that."

After a cold day of protesting, many demonstrators burned off their remaining energy dancing the night away. The Billionaires for Bush seemed ubiquitous, flitting about in their cocktail dresses and top hats, spoofing the supposedly rich and rapacious Republicans.

Their Re-Coronation Inaugural Ball at the Platinum Club was at full capacity, with more than 1,000 revelers in fake fur, velvet gowns and flashy tuxes. The swing band sang the national anthem -- which here was the song "More." In the back room, volunteers such as Tanya Snyder were selling "pearl" necklaces for $3, tiaras for $5 and dollar-bill neckties for $10. "It's a steal, dahling," said Snyder, 27, of Mount Pleasant.

She was dressed to impress -- or so she said. The fringed sparkling lavender dress she was wearing cost $4 at a thrift store. "Never in the history of the world has one person done so much for so few at the expense of so many," said Snyder. "So we're celebrating him tonight." She tried to keep a straight face but couldn't.

A banner across the stage read "Billionaires for Bush -- Because We're All in This Together, Sort of." The Republican elephant was replaced by a pig.

It was the kind of party where when you step on a lady's open-toed sandal, she says to you: "I'll have my lawyer call you."

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