Volume 74, Number 25 | Octuber 20 - 26 , 2004

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Watching the third Kerry-Bush debate in the East Village last Wednesday night.

Cocktails and screaming at screens at a debate party in the East Village

By Sascha Brodsky

If, as most polls and pundits contend, New York City is solidly behind John Kerry for president, ground zero for those against President Bush might well be the East Village. This liberal breeding ground has long had a history of radical politics from the post-Civil War draft rioters to activist playwright Lillian Hellman.

So it was no surprise that a vociferously pro-Kerry crowd turned out at an East Village bar last week to watch the last of the presidential debates.

Cheers broke out when Kerry seemed to score a point and boos when Bush landed a jab.

Adam Rich, director of Kerry Village, said that the series of debate parties were attended as much for their social as political aspect.

“Let’s be reasonable, people aren’t going to turn out for these things if they aren’t fun,” he said. “But George Bush and his failed policies are our best recruiting tool.”

Kiki and David Lenoue, a newlywed East Village couple, were sipping beers as they watched the debate.

“My husband loves any kind of politics as long as it’s mixed with alcohol,” Kiki said.

Her words were drowned out in a roar of approval from the crowd as Kerry mounted the stage. A few minutes later, Bush hammered home his theme linking Osama bin Laden with the 9/11 attacks.

“Liar,” screamed several people in the crowd.

Laura Dahmer grew incensed when the president began explaining his health-care policy that she stood up and started shouting “loser, loser, loser,” and shaking her fist.

“I just feel that we as a country have been led down this terribly wrong path because of the policies of the Bush administration,” Dahmer said a few minutes later. ”I’m not usually a political person but this election has really gotten me worked up.”

Dahmer, stood out from the rest of the casually but fairly conservatively dressed hair in her plaid miniskirt and purple dyed hair.

John Schilling, a computer programmer who lives in the East Village, had draped his suit jacket over a bar stool and was munching on a pizza as he watched the debate.

“It’s too depressing watching these at home,” said Schilling, who had attended the previous two debate parties organized by Kerry Village. “I just have this terrible feeling that Bush is going to win and it makes me feel like I am the only one against him when I am sitting on the couch. It’s better to be with a group of people who feel the same way you do.”

After the debate, the consensus, unsurprisingly among these Kerry fans was that their candidate of choice had clearly won.

“He came, he rocked and he kicked some behind,” said Dahmer. “He was the man in command of the facts and Bush looked like he didn’t know what hit him.”

But many people at the bar acknowledged that Bush put up a surprisingly good battle in the last debate.

“If Bush had done this well in the other two debates then the election would be over already and he would have won,” Schilling said. “I am afraid most people at home are going to see Bush as having done a good job and at the end of the day why change presidents when he is a known quantity?”

If there were any Bush supporters watching the debate at any East Village bar last week they were lying low. Calls to the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign seeking a group of Bush supporters in the city went unanswered.

“I voted for Bush in the last election but I don’t know about this time,” said Brad Goldstein, an investment banker who was sitting with loosened tie at a bar on E. Seventh St. “I don’t say that too loud around here though.”

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