She was celebrating the Republican Party takeover of the Arkansas legislature at the GOP victory party last night, if not four more years of Barack Obama.
Cheree Franco talked to her last night in this color story on the Republican scene at the Embassy Suites in western Little Rock.
Doyle Webb estimated attendance of 400 (based on pre-registration). At the bar, they were serving up complimentary vodka and cranberry juice, the“red” special. The first song I heard is an elevator version of "Girl from Ipanema." I was reminded of my friend’s sweet but dumb dog — my friend always hums "Girl from Ipanema" and says she thinks that’s what’s going on in his head at all times.
Early in the night, I spoke with Colleen Shoemaker from Bauxite — the woman we used on the cover.
I asked her what happened that day at the town hall meeting (which was at Ark. Children’s Hospital and was entirely about Obamacare).
“When I got up there to talk, I was so emotional, all I can remember saying is, ‘I want my America back.’” This was her first time to come out to the big Republican party. “I’m really rooting for Romney,” she said. “There have been a lot of us praying, every night, 7 o’clock, all around the country for 40 days. We all hooked up on the internet.” The site is teapartypatriots.org.
“One thing I hope is if Mitt Romney wins, the Republican establishment will be more conservative than they are now. We’re all a little unhappy with the old guard...John Boehner, for one, I would love to see him voted out of the speaker of the house...he just doesn’t get it.”
I also spoke with a black man, Thurlo Cobb, a former hip-hop artist born into a Democratic family. He does financial advising now, and said he went Republican a decade ago, when he tried to start his own business and was stymied by regulations. “There were lots of roadblocks, regulations, taxes, a burden to somebody trying to start a business....I realized the Democrats were not pro-business, there were pro, ‘hey, if you can’t make it, we’ll give you some money, here’s some welfare’....”
“Are you not bothered by the recent racist comments made by some Republican state legislators?” I asked.
“There are people that use poor judgment in every walk of life,” he said. “I used to be in the hip hop business. If you listen to the average hip hop lyrics, a lot of those are misogynistic. A lot of those are racist....but we don’t condemn those people, because in America, we practice free speech...I went to college with a lot of people from the African continent. They have a much tougher time getting to America to get educated than people who are born right here in America. Slavery was terrible, one of the most unforgivable atrocities that ever happened to mankind. But, what is the positive out of that? For those people who survived that, we have opportunity here that people only dream of.... so the comments that were made along that line? There is some truth to that — we are better off now that we are here.”
I wanted to know about the wait staff — largely Latino and black folks. The first woman I spoke to, a Latina who doesn’t want her name used, told me she was a Republican, but then grew bashful didn’t want to say more. When I asked why she was Republican, she kept saying, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I can’t say.” An older man doing the grilling, Roger Raynor, came all the way from the Embassy Suites in Nashville to work the party. “They asked me to help, so I came. But I’m here because I came to work,” he said. Still, he’s a Republican, and said he probably wouldn’t have driven so far to work the Democratic party. Then I asked a waitress, an older black woman. “Oh, I'm a Democrat,” she said immediately. “I’m here because I have to be here. But it’s ok, I’m ok, I’m neutral.”
One man, an independent Romney-supporter, who also voted for some Democratic candidates and had just come from the Democratic party at Cotham’s, told me that he’d never seen as much plastic surgery as in that Embassy Suites ballroom. A little girl, about nine, picked over some fancy chocolate truffles at the buffet. She was in a huge, puffy, white kiddie-bridal dress. A few folks took packed plates on the elevators, up to their room around 10 p.m., as the party started dying down.
Despite their “victories” (a standing ovation when the narrow defeat of Arkansas medical marijuana was announced), faces begin to grow longer as the presidential returns kept coming in. And lots of folks were feeling the effects of alcohol and outwardly emotional. Women in cocktail dresses and spiked heels crossed their arms and sulked, shaking their heads, audibly sighing and groaning, always with a drink still in one hand.
“Nevada? That’s unbelievable!” one of them said.
“It’s because of those stability checks,” the man with her slurred. (I didn’t know what he was talking about and would have asked, but he seemed way too upset and drunk to bother. Disability maybe?)
At 10:38, Ohio began to look like it had gone Obama, and everyone knew the race hinged on Ohio. But there was still the tiniest room for doubt. A middle-aged woman in black slacks and a sparkly blouse said to a girlfriend, “I think we need to pray.” A few minutes later, she dabbed her eyes with a bar napkin. Ohio definitely went Obama.
There were stragglers till 11 though, till right after it became clear that Obama had absolutely won. But the party attempted to end on an upbeat note by bringing victorious U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin to stage. “The big news tonight is not my individual race [he had the smallest victory margin of the four Republican winners in Arkansas], it’s what’s going on in this room and around the state...the people of Arkansas have spoken, they have spoken clearly, they have spoken loudly, they want a conservative Republican government.”
Then Arkansas’s new state senate leader Michael Lamoureux took the stage and said, “We need to take Arkansas with all of its successes...and make it the best place to live and raise a family.”
“That’s right, baby!” shouted a blonde girl in a cocktail dress. There were lots of blonde girls in cocktail dresses, and they all seemed to be intent on video-ing their legislative stars, particularly Griffin, with their smart phones. And once Griffin left the stage, small children ran up to him, and he began an extended round of baby-kissing. The soundtrack to this was The Beatles’ "Revolution." Somehow, I doubt they would have approved.
A few other state legislators worked the (at this point, largely long-faced) crowd.
David Sanders, who just won his senate bid, spoke to the middle-aged weeping woman and a man (her husband?) at their table. “It’s scary,” the woman told him.
“It’s very scary,” he said.
But the man had a different take. Looking squarely at Sanders, he said, “As long as you Republicans don’t eff up and say we won’t deal with you Democrats.”
Emily and her brother Alex Jacuzzi, young twenty-somethings, were both dressed in three-piece red, white and blue outfits, and Alex kept talking about how he couldn’t wait to get to White Water Tavern.
“White Water?” I asked. “Do Republicans go there?”
“There are Republicans in Hillcrest,” he said. Mostly, he seemed excited about the $2 pitchers, though.
Less than an hour later, we met again at White Water. Despite his allegiance to Romney, Alex seemed in good spirits. He had his pitcher, and the rest of us, finally, finally had our concession speech.