2000 lays an egg: Protest march was long on
sincerity, woefully short on creativity
by Ian Abrams
The pageantry! The papier-mache!
Actually, not much pomp and pageantry was on display at
the Unity 2000 march or the other protests of the last
What you saw was mostly a great display of sincerity,
deeply held convictions stuck onto signs, T-shirts,
buttons and the occasional tattoo, and carried or worn by
a lot of very serious, mostly young, people.
However, sincerity doesn't necessarily make for great
entertainment. Viewed purely as showmanship, Unity 2000
was overwhelmingly underwhelming.
A little less sincerity and a little more political
theater would have been appreciated. And despite their
large numbers, even the welfare rights protesters
yesterday didn't stir up much real drama.
The closest the Sunday parade usually got to
theatricality was the occasional example of Large Object
Political Iconography: a 10-foot, moist-eyed Bill
Clinton, an eight-foot dancing Pentagon, a towering
Central American mother, a 50-foot inflatable missile on
a flatbed truck. More creative than most: A giant pair of
hands with two live "politicians" dangling at the ends of
But irony and humor were in short supply, as was plain
old originality. The socialists, out in force, chanted
recycled rhymes from the '60s: "Hey hey, ho ho, Bush and
Cheney have got to go!"
You'd think that trying to sell socialism in 2000 America
would be like hawking Thalidomide at a Lamaze class; the
least it calls for is new packaging. But there they were,
waving identical signs with an air of high
The Revolutionary Communist Brigade was marching, too.
Despite having the New Coke of political philosophies,
they were the snappiest dressers, dozens of mostly
unsmiling Revolutionary Youth in matching black T-shirts
and red bandanas.
But the socialists, like the communists and National
Abortion Rights League and the American Atheists and the
Universalist Unitarians, all seemed to espouse the real
unifying theme of Unity 2000:
"We believe this, and we're right, so this is what you
should believe, too."
Nobody was trying to get a point across using anything
except the most direct hard sell.
Well, almost nobody. Close to the rear of the parade came
a large, happy contingent - men in ties and toppers,
women in long dresses and tiaras. They were the phony
plutocrats of Billionaires for Bush (or Gore), marching
behind the banner "Because Inequality Is Not Growing Fast
Had their tongues been any more firmly in their cheeks,
these guys would have had to use sign language.
But they managed to do creative violence to a lot of
One-two-three-four, We just want to earn much
Five-six-seven-eight, Don't you dare tax our
Welfare for the wealthy-- Keep our profits
Down with democracy; Up with plutocracy!
The men lit real cigars off fake $1,000 bills - those
they didn't hand out as tips to the parade marshals
("You're doing a great job - keep it up!").
The women leaned more toward cigarettes in long holders.
They stopped frequently and led the crowd in chants - the
crowd actually joined in, which is more than you could
say for the Stop the Stadium marchers.
If you talked one on one with a "Billionaire" - which a
lot of people did - they were a chatty bunch, staying
cheerfully in character, explaining why the proven policy
is always to buy both candidates.
These guys have tapped into a thick vein of intentional
irony. They've figured out how to get their point across
by selling something other than the depth of their
convictions and the righteousness of their cause, doing
more than preaching to the choir. Their tactics might
conceivably make somebody start to actually think about
the issue of money in politics.
If the Revolutionary Communist Brigade had a fraction of
the imagination of the Billionaires for Bush (or Gore),
I'd be a little concerned.
Fortunately, all they had was T-shirts.
directs the Dramatic Writing Program at Drexel