One Monday morning in March, following a weekend of anti-war protests that swelled to the largest mass of public dissent in human history, Bush dismissed the protesters as a bellyaching fringe minority. "I won't make policy based on mere focus groups," he declared, before marching the country straight into war. If the current administration's unyielding determination wasn't obvious before, Bush had clearly exposed his hell-bent personal agenda to the world.
From there, Bush has really never looked back. Over the summer, as the economy continued to sour and two wars lingered--one in Iraq and another unending one in Afghanistan--President Bush has become increasingly emboldened. Ignoring a mounting $480 billion deficit, and against widespread economic advice, he pushed through massive tax cuts. And this past week in Southern Oregon, against most accepted scientific data, he cheered on a short-sighted, forest-thinning environmental policy.
On Thursday, Portland residents saw that arrogance at close range--or, at least, from the distance of a city block, which is the closest liberals are allowed to get to the President these days.
About 3500 demonstrators marched through North Portland and straight into a three-block area surrounded by riot cops and a chain-link fence crowned with barbed wire. Before the march, there were murmurs that demonstrators would clog the streets to the University of Portland campus where the president hosted his $2,000 a plate fundraiser. The goal was to derail the campaign fundraiser by stopping patrons from arriving.
However, carted in by air-conditioned buses and driving on heavily protected streets, the few hundred patrons arrived unmolested. Protesters raised their middle fingers and wagged their signs, but the demonstrations did little to deter the conservative fundraiser. Without slowing from its 50-to 60-mph pace, the president's motorcade whooshed Bush to his luncheon. In less than two hours, Bush raked in an estimated $1 million, which he will use to continue forwarding his conservative agenda.
During the three hour protest in Portland, demonstrators played by the rules of democracy and decent society. Proceeding peacefully through the residential neighborhood, the protesters dutifully showed off their signs to each other--even if the President never saw them.
In spite of not even coming close to breaking Bush's stride, Jeff Cropp, an organizer for "Defeat Bush Now!" believes the protest was effective. "It conclusively demonstrated that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with Bush and his policies among the people of Portland," he said.
Referring to the lack of speed bumps that protesters put in front of Bush's whirlwind tour, he continued, "It shouldn't be a surprise how easy it is to accomplish a mission with what was basically an occupation force in North Portland."
Since taking office, Bush has visited Oregon three times. In the 2000 elections, he only narrowly lost to Al Gore. Clearly anticipating another close election, Oregon will be a much-contested swing state, one that could easily tip the outcome in the 2004 election.
Even though presidential elections are still 14 months away, to harness anger against the current administration, the Defeat Bush Now! organization has begun to gear up get-out-the-vote drives and will be hosting a grassroots training session on September 6-7 at PSU. For more information about Defeat Bush Now!, contact Cropp at 450-9922.