“Well guys, and gal,” the speaker winked at the woman in the blue suit, “I gotta say we need to stand the line here. You’re all doing a terrific job. Just terrific, and I called you all together to talk about our future. I want to hear your ideas, your thoughts on what happens next”
Bob sat at the too glossy, wet looking table in the overheated, windowless room trying not to drift off; the self-congratulatory voices over-lapping each other, making a droning insect sound, yet he felt pretty good, actually he’d worked hard to be here and damn if he wasn’t feeling terrific. He wasn’t sure why he’d been asked to be part of this focus group but he liked it, being part of the in crowd, the leaders, the movers & shakers of the leadership. He smiled to himself and looked around, he was definitely one of the younger ones, up and coming,
“…more questions are coming that’s true, including the question of whether I actually won.”
Bob jerked to attention-what? -the silence like sleet chilled him, draped over him and the others, it let him know that he had actually heard what he thought he heard.
“I’m sorry sir, what are you saying?” Theo the man next to Bob asked in a plaintive voice rising high.
“I’m not saying anything, I’m just suggesting that people have questioned the process, and I don’t know all the ins & outs of this, I’m new to leadership. I have no idea what may or may not have happened.” At this the speaker looked around the room locking eyes on each person, Bob controlled his desire to look away. “As far as I’m concerned, and as far as you all are concerned, I won. We all won. We are all here because of my winning and me. We all stay here as long as we keep winning.”
Bob stared at him-what? -his mind asked again-he looked around at the others, half of who were also checking out the expressions of the others. There were a variety: the older, lifetime electors looking smug and knowing, or blank, devoid of readable thoughts; the newer, younger ones unsure, shocked but trying not to be. The woman was frozen’ staring at the commander-in-chief. Maybe she thought it was a test. Bob also hoped it was a test, but he knew in the pit of his stomach, he now knew why he was chosen, he knew and he was angry.
His state had been close, but he won strong, his people liked him. Both sides respected him, although he embraced the right. He had been raised conservative and catholic, good morals but open to accepting others and helping them find their way-hopefully to his point of view but if not then to a respectful meeting ground.
He stared at the table now, over finished like resin, a plastic mahogany table.
“I trust all of you to work with me, to stay strong, to help me continue winning.”
The woman raised her hand.
“Loraine? You can just talk, we don’t stand on formalities here.”
“I am just curious about why you said you may have lost? Is there something we should know? Something we need to look into?”
The speaker slammed his hand on the table, “I never said I lost. Never! Get that out of your head woman!” she shrank back, looking startled. “Lenore, I’m sorry. I just don’t want that rumor even started. Everyone is talking about Russia, I know nothing about Russia. I like Russia, they have good sausage, but there is nothing else there to talk about. If anything comes up, we all need to ignore it and talk about the facts, talk about the crime in this country, talk about what we can do to create jobs. That’s it. You all are my inner circle, I need you and you need me. We are in this together, for the party.”
Now Bob was furious, the room was taking on a rosy glow. He’d never understood the term seeing red but here it was. How dare he ask this kind of loyalty? Bob had worked so hard to get to this place. He was lower middle class his whole life and he studied and worked his whole youth to get here to be someone respectable, and now he was asked to lie for someone who was given everything, who hadn’t had to work if he didn’t want to, for someone who had failed famously but still ended up in the big chair.
“I’m not asking anyone to lie. There is nothing to lie about, I won. The numbers are in so there is no need for any investigation, no need to anything but press ahead to the future.”
Could he read minds? Bob wondered his fingers turning white as they interlocked in a pose he thought looked scholarly. He stared at his hands as silence descended again, looking up he saw everyone eyeing him, “What.” He tried to make it a question but it was a statement, a flat word.
“I asked what you were thinking about Bob?” And he stared at him.
“I was considering how we would ever be in a situation where your election would be questioned.”
“And what did you decide?”
“It would only happen if we listen to outsiders and break ranks,” here he paused and hundred of faces flashed in his mind, people who believed in him, in what he stood for, people who signed his first nomination papers, his mother -the pride in her eyes when he won his first council position, how his dad looked at him and shook his hand, saying ‘never thought I’d raise a politician but I believe you can change things around here’; how his first love who dumped him for the bank owners son hugged him, breasts pressed against his chest, panting a bit with the excitement of his mayoral win, whispered ‘call me’, he never did, but he carried her number in his wallet even now as a reminder of the temptation of power; his wife and their six-year-old daughter who was so excited to come to Washington, to see the giant man statue in the chair, these people who made him, these people who believed in him…yet the country believed in the president, he had the same litany of supporters, of family and more-he had millions more counting on him and who was Bob? Who was he? But he always envisioned himself as a white hat, as a good guy, the one who stepped in front of the punch and then got up again. Here he was being asked to stand in front of a train for the people, but which people? Who would believe? What was he even asking himself, leaking? No one said leaking. There was no evidence there was nothing, he could proclaim innocence but no. Not anymore, just being in this room made him part of whatever lie there was, if there was one, but there had to be otherwise why even have this meeting? We are now all complicit; all sixteen of us in this room bonded together come what may. My party, my equals, my people. Yet most of these people came from money, from families that formed them, from corporations that bought their positions. These are not my priority. Why did I even accept the invitation to be on this committee? I thought I had really made it, but every rung is harder to climb, Party or the People? The Party or my people?”
“As you said, there is nothing to question.”