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The Anti's Antidote For the Bush Blues

There was both defiance and a sense of moving on at the Alternative Inaugural Ball at the National Press Club, where the host, the political action committee Independent Action, raised more than $60,000.

"Instead of staying home and being miserable and watching reruns on television, it's time to come together and show strength as a party and start raising some money for the next election cycle," said Ralph Santora, executive director.

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

About 250 partyers, dressed in fashionably noir understatement, nibbled and drank at candlelit tables when they weren't dancing. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and comedian and radio host Al Franken addressed the crowd.

Franken said he didn't much like celebrating. "We have to keep working, we have to gird ourselves for what's coming in the next four years and fight it," he said in an interview afterward.

Out at Dream, the Richter family from Freehold, N.J., who had been among the hundreds of protesters at the inaugural parade earlier in the day, was first in line. Steve and Debi, both 45, made the four-hour drive early yesterday. It's a family affair. Kat, their 19-year-old daughter, helped set up the Platinum Club party.

"You have to send President Bush the message that he doesn't have the mandate that he claims to have," said Steve, who pilots ships in New York. Debi, who home-schools their children, adds: "He's not the beloved president that many on the right think he is."

For married forty-somethings and single twenty-somethings on the left of the political spectrum, Dream offered a cozy, hip space to ruminate about the next four years. The music was decisively old school -- Janet, Michael, Madonna and Prince. At the entrance, "ReDefeat Bush" T-shirts and "Bush Cheated '04" stickers and buttons were handed out free.

Early in the night, Ken Roseman of Arlington made a splashy entrance -- dressed in drag as Britannia the hippie cheerleader. "What am I going to do? Sit at home and mourn?" said Roseman, 53, a music journalist and telephone fundraiser for Peace Action.

Lytel, the party's organizer, who ran ReDefeatBush.com for 16 months, last night officially launched a successor organization, Left.org, with the slogan, "We are what is left of the center."

Counter-inaugural partying dates back at least to 1981, when ADA held an anti-soiree for Ronald Reagan's first swearing-in.

After Bush's election four years ago, there were a few opposition parties, including one hosted by ADA and another called "The Auctioneer's Ball." For Bill Clinton's two inaugurations, seriously bummed conservatives held balls called "Mourning in America: A Thousand Pints of Lite" (1993) and "Mourning in America II: Feel Our Pain" (1997).

But this year's anti-ball dance card seemed better organized and more multifaceted than in years past. ReDefeatBush.org even went to the trouble of leaving automated campaign-style phone messages yesterday morning at households in the region, featuring a President Bush sound-alike who warned people not to attend ReDefeat's ball at Dream -- then helpfully provided the date and time for it.

Other scheduled opposition parties included the Punk Rock Counter-Inaugural Ball, which drew 800 people to United Methodist Church in Columbia Heights; "Inaugurate This!" and Noise Against Fascism, both at the Black Cat, the indie music club at 14th Street NW; and the Blue Ball at Cafe Asia downtown.

"The difference between four years ago and now is that people who are against this political reality are very well organized," said Natalie E. Illum, 28, a poet who lives in Mount Pleasant and works for the Department of Agriculture. "There is a political reality that is not all Bush's political reality."

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