It was the night of November 7, 2000, and I was giddily watching the presidential election results with what seemed to be the entire counter-culture element of my little university town.
We were piled into one of those laundromat/ everything places, our eyes affixed to a huge 8-by-8 projection screen broadcasting the news. Punk rockers, neo-hippies and campus radicals moved among the washer/dryers and tanning booths, sipping overpriced espresso drinks and beer.
The mood was upbeat; earlier in the day, most of us had voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Like thousands of Naderites around the country, we felt the wizened, angry liberal represented our anger toward the corporate hegemony of the two-party system. Of course, we knew Nader wouldn't win; that wasn't the point. We were taking a self-righteous, ideological stand, drawing a line in the sand for the Democratic Party. Al Gore would win anyway, we told ourselves. A protest vote for Nader couldn't elect George W. Bush. Naw, that would never happen.
Five hours later, we watched our dreams getting dashed in full color on that projection screen. And for the next eight years, we lived under the worst presidency in recent memory. If there's one thing we should learn from the last eight years, it's that presidential politics do matter, and how you vote can have a very real impact on your personal life.
Here's a cringe-inducing flashback of the Bush years:
March 2001 The first realization that the Bush presidency was going to have long-term implications: Bush sends a memo to the United States archivist requesting a delay in releasing presidential personal records, followed by an executive order limiting access to all presidential papers from Reagan forward.
Also: The Bush administration overturns a Clinton-era regulation reducing the amount of arsenic in drinking water.
April 2001 Bush signs a $1.65 trillion tax cut for large corporations and the wealthy.
August 2001 The "Osama Bin Laden determined to strike U.S." memo reaches the president's desk; He's clearing brush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on a month-long vacation.
September 2001 An entire nation watches in horror as planes slam into the World Trade Center and Pentagon; "My Pet Goat" gains notoriety.
October 2001 Bush signs Patriot Act.
January 2002 "Gitmo" opens.
May 2002 Bush issues executive order authorizing the National Security Agency to wiretap phones and read e-mails of U.S. citizens.
June 2002 In a speech at West Point, Bush reveals his "Bush Doctrine" of preemptive war; behind the scenes, administrations officials plan the Iraq war.
September 2002 One year after 9/11, Bush asks Congress for authorization of military force against Iraq. They grant it.
February 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell states his case for war with Iraq; millions across the world protest.
March 2003 Under the guise of WMDs, the United States invades Iraq. Also: FEMA gutted and buried in the vast bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security.
April 2003 Congress approves $79 million for the Iraq war; the next month, Bush signs $350 billion tax cut.
May 2003 Bush climbs aboard an aircraft carrier in fighter pilot regalia and declares, "Mission accomplished!"
June 2003 FCC pushes for more media consolidation, allowing one company to own newspapers, TV and radio stations in the same city.
July 2003 Bush: "Bring 'em on." Nearly 300 U.S. soldiers die over the next six months.
August 2003 Bush signs a budget that essentially kills the Teach for America program for inner-city schools.
November 2003 U.S. soldiers' death toll in Iraq reaches 437.
March 2004 At a Radio and Television Correspondents' dinner, Bush presents photos of himself looking for WMDs around the White House: "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere! Nope, no weapons over there!"
April 2004 Abu Ghraib photos leaked.
May 2004 A Bush-backed FDA rejects the over-the-counter sale of "the morning after pill."
July 2004 In his 2005 budget, Bush freezes the amount of Pell Grants for the third straight year. After his budget passes, average Pell Grant awards decrease for the first time in six years. Changes in eligibility cut thousands from grant rolls.
September 2004 The federal deficit reaches a record high. American troop deaths in Iraq now top 1,000. Also: Assault weapons ban lifted.
March 2005 President Bush signs a law banning doctors from pulling life support on Terri Schiavo.
July 2005 Bush appoints conservative John Roberts to Supreme Court; three months later, he appoints conservative Samuel Alito.
August 2005 While President Bush is on vacation, Hurricane Katrina barrels down on New Orleans. Over the next two days, he travels the country for photo-ops (with John McCain and a country music star) before sending federal aid.
April 2006 News reports reveal Bush has issued "signing statements" for more than 750 laws, stating he has the power to override the laws if they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
October 2006 Bush signs the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the president to deploy U.S. military troops to police American streets in the event of a "national emergency."
May 2007 Bush signs a presidential directive that places him in control of all three branches of government in case of an extraordinary disaster.
June 2007 For a third time, Bush vetoes federal funding for stem cell research.
March 2008 Bush has taken 879 days of vacation in his eight years of office, approximately one-third of his presidency; five years into the Iraq War, over 4,000 U.S. troops dead; estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths range from 88,000 to over half a million.
September 2008 Bush's approval ratings lowest in his presidency as he presides over the worst financial crisis since the Depression.
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