al and george an american opera by Noah Chriss

Synopsis Page


June 1999. It's 15 months before the election that will determine the next president of the United States of America. Politicians and civic leaders from across the country have been preparing their platforms, courting donors, and lining up political support. Amongst the current crop of candidates is the current Vice President, Al Gore. The office of the vice-presidency is an invisible, unglorious job. As the 35th Vice President Alben W. Barkley once quipped, "There was a mother who had two sons. One went to sea; the other became vice president; and neither was heard from again." So the first thing a vice president running for high office would want to do is introduce themself and declare what it is they stand for. Take it away Al: An American Family

Every summer in Martha's Vineyard the Bush Clan gathers together for the Bush Family Reunion. All the menfolk are there now, singing a lonesome harmony by the campfire.

Bush family reunion at Kennebunkport, Maine

For seven years they've been banished from the halls of power but there is a bubbling undercurrent of hope that the political winds could be changing. They sit and discuss the weaknesses of the current regime as well as ways for toppling it. It's George Bush Junior, the eldest, that they will be pinning their hopes on. The most important thing right now is to prepare him for the Iowa straw poll, which is where each candidate will be exposed to national scrutiny for the first time.

The Iowa straw poll is an informal gathering where the candidates can meet the public and formally announce their candidacy. This year the Republican candidates are so plentiful it seems as if they're falling out of the trees. Forbes is here, spreading his cash around like everyone thought he would be. Alan Keyes is here too, schmoozing with the attendees. They're old hands at the game but George Bush Jr is new on the scene. The game is the same for everyone: try to show you're different. Clinton-haters to the man they are, but how can you complain about a golden economy and world peace? What do you offer? Well, something springs to mind actually...Dignitas

After the straw poll comes the race to collect campaign contributions. The media watches the numbers as if it was a sport, and at this point in time George Bush Jr. seems to be leaving the others behind in his dust with his Millions and Millions

Al Gore and Bill Bradley have agreed to meet for 10 debates. There's nothing quite like watching two compassionate liberals rip each other to shreds. How can you criticize a person who only wants to help the underserved? You'll have to accuse him of being a closet conservative is how in Love Me I'm A Liberal.

It's now time for the New Hampshire Primary, the first place where the voters will actually get to have their say. There are four main contenders now. On the democratic side there's Gore and Bradley, and for the Republicans there's Bush and McCain. A fresh-faced local reporter is out on the scene getting the story. "Who are you voting for and why?" the reporter asks various people at the poll stations. A strange phenomenon seems to be unfolding. McCain voters seem to be enthusiastic for their candidate. "He's a veteran," and "He seems to be an honest fellow" come up a lot. "Why are you voting for Bush?" she then asks. The answer becomes a familiar refrain: "Errr... because I think he can win the election."

McCain has pulled a stunner. He's pulled a rabbit out of a hat. His campaign chest is a tiny fraction of George Bush's yet he walloped Bush in the New Hampshire Primary. The first thing George Bush Jr. does is get on the phone and have a Father and Son chat. "Gather your resources," the sage father tells the son. "Identify your opponent, and finish him off!" And of course George Jr doesn't even need to say "send money," it goes without saying.

Later on Bush consults with Karl Rove. "Now's Not the Time to think you're beat," Rove tells him. It's time to take the kid gloves off. It's time to call up the heavy guns. It's time to gather the forces of righteousness and initiate surgical nuclear strikes. A warning to the squeamish now... look away, because it's not going to be pretty. And one more thing, Rove says, any true republican contender aspiring for the presidency must pay a visit to Bob Jones University.

Meanwhile...
McCain's a decorated war veteran with charisma. He's an accomplished Senator. He's got legions of young enthusiastic followers. He's got...a big mouth, which is probably going to get him into trouble. As he himself said: "You'd better watch me, I'm probably going to say something stupid." Hate

The conventions are still months away but Supertuesday is when the real winners get shaken out. Thirteen state primaries are up for grabs. After the voting is over CNN confirms that the final matchup is going to be between Al Gore and George Bush. McCain's eschewing of the party base has cost him while Bill Bradley just couldn't inspire the voters. Onwards and upwards.

It's now a week before the democratic national convention and Al and his daughter Karenna Gore are talking with their top secret advisor Naomi Wolf. Al is behind in the polls and he needs something to give him an edge. Naomi tells them about the wolf pack; about the primitive tribal societies, about the preindustrial cultures. They all had one thing in common: The Alpha Male. Al and Karenna listen with rapt attention, absorbing the feminist icon's lessons.

After the consultation Al is energized, even more than normal! Gore, Karenna, and Naomi Wolf come back to join Tipper and campaign chief Bill Daley as they all make final preparations for the Democratic Convention. The mood is optimistic and they all have fun poking fun at Bush, Cheney, and even Al himself in "We're Rolling Now." Tipper's cheeriness is just a facade though. After the rest of the group leaves Tipper stays and reveals her innermost feelings in Tipper's Aria. It's undeniable, being a campaign wife is a lonely and stressful ordeal. Unbeknownst to Tipper, Al Gore came back and heard the entire thing. Now he is in torn, for the woman he loves is stressed by his own political ambition.

The Republicans have been making genuine though ill-received attempts at creating diversity in the party. What better way than have a gospel choir sing at the Republican National Convention? For some reason the choir members don't look like the popular conception of Republicans though, so the first thing they do is explain why they're there and why they want to "Make our Party Strong"

Gospel Choir and Republican National Convention


It's now Gore's big moment at the Democratic Convention. He is the Alpha Male, but inside he is in turmoil, for there are strains and tensions within his own household. How can he truly be the Alpha Male when a distance has opened up between him and his wife? Politics is important of course, but he realizes that in order for everything to be all right he must sing a love aria to his wife in front of the world.

At the Green Party Convention Ralph Nader comes out to bestow himself on the audience. Don't be fooled by simple appearances though, he's a rock star, and he's here to save the universe...

Ralph Nader at Green Party convention


Bush is now behind in the ratings. He makes an appearance on "Oprah" to buoy his standing amongst women and minorities.
Bush appears on the Oprah show
Oprah questions him and Bush tells a fib that he agonizes over later when he is talking to Rove. He told Oprah that he is having the time of his life traveling the country and meeting new people. The truth is that Bush is Annoyed because they only seem to visit a few places while they ignore most of the country. Why, for example, must they keep returning to Florida? Rove explains campaign strategy and explains that visiting places that aren't battleground states is a waste of time. Again he tries to explain why it is so important that they go Back to Florida. Bush reluctantly agrees but he demands that they visit California at least once before the election.

It's now time for a Campaign Pastiche as the candidates make last frantic attempts to budge the numbers before The Voters Will Decide who shall be the next president of the United States.


~Intermission~


CNN has been with you through the entire election and now they will bring you up-to-the-minute election coverage. It's been a nail-biter right from the start. As the votes are counted, and each state's group of electoral votes is awarded, it becomes clear that this will be one of the closest elections in U.S. history. After the polls close and the evening stretches on, the media begins to focus on the still unresolved count in Florida. By midnight it becomes clear that whoever claims Florida's batch of electoral votes will also take the entire election and win the presidency. At first CNN Calls It for Gore. Then they call it for Bush. Then they can't make up their mind. They dutifully report Gore's phone call to Bush to concede the election, along with the retraction that comes a few hours later. Then they start to talk about the election irregularities, more of which will be heard about later. Much more.

The Gore camp gets an early morning phone call- it is the sitting president Bill Clinton. Gore Talks With Clinton about strategy and events in Florida and they both agree that there were a lot of discrepancies and other oddities that need to be investigated. It's pretty obvious that Florida will soon become the stage for an intricate, disciplined Ballet of the Lawyers (orchestra only).

What is the source of all this chaos? Al Gore won the vote didn't he? And what was the real reason for the founding fathers creating the electoral college? Some people are saying it was created this way so that the smaller states get a heavier weighting. Others say it is because the founding fathers didn't trust the electorate to choose wise men over demagogues. Wolf Blitzer will set the record straight.

It is the day after the election and the sounds of anguish can be heard from the senior citizens of Palm Beach County. It is the Lamentation of the Hebrews. -they are mourning a ballot snafu that misled them into accidentally voting for George Bush.

The entire's world's attention is now focused on Florida. And of course some people just have a natural predilection for going where attention is focused. Jesse Jackson steps up and rocks the mic.
Bush meanwhile has decided to put James Baker in charge of blocking Gore. Baker has earned himself the sobriquet "The Velvet Hammer" for his smooth yet forceful way of handling things. This is the type of thing he loves, a legal challenge with all of the resources of the Republican Party behind his back. His first mission is to put some spine into the aides, lawyers, and politicians who are assembled around him.

After all the automatic machine recount results come in, Gore is still behind- by only 500 votes. He is sitting with the lawyers and looking at the information that's coming in. It's revealed that people using the chad-clogged machines in Miami Dade were not having their votes counted because they couldn't fully perforate their punch cards. So Gore makes his fateful decision to sue for a hand recount of the undervotes in three specific counties. (It's in the cards). He also mentions that he is going to propose to the Bush camp that he will drop all legal action if they agree to a hand recounting of all of the counties in Florida.

Meanwhile, other aggrieved parties are taking to the streets. The "Gore Got More" squad is here to protest the fact that Gore got more votes nationwide but Bush is apparently going to win the election. (As the rest of the opera progresses the musical style becomes more disjointed and chaotic, mirroring a breakdown in typically smooth political institutions.)

James Baker is conferring with his associates again in "Velvet Hammer 2". The machine recounts have come in and Bush is still the winner. "But don't let that disarm you," Baker says in another stirring speech, "the nation and the Bush presidency is still in peril!" They have just received Gore's offer to recount all of the counties and to stop all legal challenges. He turns it down. Why? Because Gore suggested it and anything that Gore says is wrong.

James Baker is both dismayed and fascinated by the protest tactics used by Jesse Jackson and the Gore supporters, so he places a call to Bush requesting backup. What he needs, he tells Bush, are people to go out and hit the streets and make some noise. "Send me your armies of Compassion," he says. Bush and Rove respond dutifully. The important thing is that these hand recounts must stop. They are subjective and unlawful and they could undermine the true winner of the race.

James Baker gets the horde that he was asking for. From all over the country they have come (Mostly though they are clean cut republican aides from Washington). They are armed with cell phones and paper clip chains and they are here to stop an unlawful theft of the presidency. They are....the Pennyloafer Mob! The hand recounts are going on in the upper floor of the Miami Dade Canvassing Board offices. There have been reports of loose standards and even chad eating. There's only one way to stop it. Baker gives the order for The Storming of the Miami Dade Canvassing Board. Is democracy ending? Sure seems like it. At least we have CNN to analyze it for us.

The Titans of Florida politics appear before the cameras and microphones and gird for the Twilight of the Politicians.


~Finale~


Sandy's entrance-
The dispute about the hand recount of the undervotes in Miami Dade has finally reached the Supreme Court. In recent years decisions have been splitting evenly between the conservative judges and the liberal judges, with Sandra Day O'Connor casting the deciding vote. Thus it seems as if the fate of the world might hang in her balance. She needs an entrance worthy of her station.
Gore's Entrance-
He comes in and humbly makes the case that the votes should continue because all votes should count and damn weren't there a lot of voter irregularities. The liberals on the court sing a gentle encouragement.
Bush's Entrance-
George is irrepressible. He makes his case simply and plainly, without all the legal mumbo-jumbo, like the regular folks back in Texas.
Deliberation-
It is time for the Justices to delve into this morass and try to find a solution. It's impossible to understand what they're saying though. The conservatives claim that "No statewide standard ensures that the equal protection is absent and lacking thereof." The liberal judges assert that "If there's a vote that's not counted with others due to technical error then protection's not offered equally." Hopefully the judges won't delve for too long.
Judgment-
The time has come- there can be no more debate. The judges declare their votes and, as predicted, the supreme court splits along partisan lines. Sandra Day O'Connor has the last vote and she gives it to George Bush. The hand recount will stop and Florida will stay in Bush's column. The election is firnally over. The only thing left is the Coronation.

Gore is defeated, yet still indomitable. He has spent so much effort and come so close to claiming the presidency. Now the Supreme Court has spoken, what else is there to do? The clock has run out, the rope is at it's end, and a political era is at it's end. There's nothing left to do but to give a gracious concession speech. I Will Keep Working.



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