From the pages of

Election Night-mare
by Martin Lewis
(First published November 08, 2000)

I decided to spend election night at a party thrown in New York by The Creative Coalition - a non-profit organization which encourages entertainers to address political and social issues. The bash takes place at Caroline's Comedy Club in mid-town Manhattan. Attendees had the choice of watching results on big-screen TVs, listening to a light-hearted panel discussion dominated by Arianna Huffington or gazing at Coalition president Billy Baldwin.

Not being a Single White Female, I drift between the first two options. Though the organization is carefully non-partisan (board members range from Christopher Reeve to Peggy Noonan) the party attendees are massively pro-Gore.

As Pennsylvania is called for Gore - the crowd gets jazzed. When Florida gets called for Gore my status as a non-SWF is rendered moot. Suddenly Baldwin is right in my face. "Three for three baby! Three for three!!!" (As an ignorant Brit I assume that this is a quaint American expression of a positive nature.)

The panel discussion oscillates between platitudes and witty zingers. The View's Joy Behar and actress Martha Plimpton range against the "Daily Show's" Brian Unger and others - all moderated by writer Lizz Winstead. But dominating proceedings is Arianna Huffington - who in her best Zsa Zsa Gabor accent assures everyone that her good friends in both the Bush and Gore camps have told her unequivocally that Gore has won. She is still holding firm to this at 10pm when she wafts into the night to her next salon appearance.

As the evening wears on, the once exultant crowd turns tense. When CNN retracts its call of Florida for Gore - the mood becomes grim. Martha Plimpton is tireless - calling friends on her cell phone and speaking with dread of what a Bush presidency would mean for progressive causes.

As the night rolls on - with everything coming down to Florida - the party dwindles to a handful. Plimpton explains graphically what she thinks of Ralph Nader - and his promise not to compete in swing states. At the exact same time she expletes, CNN's John King in Tennessee is relaying the fact that most of the words the Gore advisors are now uttering about Nader cannot be spoken on TV.

I realize how lucky I am. Plimpton is letting us hear the Seven Words You Can't Say On CNN.

No one can figure out why it's taking Florida so long to count these last few votes. We see the figures for 86% of the precincts. then an hour goes by before we see a result for 91%.

Now people try to work out how many votes are left to be counted - and how many of those Gore needs to win. No one has a calculator so a napkin is deployed for some serious (though drunken) calculus. Approx. 6 million voters divided by 91%. Multiply by 100 divide by.We get hopelessly confused. Finally the theory is offered that Gore needs approx. 64,000 of the last 100,000 ballots. How can he fail? There can't possibly be more than 35,000 sweet old Jewish ladies in Miami who would prefer Dick Cheney "from Wyoming of all places" - over "that nice Joe Lieberman."

These and other theological deliberations continue till 1.30am - at which point - despite the lack of a result - the exhausted Caroline's staff finally eject the diehards.

Desperate to view the grand denouement - the stragglers dash into the nearest Irish bar where a group of election haters are holding forth with ESPN and some Beatles records on the jukebox.

An animated exchange takes place between the two groups and the TV is switched to CNN - though the anti-political mob crank the music up to maximum. Finally CNN projects Bush as the winner in Florida - and thus the new President. The survivors slump dejectedly at the news. By a synchronicity that seems cruel Lennon's voice breaks in with "Help!" As we troop out into the cold night air of the new Bush era - the last thing we hear is Lennon pleading "Won't you please, please help me..."

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