Last night, I attended the “first ever” protest of a President’s State of the Union address. Held on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building, I expected it to be a tremendous event, mobbed with angry people who couldn’t wait to spoil Bush’s speech. Alas, this wasn’t to be. Despite declarations that there were “over 2,000 people” present, I’d place the final count at 500. The event was more like vaudeville, or -- and I think this is a much better analogy -- the Gong Show than a political rally. All it needed was the Unknown Comic to show up and everything would have been perfect. It left me feeling very sad for the state of the American left.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t have a good time -- really, it was quite fun. Despite the cold, I had a great time heckling the President’s speech with like-minded people. But the speaker line-up was terrible. A Minneapolis city official gave the Green Party’s "official response" before the State of the Union even ended. This left the crowd ignoring her in favor Bush’s speech, which was still running on the screen beside her, Bush’s blah-blah-blah’s popping up as closed captioning. Whenever the President said anything outrageous, the crowd booed -- unfortunately, I think the Green spokesman thought they were booing her.

After the Green lady got off stage, Reverend Billy of the Church of No-Shopping showed up to offer inane arguments against the war (the logical ones just don’t cut it for Billy, I suppose) all in the style of an evangelical preacher. There was lots of rambling on about how murder and bombing is bad (who’d have thunk it?), but nothing about the lack of any connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, or zero evidence of Saddam’s having weapons of mass destruction -- none of the legal justifcations for blocking the war. At one point, the good Reverend mentioned that he lives in downtown NYC, suggesting to me that he makes a killing off of the radical evangelical preacher schtick. I know I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan on my salary -- I’d like to see what Billy’s tax returns look like. After Billy got off the stage, my friend Brian remarked that any mainstream onlookers who watched Reverend Billy’s performance probably thought the whole protest was a joke. Sadly, I had to agree.

Another memorable moment occurred when Adam Eidinger, failed candidate for D.C. Shadow Senator and Green Party activist (he had great campaign posters, but I still didn’t vote for him), half-heartedly implored us to join an “unpermitted, almost legal -- sorta illegal -- march on the National Press Building.” Only a handful joined the sorta illegal march -- not exactly the wake-up call they were hoping to send to the National Press Club.

Through all the bad bands that played and the ravings of the speakers, I realized just how much I want the old Democratic Party back. Where are the moderate liberal voices -- the John F. Kennedy’s, Franklin Roosevelt’s and Harry Truman’s? Why is our only alternative to the impotent, hand-wringing, useless likes of Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman and the rest, the decidedly un-mainstream Green Party? I trust them and their “let’s get rid of the military altogether and redistribute all your worldly goods to the poor” theoretical policies (theoretical, because it’s not as if they hold significant office anywhere), as much as the Republican tax cuts and bomb the hell out of the Third World approach. Where is the middle ground? Where are the Democrats?

Too busy watching the polls and covering their own asses, I guess.