By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“A lot of people in South-Central have never seen a Republican before,” explained Dragon at the “Party for the President,” standing around a dining room laden with pizza, chips, salsa and an army of porcelain knickknacks. “I did a quiz in South-Central and asked who voted againstslavery. Nobody knew it was the Republican Party. See, for whatever reason, the Republican Party always seems to struggle with PR.”
With the help of Dragon and other grassroots organizers, the GOP hopes to change that. Republicans across the country threw 6,925 potlucks Thursday. Some were better attended than others. A gathering in Richfield, Minnesota, drew 150 participants, and one attendee triumphantly blogged: “This is now officially ‘Bush Country.’” No one is yet saying that about West L.A., where just 10 attended the party hosted at the apartment of 19-year-old Santa Monica College student and City Council hopeful Benjamin Aronow.
Aronow might have been the least politically experienced in the group — he couldn’t remember what the number of his district was — but when it came time to talk strategy, he and his guests were organized and confident. Dragon outlined a plan for volunteer recruitment, voter registration, and winning over the minority vote — a Republican priority in Los Angeles.
“All Bush has to get is 40 percent [of the L.A. County vote] to win California,” said Dragon, explaining the need for GOP outreach in South-Central. “That’s only an increase of 8 percent from 2000.”
“But one of the things I wonder is how you’re going to get in there,” said Shane Smith, himself a former Democrat.
“Churches,” said Dragon.
“You’ve got to get to those young blacks,” Smith agreed.
“Once the Dems lose the black and Latino vote, they will never win in L.A. County again,” Dragon predicted.
“God willing,” muttered goateed Ben Eisenberg, who projected a kind of angry surfer vibe. Asked later by James Glennon why so many American Jews are liberal, he replied, “Culture lag — they’re still stuck on FDR.”
NRA member Diane Henry showed up with a red-white-and-blue cake reading: “W in ’04.” Henry is a staunch Republican but said she attended this particular event only because her boyfriend, an FBI agent, was busy conducting a stakeout. “He’s standing me up for national security again,” she lamented. While Christopher Haas read aloud on one side of the table a generic letter from the president, Henry catalogued her gun collection on the other and mentioned her horses, Rummy and Cheney. A criminal defense lawyer recently bought Cheney, she said, and changed its name.
The conversation drifted, almost inexorably, to documentary director Michael Moore’s anti-Bush flick, Fahrenheit 9/11. “The other day the president of Czechoslovakia said we once saw films like this from Russia,” complained Glennon, director of photography for the HBO series Deadwood, evidently referring to Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus’ recent criticism of Moore’s film. “They’re just propaganda,” paraphrased Glennon. “That’s what Hollywood is producing.”
“That’s why the Dems are angry at Fox News and talk radio,” said Smith. “Because
they don’t have a monopoly on information any more.”
Aronow played a special videotaped message from the president, an unexpectedly subdued and slow-paced collage of Bush stumping in the heartland. The room was hushed until a debate broke out about whether the president had incorrectly said “me” instead of “I,” but ultimately it was decided he was correct. After three minutes, Bush delivered his final remarks to the estimated 100,000 supporters gathered across the nation’s living rooms that night: “May God bless you and may God continue to bless America.”
“Rock the vote, people,” said Henry, as everyone applauded and the tape shut off.
“Now turn on Fox,” said Haas, laughing.
Drinking the Scion Smoothie
In a darkened room in a warehouse deep in Culver City, at the outré photo studio Smashbox, we are indoctrinated into the cult of Scion. At the podium, the hip-hop artist Doug E. Fresh, a.k.a. the human beatbox, sings the praises of the new 2005 tC coupe. “We want to make it relaxed,” he says. “Have fun, you know? Just . . . just feel it.” Photos of urban hipsters cavorting in the night flash across a projection screen, some with Scion tattoos on their foreheads. We are given Scion camouflage backpacks containing Scion T-shirts, Scion baseball caps, Scion key chains, Scion compilation CDs, post cards, flipbooks and fuzzy Scion wristbands. We are given juice. We drink it down.
If pressed to describe a car, any car, I might say “shiny” or “metal” or “big” or “small.” Pressed to describe the 2005 tC, Scion’s marketing specialist, Brian Bolain, a bespectacled Doctor X–ish white man, says, “It looks muscular up front with an intentionally distinctive look” and “character lines that provide a clean horizontal flow.” He talks about the specifics of Toyota’s guerrilla marketing strategy, the “philosophy of personalization” — the idea that you can customize the Scion. The car is popular in the tuner market, or street-racing subculture, because you can easily accessorize it with custom shift knobs, custom pedal kits, lowering springs, sport mufflers or 19-inch Toyota Racing Development racing wheels.
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