Avila's El Ranchito sports bar and restaurant in Santa Ana. Lots of brave talk at the Green Party "victory" celebration—there's not a dime's worth of difference between Gore and Bush, Gore and Bush are corporations running as humans, and it doesn't matter who wins. But it wears thin at precisely 9:30 p.m., when CNN suddenly announces that Florida, which had been projected as a Gore victory, was now too close to call. Suddenly, there was the very real possibility that Gore would lose, and beneath the rhetoric at El Ranchito—"You can't spoil something that's already rotten!" one Naderite shouted at a TV commentator after he predicted that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader would cost Al Gore the election—something like anxiety seemed to ripple through the gathering. "The two parties aren't that much different, but we'd rather have the Demo crats," one young Naderite admitted. "The difference is, on the world stage, we would not be considered a laughingstock if we had Gore." Asked whether she had taken any heat from her friends for voting for Nader, she answered, "Yeah, and they can kiss my ass. It's their problem; they left us, not the other way around." Several times throughout the evening, people cheered. It was an odd reaction to what was clearly unfolding: Nader falling well short of the 5 percent of the vote necessary to win federal matching funds for the next presidential race. "I'm busy greeting people here tonight," said Green Party member Vangie Oberschlake. "But I've also been scanning the television, and I look up and say, 'Oh, my God! In North Carolina, Nader's got 4 and a half percent!' That's righteous!" "That's not possible," interjected another Green Party member who was standing nearby. "Nader wasn't on the ballot in North Carolina." "South Carolina?" Oberschlake guessed. "It was one of the Carolinas. I know he got 4.5 percent." "At least they're putting Nader's name on television," another Green added. "That's a start." The OC Green Party's celebration may have been a bust, but the Greens insist this election invigorated their party, bringing in "dozens" of converts—especially younger, apathetic voters. "This campaign brought in a lot of new blood to the organizing that we were already moving forward with," concluded Green Party chairman R.J. Schwich ten berg. "We still don't even know each other that well, but this election race has brought us together in a way that nothing else could. Just having our vote counted is a victory for us." "This is about growing the party," Oberschlake explained. "That's what Ralph Nader ran on. That's what Medea Benjamin [the Green Party's California U.S. Senate candidate, who also lost] gave up a year of her life for. We've already won because we're all here. We're all here, and we've won." Final call came at 10 p.m., and the Greens filtered out of Avila's, presumably to watch televised results of an election in which losing was a kind of victory. —Nick Schou
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.