Nixon Rewound

As Florida's GOP delegates head for New York, it's time to recall Miami Beach, 1972

Dutifully holding down its end of the script, the anarchist clearinghouse posted the Mailer exchange under the headline: Young Bore Interviews Old Man.

Republican Party officials also appear to be looking back to Jeb Stuart Magruder's playbook. Citing security concerns, of the 221 Florida delegates bound for New York, Marco Rubio's name was one of the few initially released to the public. Democratic Party leaders have been quick to mock this break with tradition, suggesting that the Republicans are "embarrassed by the number of delegates named Chad," but anarchist-themed Websites have already been ominously swapping information on the Florida delegation's itinerary.

Miami Beach police arresting a protester at the 1972 GOP convention
Miami Beach police arresting a protester at the 1972 GOP convention

With Florida and its 2000 election drama holding a special place in many activists' hearts, calls have gone out to shadow the Sunshine State's attendees from their Hilton Hotel digs to such special events as the $350-a-head Trump National Golf Course outing and the $175-per-person Barneys Fashion Show, where organizers promise "the gift bag alone will be the talk of the convention."

Even the scheduled Florida delegate trip to 42nd Street for a presentation of The Lion King has drawn anarchist ire. (Earlier plans to see Fiddler on the Roof were scrapped, though it's unclear whether this was the result of popular demand or the realization that the Jewish vote is no longer in play.)

"As the Republican elephant tramples into our city, thousands of mischievous mice will confront them in the streets!" announces one Internet-circulated broadside entitled Chaos on Broadway: A Call To Action! "The Republicans will be carousing on Broadway, watching shows, drinking martinis, and laughing over our ineffectiveness.... Or will they not make it to their parties?"

To be fair, the actual Florida delegation is a bit more diverse than the effete martini-sippers New York's anarchists apparently envision. A preliminary list, briefly posted on the Florida Republican Party's Website ("We had a staff member who got a little overexcited," explains Florida Republican Party spokesman Joseph Agostini), and reprinted in the Tampa Tribune, reveals 32 Miami members. Yes, many of the usual GOP suspects appear, such as Jorge Arrizurieta, the executive director of the nascent FTAA; attorney Eric Buermann, involved in the 2000 election recount; well-connected developer Sergio Pino; lobbyist Ana Navarro; and education philanthropist Stanley Tate.

But there are also figures that speak to the Republican Party's desire to literally change its face -- at least for its upcoming week of prime-time convention TV coverage. There's Pakistani-American Chamber of Commerce president Ahmed Kabani, Haitian-American businessman Sidney Charles, Cuban-American government affairs consultant Ariel Pereda -- at age 24 the youngest member in the nation among Bush's "Pioneer" donors who've raised more than $100,000 for his re-election campaign -- as well as Miami-Dade public high school teacher Wilhelmina Austin.

As one of the few registered African-American Republicans in Rep. Kendrick Meek's congressional district, Austin is already accustomed to operating in hostile territory. So the threatened demonstrations in New York don't worry her too much, she says. "They're always ribbing me," she laughs of her co-workers, but they can't sway her on defending President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act: "I've seen firsthand how much better for education Bush has been. For years the Democrats were just passing children on because of their age, without taking any responsibility for the children actually learning."

Still what bothers Austin most is the emotional wall she runs into at her school's teachers' lounge, wading into the flock of John Kerry boosters there. "They don't particularly care for Kerry, but they hate Bush," she says, a bit nonplussed. "They don't want to discuss the facts, they just hate Bush!"

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