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D.C. election didn't just unseat abrasive Mayor Fenty. It was a populist revolt.

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A word of advice to Gray: Do not overlook the bile on the ballot. The disappointment, anger, feelings of betrayal that propelled the D.C. Council chairman to victory have not burned out. Not quite.

What happened Tuesday involved more than just the unseating of a mayor with an abrasive style. It was a populist revolt against Fenty's arrogant efforts to restructure government on behalf of a privileged few. The scheme was odious: re-create a more sophisticated version of the plantation-style, federally appointed three-member commission that ruled the city for more than a century until 1967.

The Fenty troika eerily mirrored the old antebellum system of control, which featured a chairman for public works, which is what Fenty was, in essence; a chairman with expertise in legal maneuverings, Nickles; and a chairman for education and welfare issues, Rhee.

It all makes for a kind of friendly fascism in which D.C. government serves the interest of business leaders and landed gentry. Remarkably, his approach became much ballyhooed: Fenty, his supporters raved, was making the trains run on time. That people were falling off the caboose and being railroaded out of town was just the price of progress.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) actually used the term "lawless" to describe the Fenty regime. "He's broken the government and built in obstacles to any future success," she told me. It was going to be virtually impossible for Fenty to sustain what progress he'd made -- unless Congress crowned him king of the city.

Gray, as council chairman, called Rhee's budgeting practices "opaque," to put it mildly. Nickles, the council said, had a penchant for "stonewalling." Out in the neighborhoods, Fenty's long-standing moniker, "arrogant," was joined by others, such as "dictator" and "Napoleon wannabe" who allowed Nickles to "walk all over us" and who let Rhee "spit in our faces."

So people went to the polls and politely delivered a message: Most residents actually believe in representative democracy, thank you very much, messy though it may be.

You did it, D.C. And if it makes you want to holler, go right ahead.

E-mail: milloyc@washpost.com.


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