Washington, D.C. — Urban coffeehouses aren’t exactly the preferred habitat of the species conservativus americanus. Still, I was hardly prepared for my trip to “Busboys and Poets,” a trendy D.C. hangout I’d been hearing about for a couple of years.
How left-wing is this place? Well, the menu has a mission statement: “Busboys and Poets is a restaurant, bookstore, and gathering place for people that believe social justice and peace are attainable goals.” Right. Let’s try that again: “Busboys and Poets is a glorified coffee shop frequented by people that are fundamentally ignorant about human nature.” There. Fixed that for them.
Of course, given why I decided to go, I should have seen this coming. The press release was intriguing: “The Obama Campaign & DNC are inviting We the People to define ‘change we can believe in’ through online submissions and a grassroots house-party-based platform creation process. This innovation will strike some as a bit strange.”
Pull a bunch of random Democrats off the street, and have them write the Democratic-party platform? That’s not strange, that’s anarchy! Then again, anyone who witnessed the suicide pact masquerading as a primary process knows that Democrats aren’t averse to enacting a byzantine set of insane rules demanded by conflicting constituencies in an effort to please everyone. Why should the party platform be any different? This I had to see. As a journalist, I live by a modified version of Gore Vidal’s famous credo: Never pass up the opportunity to appear on television or witness a political goat rodeo. So off I went.
A crowd of local Dems and I arrive at Busboys and Poets and are told to assemble in the “community space” in front of the stage, which features as a backdrop a series of portraits that catch my eye. The first is a picture of the Dalai Lama, above the word “Waiting” in big, bold letters; the next is Ghandi, captioned “Watching”; then Martin Luther King Jr., who is, appropriately enough, “Dreaming”; and finally there’s Che Guevara underscored by the word “Killing.” (Okay — I made up that last one.) The few people in the room wearing Obama rainbow “Pride” shirts seem blissfully unaware that the revered Dalai Lama looking down on them considers their lifestyle choices unnatural. (That I’m not making up.)
After the sign-in, everyone is welcomed, and the festivities begin in earnest with a song. The national anthem? “God Bless America”?
No, “Daylight,” by special guest performer Dan Reed. Reed is the former lead singer of the entirely forgettable adult-alternative band The Dan Reed Network, notable chiefly for the fact that they opened for the Rolling Stones on the Steel Wheels tour. Alas, the Gods of Rock are capricious. (If you think I’m being harsh, I heartily recommend you watch the video for “Rainbow Child” and get back to me.) As Reed describes it, “Daylight” is about his faith in Obama, and, well, a lot more.
“I was living in Israel the last few years and I just moved back here about a month ago, and after Bush’s second ‘election’ — I guess you could call it that — I felt I needed to leave for a while, and now that Barack Obama is on the way up and I see the energy that is behind him I realize the last seven years of negative energy was actually to give us hope again,” he, uh, explains. (Wait, hold on. He was despondent over the political situation in the U.S., so he went to Israel?)
Even as coffeehouse entertainment goes, Reed’s song is an exceptionally banal stream of caterwauled clichés: “I see you in the cloud/let’s lift it up/now we tear the walls down.” It’s almost enough to make me yearn to watch the Dip Dive video again.