The GOP establishment is appalled: a young tea party activist and Navy veteran, who was once seen dressed up as Che Guevara holding a “Communists For Kerry” sign, may now defeat their moderate candidate in the primaries and take a seat in the U.S. Congress — the very place he claims is out of control and needs to be cleaned up.
It’s funny how life turns out. That “Communists For Kerry” sign was designed by me, on this very computer.
Meet Jason Sager from Florida’s 5th Congressional District, formerly Comrade J.F. Che from the crazy summer of 2004 in New York. Kerry ran against Bush, and we ran an anti-Kerry, anti-left political street theater in a city where liberals outnumbered conservatives ninety to one and where being pro-Bush was equated with mental and moral idiocy.
Our group started with six non-conformists to the liberal code: Jason and Charles were born in America; Bryan arrived some years ago from Ireland; Ivan, Gene, and I were immigrants from different parts of the former USSR. On Bryan’s suggestion, we called ourselves Communists For Kerry. Our plan was to improvise a surrealistic sequel to the Red Dawn movie with a modern twist.
Every weekend we showed up on Union Square — the hotbed of New York’s left-wing street agitation — dressed up as communist icons: Lenin, Castro, Che Guevara, and assorted commissars in pointed Red Army hats, under a vintage USSR banner and the sign “We cure weak liberalism with strong communism.” Our other signs and flyers spoofed the Kerry-Edwards campaign: “Ask France First,” “Stop the vicious creation of wealth and prosperity,” and “Give each homeless person a rich Republican widow!”
We picked a spot between the Union Square subway entrance and a group of youngish communist agitators who preached Marxist dogmas about the evils of capitalism and the benefits of a complete redistribution of wealth by the dictatorship of the proletariat. American citizens all, they held strangely idealized beliefs about the USSR, and when I tried to dissuade them, they dismissed it as “propaganda.” A little further away, a large yellow banner saying “9-11 was an inside job” was being held by rotating volunteers, who often wore hammer-and-sickle shirts. The rest of the square’s open space facing 14th Street was filled with an assortment of ephemeral subversive groups, all with the same address on their flyers — a building a couple of blocks away that happened to be the official address of Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center. There was also an occasional showing by union activists with glossy, expensive-looking signs denouncing Coca-Cola and the Colombian government.
Parodying the surrounding political circus, we set up a folding table with “literature” and “merchandize”: a box of band-aids labeled “Healthcare Reform,” and a Rubik’s cube that was red on all sides: “The People’s Cube: nobody is too smart, nobody is too slow, everybody is equal!” This was accompanied by the USSR national anthem and Ivan Lenin’s collection of Soviet military marches. At one time we modified the large subway sign above our heads to read “Soviet Union Square,” but the police soon had us take the embellishments down.
Placed strategically in one of New York’s busiest squares, the leftist radicals’ banners and speeches could be seen and heard from far and wide. That might not be enough to gain converts, but quite sufficient to plant the seeds of distrust and uncertainty about the American system in the minds of innocent bystanders.
Likewise, by inserting our mockery right into the heart of leftist activism, we most certainly provoked people to re-examine their own received opinions and to start questioning the righteousness of leftist causes. And it definitely was a morale boost to those already on our side.
Jason called our showings “Revolutions,” and we documented them with pictures and captions on our website:
- Bolshevik Bash — we celebrate the launch of the site
- Aug. 14, 2004 Revolution
- Aug. 21, 2004 Revolution
- Aug. 28, 2004 Revolution
- Aug. 29, 2004 — RNC
- Sept. 19, 2004 — CBS Freedom Zone
- Oct. 10, 2004 Revolution
- Oct. 23, 2004 Revolution
- Nov. 2, 2004 — The Final Hour
Originally, Communists For Kerry was meant to be a grassroots answer to the well-funded left-wing troupe Billionaires For Bush, but we quickly surpassed that benchmark.
The “Billionaires” largely capitalized on the tricks invented by the Bolshevik agitprop theater almost a century ago: promote ideological divisiveness and class envy by dehumanizing “greedy capitalist pigs” and glorifying a poor man’s hatred of the rich. Just like their Bolshevik predecessors, these modern-day American entertainers reinforced and legitimized the Marxist idea of an irreconcilable class struggle, and educated “the unwashed masses” about the only politically correct and Party-approved way of life.
The lamest thing about the “Billionaires” was the fact that the actual crony-capitalism billionaires headed by George Soros were throwing away millions of dollars in an effort to defeat Bush, and some of that war-chest money had likely trickled down to this embarrassing caricature of free-market capitalism.
Despite the uneven playing field, Communists For Kerry turned out funnier, more effective, and with a larger following. Our task was also more challenging: we mocked liberal snobs while surrounded by them. The snobs were not amused. Some of the “intellectually superior” elitists, however, were gullible enough to take us at face value. They approached our table to cheer us up and shake our hands. Upon hearing our foreign accents, they welcomed us as some sort of Red Dawn-style “liberators.” Mission accomplished.
At one point, two DNC workers stopped by to thank us for our support of John Kerry. They thought we were totally cool and left with the conviction that both communism and Kerry were good for “the people.” Says Jason:
They were quite happy to see us. I told them we needed to make sure all people stand together to defeat the imperialist Bush regime. The young lady said to me: “That’s so great, it’s nice to see so many diverse groups out here today supporting our candidate.” I then asked them if we could take a picture for our scrapbook and they gladly participated.
A more typical reaction, of course, was foaming at the mouth, followed by flying spittle and foul language. At the same time, Billionaires For Bush were exclusively preaching to the choir inside New York’s gigantic liberal echo chamber.
But when it mattered, we beat the “Billionaires” on all counts — in wit, guts, nerve, web traffic, and link popularity. Nearing Election Day our website approached ten thousand daily visitors — an impressive gain for a start-up with no budget. The media coverage was mostly negative, but frequent. From various American towns people sent us pictures of their own CFK-like masquerade. By then we had hundreds of online members and thousands of fans around the world. We inspired a spin-off group in Australia, where a similarly divided election was happening at the same time. Even at political rallies in France there were infiltrators in Communists For Kerry shirts.
Our number on Union Square also grew: during the last “revolution” our group consisted of at least thirty men and women. They were a diverse bunch of individuals of different ages, incomes, races, immigration status, and sexual preferences. What united them was the satisfaction of mocking leftist radicals by impersonating them. Not all were in character. There was, for example, one gay singer with an in-your-face handwritten sign on his shirt that read, “Fags for Bush.”
We didn’t limit ourselves to Union Square. When the Dan Rather controversy broke out, we staged a “takeover” of the CBS headquarters in Manhattan, establishing the “freedom zone” and posting a sign that read, “You are leaving the American sector.” At another time we staged an absurdly grotesque protest at the Fox News street-side studio on Sixth Avenue.
The high point of our theatrics was the infiltration of the large anti-Bush demonstration and protest rally during the Republican National Convention in New York on August 29, 2004. Dressed in ridiculous costumes and carrying Communists For Kerry signs, a dozen of us walked through a thousands-strong leftist crowd, from 37th Street along Seventh Ave and past Madison Square Garden.
Jason led the way. A former Marine dressed up as Che Guevara with a big cigar, a megaphone, and a deadpan look on his face, he heralded hilariously absurd slogans:
We must end the two Americas! First North, then South! And then we will all move to France! (See full report here — and pay attention to the puzzled looks of the leftist protesters around us.)
Working the crowd in Che costume was not all Jason did. There probably would be no Communists For Kerry if it weren’t for Jason’s planning and organizing. I mostly did the web-related work: graphics, writing, photographs, and web formatting. Others had their duties too, yet Jason was the leader. He was the kind of leader anyone would want to have as a boss: open, funny, generous, determined, and easy to work with.
We celebrated Bush’s victory together. Then we moved on, but remained friends. The Communists For Kerry website was turned into the “Museum of Failed Revolution.” I started a sequel site named after the all red Rubik’s cube we used to show in Union Square — ThePeoplesCube.com.
Jason and I stayed in touch for a few more months until he moved back to his Florida hometown. His wife Stephanie was expecting a baby, and Jason said that conservative Florida was a better place for raising children than New York. Who could argue with that?
This month, Bryan called me with the news: Jason is running for Congress in Florida. A few days later, Gene emailed me a link to a Tampa Bay Online article that described Jason as a former Protest Warrior, comparing his masquerade to the one that happened in 1773 in Boston, when some locals got dressed up as Mohawk Indians and staged the original Tea Party. I loved that analogy.*
But, according to the same great column by Tom Jackson, local Republican leaders are not happy with Jason’s past. Said the head of the Hernando County GOP, Blaise Ingoglia:
Jason Sager claims this was supposed to be satirical (but) I can’t see how dressing up as a communist revolutionary, who murdered hundreds of people, is funny in any way, shape or form.
If only the GOP leaders had as much scorn for actual leftists as they have for conservative activists, we wouldn’t be worrying today about the country going to the dogs. What would their liberal opponents do in a similar situation? To know the answer, take a quick look at the evening lineup on Comedy Central. Or visualize Al Franken.
The liberal establishment eventually rewarded Billionaires For Bush with their own Broadway show, which was lavishly advertised if poorly attended. What did Communists For Kerry get besides moral satisfaction and great memories? Snobbish scorn.
Back to Tampa Bay Online: the alarm/spin seems to be that if Sager prevailed in his primary showdown with his moderate Republican opponent, Democrats would reap a political windfall by wallpapering the district with the now-famous photo of Sager in Che costume, needlessly converting a solid Republican district into a competitive race.
Well, writing this account of Jason’s story is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen. But most importantly, doesn’t it sound a little bit elitist to suggest that their constituents can’t tell Che from Shinola? That the “commoners” won’t be able to figure out what’s really going on? Come to think of it, it does sound elitist.
I’d even say it sounds a lot like “liberal ruling class” elitist.
I have only this to say to the GOP establishment: show us that you yourselves can stand up to frenzied leftist radicals while massively outnumbered, expose their absurdities, challenge their icons, unflinchingly defend the Constitution and stay cool while doing so, without apologizing or surrendering your moral high ground because you are confident in the moral superiority of your cause.
If you had that in you, you wouldn’t be in the minority right now, would you? You wouldn’t continue on a path of shameful compromises, which makes you an accessory to the destruction of the U.S. Constitution and the American way of life by leftist demagogues.
If anyone can stand his ground like a Spartan against the charging hordes of Washington radicals, it’s Jason Sager.
As for Billionaires For Bush, they have remodeled themselves as “Billionaires for Wealthcare” and are now using the same agitprop clichés to dehumanize opponents of ObamaCare. I stumbled upon them last September in Washington, D.C., on the outskirts of the 9-12 Tea Party rally. They stood over a ditch, dressed in tuxedos and evening dresses, playing for the cameras and using the Tea Party “commoners” as a backdrop. They always do what they know best. How hard can it be, really, for elitist snobs to pretend being elitist snobs?
* Not to impugn Tom Jackson’s informative and insightful article, I must clarify one thing for the record. It is true that some of us were members of Protest Warriors, and this is how we met. Yet Communists For Kerry was an independent operation, equipped and financed out of our own pockets. Like everyone else, Jason contributed to it a few hundred dollars from his family budget, which he never recovered.