A Corrupt Incumbent: Who might it be?
Read the story below and decide for yourself.
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The amplified voice projects loudly and clearly to the nearly five hundred persons in the auditorium: “ . . . and in conclusion, my friends, I thank you all for joining with me here today. Election day is approaching, and we must double our efforts for our party to be successful. I’m sorry I can’t take questions. I’m scheduled to speak before the Chamber of Commerce across town in less than an hour. I can just make it. Bye to you all, and God bless.”
With a final wave amidst the applause, Melvin Dyer walks from the podium, slipping through a side door into the back hallway. As the presidential nominee of the newly-formed Self-Reliance Party, he is experiencing ever-increasing demands on his time. A scant three months earlier, as an author and lecturer edging toward both sixty and portly, he enjoyed leisurely dinners followed by relaxing strolls. Now, as the candidate, he can no longer indulge himself. He made this decision consciously; as a one-time speech- writer and advisor to a Democratic president, he well-understands the demands of campaigning.
In the hallway, Melvin’s campaign manager, Vince Hendrick, motions from the exit door. “C’mon,” he said, “the car’s just outside. If there’s no traffic problems, we’ll be O.K.” Hendrick, a lean and hard-driving man, unusually vigorous for his 48 years, obsesses over schedules and details.
“That’s what I like about you, Vince,” says Melvin, as they slip into the spacious back seat of the Lincoln. “You keep good track of everything. If my old boss had hired you to look after things, he might’a gotten elected to a second term.”
“Yeah, thanks. I guess it sorta’ runs in the family. Now, do you wanna’ go over anything for the next speech?”
“Naw, I think I know the group pretty well. All those Chamber types preach about getting government off the citizens’ backs, just so long as their product monopolies and federal subsidies aren’t touched. I’ll give ‘em the usual self-reliance pitch. And by the way, what’s the latest on our matching funds request? Is the Election Commission willing to come up with anything for us?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve talked with several of ‘em an’ they keep passin’ me around to one another. Since we weren’t here as a party last time, I guess we can’t satisfy the vote percentage formula.”
“No, but recent poll results show we can meet their ‘substantive support’ requirement, if they’ll let us. Have you talked with the Chairman, Rudy Barron?”
“Just briefly,” says Vince. “He referred me on to Stan Otness.”
“Otness? He’s on the bottom rung. Geez, you’d think we wanted ‘em to come up out-of-pocket themselves. What are they so edgy about? It’s from the taxpayer, so it’s not like it’s real money, for God’s sake. I’ll give Rudy a call tomorrow and see what he can do. Now, what’s the latest on my getting into the debates?”
“Not a snowball’s chance. I’ve talked with both chairmen and neither candidate will share a platform with any minor. Fact is, Mitchell over at GOP headquarters says they don’t even want you in town. They think you’ll just turn it into a sideshow.”
“Well he’s got that right. I sorta’ figured we wouldn’t get in. Tell you what: let’s try to collect the other minors. Maybe we can stage competing debates the same nights and harvest some of the ratings. None of us have anything to lose¾certainly not the Libertarians or the Greens. And the Reform gang is a sideshow by itself. I’ll bet we can grab off twenty, maybe twenty-five percent of the viewers. Get in touch with each of ‘em to see who’ll go for it.”
“O.K., I’ll get on it first thing in the morning,” says Vince.
“Another thing: Do you have the ‘McDyer’ ad ready?”
“Yeah, here’s a sketch. See, it’s a dead ringer for a McDonald’s ad, right down to the golden arches.”
“Good. Let’s run it in those two newspapers we planned.”
“Just one thing, Mel. Why did you pick those Podunk rags in West Virginia and Montana? We’ve got enough dough to advertise in decent papers.”
“Sure, but why should we? We only need to stir up McDonald’s so they’ll file a trademark infringement lawsuit against us. A couple of cheap papers will work as well as expensive ones. When your cousin faxes copies of ‘em to McDonald’s complaining about us, it won’t matter in what papers it ran. It should generate headline news across the country.”
“Do you really think it’ll work?”
“Why not? The Greens pulled the same trick with Mastercard and it made for a lot of publicity. I figure we’ll get some mileage out of it too. Now, there’s one other thing that’s gotta’ improve: we’re not getting enough out of the website.”
“How’s that? All three of your books are selling pretty well, an’ in the last couple of weeks we’ve peddled almost five thousand domestic policy statements at three bucks each.”
“Yeah, but we’re leaving out too much. I clicked onto the Libertarian site yesterday and they aren’t missing a trick. They’re unloading inspirational video tapes at twelve ninety-five each, and selling campaign buttons and bumper strips in bulk packets. Not only that, by next week they’ll have candidate-monogrammed caps and T-shirts. Now that’s first-class campaigning.”
“Uh, huh, I’ll talk to Becky. We’ll get on it right away. Inspirational tapes, you say. I suppose we can match ‘em inspiration for inspiration. Hey, we’re just about there. Get your tie straight. Are you ready? Do ya’ need anything?”
“Vince, don’t worry. I can handle this bunch in my sleep.”
s s s
Four weeks pass and Melvin Dyer sits at his desk, telephone in hand. “It’s a pleasure to speak with you, Mrs. Beauregard,” he says, reaching over quietly to click onto the national registry website, scanning down the list to Daughters of the American Confederacy. “It’s so good of you to call me back.”
The voice on the other end of the line, clearly past middle age, has an acrid hint of provincial culture. “Why yes, Mr. Dyer, what might I do for you?”
“Ah . . . I’m calling to see whether you would have an interest in my addressing your organization at its meeting next month. Our campaign is beginning to generate considerable support, and my recent appearances have been well-received.”
Following a prolonged pause, the response comes in a sharp tone. “Surely you must know, Mr. Dyer, that since the Goldwater candidacy of ’64 our membership has consistently supported the Republican candidate.”
This is no surprise to Melvin; his research told him that, and much more. “Oh I‘m quite aware of that, Mrs. Beauregard. I would never try to alienate your group from its core commitments. Actually our theme of self-reliance augments the Republican agenda, and further promotes the sanctity of states-rights as you and your group so ardently champion. We are not competitors, not at all. We are partners in this endeavor.”
The harsh tone becomes remarkably dulcet. “Why that’s so refreshing to hear. As a matter of fact we haven’t selected next month’s speaker yet. I believe I’ll discuss this with my program director and get back to you . . . say . . . within a few days.”
“Excellent, and until I hear from you, I’ll accept no other invitation for that date and time. You have my word.” As he sets the phone back on its hook, he mentally multiplies the Daughters of the American Confederacy’s 45,000-member roster with the three dollars per domestic policy statement. Damn, he thinks, as he reaches again for the phone and quickly dials his campaign materials office. “Becky, it’s Mel. It might be worth getting out a special printing of our domestic policy statement. Do you think we can print up 50,000 quick and cheap, with a picture of Robert E. Lee on the cover?”
“I suppose so,” says Becky.
“Good. I’ll let you know when we’ll need them.” As he swivels around and glances out the window, he reflects again on Mrs. Beauregard. Silly old bat; I can picture her in a hoop skirt under a magnolia tree, he thinks.
s s s
With only three weeks to go before the presidential elections, Melvin Dyer considers the campaign successful, though perhaps not from an electoral standpoint. The latest polling data reveals his support to be less than two percent of the likely voters. However, his name recognition among the general public now tops twenty percent, and sales of Self-Reliance election materials increase daily. If things can just continue like this until election day, he muses, I’ll have it made.
At that moment Vince Hendrick appears at the open doorway wearing a strange expression on his face. “Mel, we have to talk, right now,” he says.
“Sure, c’mon in and sit down. What is it?”
“I just got the word – I can’t tell you where – but it’ll be out in a couple hours. This race is about to lose the Republican candidate. He’s being indicted on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy. Goes back to his days as Lieutenant Governor. They’ve got him dead to rights. He’s gonna’ announce tomorrow that he’s off the ticket.”
“Ha! That doesn’t surprise me. I knew he’d been taking bribes the last ten years. I suppose they’ll move the VP candidate up, though it’ll be tough this far into the campaign.”
“I don’t think so. I hear he doesn’t want it. Seems he’s been having blackouts of late. Some sort of vascular problems. He’s gonna’ drop out too.”
“Hmm . . . I guess the Democrats got lucky this time, eh?”
“But maybe this can work out for us,” says Vince. “You know how weak the Democratic ticket is. The polls have them down about twelve percent. Just maybe you could make a pitch for the Republican vote. We’ve got good media coverage, an’ there’s still twenty-one days to go. Do you think we might put it together? Remember, Jesse Ventura did it in Minnesota in ’98.”
Melvin walks over and closes the door. “Vince, let me fill you in on a few things. Minor party candidates don’t get elected to public office, particularly the presidency. You can get better odds on drawing three cards to fill an inside royal flush. The majors have a lock on that market.”
“But you’re running against them, and hard.”
“No I’m not. I’m in the entertainment business, along with show people and sports figures. Y’know, we’re all interchangable, which is why actors and athletes run for public office. It’s all part of the celebrity racket, where the distinction between illusion and reality gets confusing. It can be a heady experience for a lot of people. But actually getting elected and having to perform some public function is a different story. If that’s what turns you on, then join a major party and go to work for them. That’s a matter I’m not into anymore. I’ll never get elected to anything. Hell would have to freeze over before I’d carry even one state.”
“Then what have we been doing these past six months? Why the devil are you running?”
“The same reason the other minors are. We’ve all got books to sell, and we make a living on the lecture circuit. Look at the bunch of us – none a serious candidate. We’re all in it so we can peddle our wares better. And where can we get more national exposure than being a presidential candidate? The jerks in the media have to interview us, and quote us, and go through the motions of pretending what we do and say has some meaning, because that’s how they make a living.”
“You mean I’ve been going through this all for nothing?” says Vince.
“Not for nothing, no! You’ve been getting a pretty decent salary. Not only that, we’ll have a good pile left over at the end, and I’ll see to it you get a nice bonus. There’s worse ways to spend a year, and you know it.”
“O.K. Mel, I get the picture. I guess it’s just disappointing. I could actually see you in the White House. I thought you’d look good sittin’ in the Oval Office.”
“Thanks, Vince. Maybe whoever the next president is will invite us both over for a visit. If so, I’ll ask him to let me sit in there just once so you can see what I look like.”
s s s
Seventy-two hours later Melvin Dyer’s cellular phone rings as he drives into his home garage. “Mel, this is Vince. It’s somethin’ real important. Are you free to talk?”
“Pretty much so. I’m just walking into the house. O.K., now what is it?”
“I hope you’re sittin’ down for this. I just got a call from Mitchell.”
“Your contact over at GOP?”
“That’s right. He tells me it’s pure chaos over there. They haven’t been able to come up with a candidate, and they’re gettin’ frantic.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” says Mel.
“Well, guess who a majority are willing to back?”
“I can’t imagine. You tell me.”
“You, that’s who.”
“You gotta’ be kidding, or someone’s pulling your leg.”
“Nope, it’s for real. Their pollster ran a survey and you’ve got more name identification than anyone else. There’s a fair chance you can win. They figure it’s either you or four years of the Democrats. Only condition is they get to pick the VP.”
“Geez, Vince, it’s tempting I suppose, but . . .”
“But what? This is as close to a miracle as we’ll ever see. What’s wrong?”
“Well, it screws everything up. On election day I’m slated to speak at the National Manufacturers Convention. I get fifty thousand for that. Then I’ve contracted for four weeks of book signings. My publisher says we’re looking at sales of a half-million. Finally I’m scheduled for no less than 75 lectures over the six months after inauguration, with an average take of twenty-five thousand each. As President-elect, and then President, all that’s out. I don’t see any way it can be fit in.”
“You mean you’re really turning it down?
“I’m afraid so, Vince.”
“Well what the hell should I say to them?”
“Just tell ‘em what General Sherman said back in 1884.”
“What was that?”
“Real simple. ‘If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.’”