Next to the Billion Bubba March and 6th Street after dark, Austin, Texas is a pretty great place to hang your hat for a couple of days -- well, if you can find a coatrack that isn't guarded by the police. Don't forget the right credentials. Oh, and it's a good idea not to be a protester, a Ralph Nader supporter, or the Green Party's main man himself. The average Austinite trying to go to work, get to school, get on with life as usual, woke up Tuesday morning to their fine city more heavily barricaded than the Alamo.
Austin appears to be Bush country from convenience stores papered in the candidate's posters to Bush/Cheney litter strewn UT campus. To show its support for the son of Bush, the city council moved to spend a little taxpayer dough to construct looming red, white, and blue plume-like archways to show their patriotism. A friend and student at UT whom I'm slumming with this election night just rolled her eyes at it all, opting to take a longer route to drop me off in the middle of Congress Avenue's impending circus.
"Nobody that I know cares too much," she said, sighing. "We're in the middle of exams. There are probably a lot of students who aren't going to vote. If I vote for Nader, I'm voting for Bush. If I vote for Gore, I'll vomit. He's phony. And Bush is even less an option."
I don't know why, but as soon as I got to her campus apartment, I felt like ordering a pizza, putting on a sweatshirt, sleeping late, and forgetting about it all.
Instead I met a group of prominent journalists for drinks at the downtown Hyatt. Reporters always find a way to get together and drink during major news events. One of the hotshots to my right told me that what the UT student had predicted was really good news.
"That's better than the national average, isn't it? Or something like that?" He confessed that he doesn't listen to readers of his D.C.-based national magazine because they distract him.
"Your friend has it probably right on there," he said. "She's right; not a lot of people your age are going to the poles tomorrow." Then he went back to a long pontification about the Green Party's "subtle introduction of advanced sociology similar to Vladimir Putin's hoped for regime which is antithetical to Reaganomics contrary to what most pundits are saying."
I had another drink. I read three story leads in the Austin Statesman newspaper that began with poll results. I listened to the other reporters analyze very deeply and thoroughly the very analytical and deep implications of this election. And when I got back to my friends' apartment, I wished her good luck on her exam, and said I understood perfectly well why she might not vote. Disconnect between the establishment -- the politicians, the well-paid journalists, the pundits and the voters is what will linger long after we know tonight's election results.
Disillusioned and disappointed in Austin -- Ashley Fantz.
(You can write Ashley Fantz at firstname.lastname@example.org