- Lisa Dupler, a 33-year-old from Columbus, held up a rainbow-striped John Kerry sign outside the Nationwide Arena on Friday, as Republicans streamed out after being rallied by George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A thickset woman with very short, dark hair, Dupler was silent and barely flinched as people passing her hissed "faggot" into her ear. An old lady looked at her and said, "You people are sick!" A kid who looked to be about 10 or 11 affected a limp wrist and mincing voice and said, "Oh, I'm gay." Rather than restraining him, his squat mother guffawed and then turned to Dupler and sneered, "Why don't you go marry your girlfriend?" Encouraged, her son yelled, "We don't want faggots in the White House!"
The throngs of Republicans were pumped after seeing the president and the action hero. But there was an angry edge to their elation. They shrieked at the dozen or so protesters standing on the concrete plaza outside the auditorium. "Kerry's a terrorist!" yelled a stocky kid in baggy jeans and braces. "Communists for Kerry! Go back to Russia," someone else screamed. Many of them took up the chant "Kerry sucks"; old women and teenage boys shouting with equal ferocity.
... Dave, a 54-year-old electronic technician, said that if Kerry wins, "I'm going to leave the country and go to a Third World nation and start a ranch." His wife, Jenny, laughed and accused him of hyperbole, but he insisted he's been studying Portuguese, the language of Brazil, "so we'll have an escape route." Sitting near him was Greg Swalley, a blond electrical contractor. "I think Kerry is the anti-Christ," he said, only half-joking. "He scares me."
... Looking at the small knot of protesters, many of whom were chanting, "Four more days," 22-year-old Nick Karnes, wearing a knit ski cap and baggy jeans, yelled, "Shut up!" Then he turned to his friend and said, "We can take 'em."
"I'm definitely gonna vote for him," Karnes said of Bush. "Because he's been the president for four years and nothing bad has happened since Sept. 11. He's kept me alive for four years." If Kerry becomes president, he said, "We'll be dead within a year."
Karnes told me that most of his friends are voting for Bush, too, but a couple are voting for Kerry. "I'm not speaking to them right now," he said.
When the crowd came pouring out of the arena, the vitriol only increased. One clean-cut man, holding his son by the hand, yelled "coward!" at one of the protesters. I asked him what made him say that, and he said, "Because he's demeaning our troops by saying they are fighting a lost cause."
... A few of the protesters, meanwhile, were red-faced from yelling at their antagonists about homophobia and budget deficits and a senseless war. Republicans were incensed. A blond woman dragged her young redheaded son toward the protesters, pointed to them, and said, "These are the Democrats," speaking as if she was revealing an awful reality that he was finally old enough to face. As she walked away with a group of other mothers and children, she was so angry she could barely speak. A friend consoled her by promising her that Bush would win. After all, she pointed out, "Look how many more Bush supporters there were on the street!"
That calmed the angry blond woman down a little. But she was still mad. "We," she said, stammering and gesturing contemptuously at the demonstrators, "we are the way it should be!"
As I was saying ... the appearance of violence and intimidation tactics, encouraged by campaign rhetoric, and spouting beliefs that not only are disattached from reality, but threaten apocalyptic violence should Kerry win -- that is one of those the signs that the conservative movement is becoming less pseudo-fascist and is stepping closer to the real thing.
If it continues beyond Election Day, and it becomes expressly encouraged, watch out.