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By Frank Gruber

"Re-Elect Gore in 2004" -- my new bumper sticker, acquired at the Pershing Square counter inaugural demonstration.

My wife asked, "Where's the outrage?" On Saturday we set out to find it.

We located the outrage at Pershing Square, but I am not much happier for the experience.

First the good news. It was a beautiful day for a demonstration. We met friends and had a good breakfast at the Biltmore, across the street. When the speeches started at eleven o'clock I was well-fortified and ready to be inspired.

There were only a few police, which was nice. I would hate for my son to think that dissent was only barely tolerated in this country.

(The last time I was in Pershing Square was during the Democratic Convention, when I was there, somewhat improbably, as a "faith-based observer" interposed between demonstrators and the police. Funny, isn't it, that during the convention a massive police presence faced demonstrators protesting everything from building subways to the Iraqi embargo, but on Saturday only a few police were needed to protect the city from demonstrators protesting the theft of the Presidency.)

Ed Asner was the m.c. That was good. He started off by assuring everyone that he was alive. That was very good.

Maxine Waters, Tom Hayden and Sheila Kuehl were among the speakers. They spoke with fervor and righteous indignation. Kuehl was especially good, reminding us, with characteristic charm, that we had to work harder and think harder.

So how come I left after two hours and skipped the march to the Federal Building?

Look -- I didn't expect to be happy Saturday afternoon even after locating the outrage. George W. Bush would still be President. I am happy someone organized a group I could join to be angry about it.

But I started to get grumpy when I realized that the Green Party was there. Wasn't that in bad taste? Sort of like one of those mafia funerals where the deceased's heartbroken "friends" send elaborate floral arrangements?

Then there was a comedy group called "Billionaires for Bush and Gore." Ha-ha-ha.

I left after a speaker denounced Al Gore for going along with disenfranchising black voters in Florida.

Guys, listen up: there is a difference.

I hesitate to criticize the organizers of the demonstration. After all, it is tough to organize a rally to protest an election you actually won.

The real problem is that this election should never have been close enough for butterfly ballots in Palm Beach to be decisive.

And not because Al Gore ran a less than perfect campaign. I wish he hadn't sighed in the first debate, but, after all, he won, everyone knows that, and he did it fighting a two-front campaign, with the great Bubba, world's greatest unifier of Republicans, on his back.

No, the reason Gore should have won big is because Democrats should win every national election big, but somehow the left has managed to turn off the working class middle.

Not the working class left: the union vote and minority vote were stronger than ever.

Something is wrong when truckers making $40,000 identify more with Republicans than Democrats.

Look at it another way. Democrats have not polled 51 percent of the Presidential vote since 1964 (Jimmy Carter got 50.06 percent), even though culturally the country is more liberal than ever.

More liberal than ever? What, heresy! With the Supreme Court and Ashcroft running around? The religious right, and the WTO, and the LAPD, and Mumia on death row and ...

The struggle continues, but the left has won all the big cultural issues: civil rights, women's rights, abortion, gay rights, censorship, the environment. Notwithstanding Antonin Scalia, national values have changed completely from forty years ago.

Why can't the culture winners elect Presidents on something like a regular basis?

The left has become politically fragmented and therefore weak.

Why it has become fragmented has a lot to do with issue oriented politics, and that's about all I heard Saturday.

I know it's hard to contemplate catering to white males in Georgia, whose fathers, after all, might have been in the Klan, who usually own guns, and who don't care about abortion or gay rights too much, but that's where the votes are. Not all the votes, but the ones the left is not getting that the left should get. And we don't need that many to add to the base we have.

The left needs a strategy to convince Joe Sixpack that his fears about social change are irrational and what he really should worry about is that he -- and his wife -- are working harder and longer for less and less, while others get more and more.

I didn't hear anything like that Saturday, but perhaps it wasn't the time or place. Outrage and self-reflection do not easily mix.

On a different note, I was heartened by Monday night's first meeting of Santa Monica's new Downtown Parking Task Force. The task force members asked all the right questions of staff, indicating most importantly that decisions about parking would not be separated from our overall goals for downtown.

On Ken Genser's suggestion, but with the agreement of all the other members, staff will hire an independent "urbanist-type" consultant to look at the "big picture."

The task force members also indicated that they will expect high-quality data from staff. While it is premature to analyze the data staff has collected so far, the public survey results in particular raise more questions than they answer.

Do not expect all this to stay non-controversial. One member of the public, who identified herself as representing property owners, could not understand why the task force needed an expert to identify goals for downtown. She thought that task force should rely on "all of us" to determine goals.

"All of us" presumably refers to property owners who want the city to build more parking. But if people are concerned about traffic, they should realize that nothing will generate more traffic in downtown Santa Monica as effectively as more parking.

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