Running for President
A Psychopath Runs for President of the United States
Based on a novel by
Published by Micrologic Research
4631 East Hubbell Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85008-3213 USA
I dedicate these stories to my daughter
Inge Quinn and to my sister Jean Quinn
Copyright © 2016 by Jack Quinn. All rights reserved.
For information contact:
4631 E Hubbell St
Phoenix, AZ 85008-3213
These short stories from the life of the fictitious presidential candidate Jason Wilder are based on the book Running for President, which is available in eBook and printed format. If you enjoy these stories, I hope you will consider reading book upon which they are based. You can search for it by title on Amazon.
It was damned hot when Jason stepped out of Terminal Two in Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix on August 1, 1993. He thought he would suffocate. A nearby electronic sign flashed the temperature, 114 degrees Fahrenheit, 45.6 degrees Celsius! It was humid, too. Jason had always heard that Phoenix had a dry heat, but he was sweating in the humidity as he rolled his suitcase toward the bus stop for the Red Line that would take him to Arizona State University in the nearby suburb of Tempe. Unfortunately, he had arrived in Phoenix on the hottest day of the year at the peak of Arizona’s summer monsoon, when not only the heat but also the humidity become insupportable to those not acclimated to the Arizona desert.
The others waiting for the bus seemed to be mainly airport employees. He could see some of the passengers who had been on the plane with him from Chicago lined up to take taxis. One of the people at the bus stop said, “At least it’s a dry heat!” The others chuckled. Jason was to learn later that his was a standing joke among Phoenix residents. People from out of state had the impression that Phoenix summers were dry and therefore perfectly comfortable. They had never suffered though the misery of Phoenix’s humid monsoon months of July and August.
Jason had to wait 20 minutes for the bus to arrive, and by that time he was thirsty and sweating profusely. The others waiting for the bus didn’t seem to mind the heat as much as he did. Perhaps if one lived here long enough, one got used to this inferno. When the bus finally arrived, Jason handed the driver a five-dollar bill. The driver pointed to a sign that said “Exact change only.” Jason found a dollar bill in his wallet and attempted to hand it to the driver. “Insert it in the cash box,” the driver instructed him. “Do you want a transfer?”
“No thanks.” Jason knew that this bus would take him directly to ASU. He carried his suitcases to the back of the bus and took a seat. At least the bus was air conditioned.
When he got off the bus at his stop at the university in Tempe, the heat assaulted him again. In the information packet that the university admissions department had sent him was the name of the dormitory building where he was to live, but he had no idea how to find the building. There was no one on the sidewalk to ask. This wasn’t like Chicago, where the sidewalks were normally crowded with pedestrians. It looked like no one walked in Tempe. However, there were many young people who looked like students riding bicycles, despite the heat. Jason flagged one of them down.
“Say buddy, can you tell me how to get to Hayden Hall.”
“Yeah, it’s about a block south of here. If you look at that map over there” – pointing to a pillar about 15 feet away – “you can see how to get there.”
Jason was really thirsty by the time he reached his dormitory building. A drinking fountain at last, and the building was air-conditioned. With air conditioning everywhere, maybe he could learn to live with this heat after all.
After slaking his thirst, he noticed a young woman sitting behind a desk with a sign in front of her reading “Information.” “Hi. My name is Jason Wilder, and I believe I’m supposed to stay in this dorm.”
The young woman looked through a sheaf of papers on a clipboard. “Ah, here we go. Wilder, Jason. Here, I’ll write down your room number, and here’s a key. You’ll be sharing a room with another student.” Jason would have preferred a small apartment by himself, but a shared dorm room was the best his family could afford.
“If you have any questions, Jason, I’ll be right here. Don’t hesitate to ask.”
She had called him by his first name. Apparently people were more casual here than in Chicago.
When he opened the door to his room, a tall, slender black youth was sprawled out on one of the bunks. He pointed to another bunk, which had a stained mattress. “That’s yours.”
Jason looked around. The small dorm room wasn’t at all what he expected. There was graffiti scrawled on the walls. In addition to the bunks, there were two small writing tables, one of which Jason assumed was his, although both were piled high with dirty clothes. One thing for sure, Jason’s new roommate was not a neatness freak. Having grown up in highly-segregated Chicago, Jason was also not comfortable having a black roommate. It wasn’t that he was prejudiced. It was just that in Chicago blacks and whites led very separate lives. They worked different types of jobs, and they lived in different sections of the city.
Jason later learned that his new roommate, James or Jimmy Jefferson, was from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was a year older than Jason. When he graduated from Johnstown Central High School, Jimmy didn’t have the funds to attend university. His parents hadn’t completed high school and had low-paying jobs. They were not able to help him very much with college expenses. However, Jimmy worked for a year as assistant physical director in the Johnstown YMCA while his parents allowed him to live at their home on Bedford Street for free. He saved enough during this year to travel to Phoenix and pay his first year’s tuition. He could have stayed in Johnstown and completed his first two years of at a junior college operated by the University of Pittsburgh, referred to by the locals as “Junior Pitt,” but the highly segregated living conditions in Johnstown felt claustrophobic. He knew enough about the Phoenix area to know that the city’s small black community was better integrated than was Johnstown’s, although Phoenix also had a few black-only neighborhoods, especially the area directly west of downtown. In need of financial aid, Jimmy was assigned to work 20 hours a week in the university cafeteria.
“You look uncomfortable,” Jimmy remarked. “Is it because I’m black?”
Jason decided not to lie. I’m not used to being around black people. I’ve never lived in the same neighborhood with a black person before, let alone in the same room.”
“I’m not used to being this close to white folks, either. In Johnstown, I mixed with white kids at the YMCA or in school, and in the evening, we all went home to our own neighborhoods. Most white people didn’t have the courage to enter a black neighborhood after dark. So, this is all new to me, too.”
“We’ll adapt to it,” Jason assured his new roommate. “Can I use one of these desks?”
“Yeah, just push the stuff off that one onto the floor,” said Jimmy, gesturing to the desk closest to Jason’s bunk. “That one’s yours.”
Then silence ensued. It was obvious that each of them was shy with the other. Neither of the two young men had even introduced himself to the other, and Jason didn’t know how to break the ice. Finally it was Jimmy who spoke, “Like I said, I ain’t never lived with no white folks before. Where I come from, blacks and whites live in different parts of town.”
“It’s that way in Chicago, too. Oh, I’m from Chicago.” Jason didn’t feel comfortable talking about race and tried to change the subject. “My name’s Jason, by the way.”
“Well, if we’re going to be roommates, we should try to get along,” said Jimmy, extending his right hand. “I’m Jimmy.”
Jason hesitated a second before taking Jimmy’s hand. He had never shaken hands with a black person before. When Jimmy’s back was turned, Jason glanced surreptitiously at his own hand to see if any of Jimmy’s black color had come off. It hadn’t.
“Where’s Johnstown?” he asked.
“It’s in Southwestern Pennsylvania about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. Didn’t you ever hear of the Johnstown flood?”
Jason quickly settled into university life. He bought an inexpensive bicycle from College Cyclery to get around town, and he landed the promised part-time job at the information desk in the University’s Student Union. Because he had to work to supplement the money his parents were able to send him he carried a bit less than a full academic load. He had decided to major in business administration. That seemed to be the field that would offer him the best job prospects after graduation. His roommate Jimmy, on the other hand, majored in elementary education. He wanted to teach in a poor neighborhood in a large city where he felt he could show kids that the way out of poverty was through education.
“I can’t understand why you want to do that,” Jason said. “Teachers don’t get paid very much money. Do you want to end up poor like your parents?”
“I don’t care that much about money. I feel that the Lord has called me to help my people.”
Jason didn’t reply. He had no religious beliefs, and he looked down on people who did, but there was no sense in mentioning that and creating dissention. The two of them would probably have to live together the whole academic year, so it was better to get along.
Jason wasn’t happy with all of the courses he was required to take. He could see the utility of the English and math courses, but why was he required to take courses in a foreign language? After two semesters of the language, he wouldn’t be able to read, write, or speak it. He decided to take two semesters of Spanish. A lot of people in Arizona seemed to speak Spanish, so maybe it would be of some utility. Besides, Jane, his former girlfriend In Chicago, knew Spanish. It seemed to be a cool language. Also, he had learned to appreciate Latin American literature, but all of the good Latin American writers were translated into English, which made it a waste of time to learn to read them in the original language. But again, if he had to waste his time taking classes in a foreign language, Spanish was probably the least objectionable one.
On the first day of Spanish class, the instructor entered the classroom in the Language and Literature building about five minutes after class was supposed to have started (she had problems arriving anywhere on time) and greeted the class with a big smile and a hearty ¡Buenos días! Then she pointed to herself and said, “Me llamo Lupita.” She wrote those words on the chalkboard and then went around to each student in the class saying, “Me llamo Lupita. ¿Cómo te llamas tú?” The first student she tried this with sat in her chair and looked befuddled. Lupita then went on to another student who appeared to be Hispanic and repeated the same expression. The answer came back promptly, “Me llamo Felipe.” Then she went back to the first student and repeated, “Me llamo Lupita. ¿Cómo te llamas tú?” The first student had caught on. This time the answer came back hesitatingly but correct, “Me llamo Georgette.” By the time she had gone around the class, every student had learned how to introduce oneself in Spanish and ask the other person’s name. Actually, Jason noted, about one third of the students in class pronounced the words so quickly and with such a good accent that it was obvious that they already spoke Spanish. He didn’t know how he was going to compete in this class against so many native speakers.
Jason noticed that Lupita was very intelligent, and intelligence was one of the few qualities that he admired in other human beings. She was also a much better teacher than any of his other instructors. He decided that he wanted to get to know her better. He couldn’t spend all of his time with his dumb roommate Jimmy, whose goal in life was to help other people. Besides, he was going to need some extra help if he was going to learn this language. He wasn’t enthralled at the idea of learning Spanish, but if he had to do it, he was going to do it to the best of his ability.
He found the opportunity to talk to Lupita outside of class in the second week of the semester when she wrote her office hours on the board and invited any student who had questions to drop by and see her. Jason invented a problem and went to Lupita’s office to discuss it with her.
Jason’s invented problem was trivial and quickly solved. Then Jason asked Lupita if he could meet her for coffee later in the cafeteria. Lupita, who had just begun her master’s program at ASU had not made any friends yet and quickly agreed. “After all,” she thought, “even if I am his instructor, we’re both students.”
That afternoon as they were seated in the cafeteria, Jason drinking a coffee and Lupita sipping a coke, Jason asked her, “Where do you come from? You speak English almost like an American, but with a very slight trace of an accent.”
“I’m from Mexico, from Puerto Vallarta. My father was American, and he never learned to speak Spanish well, so we spoke English at home. I grew up speaking both languages, and I’m an American citizen. Actually, I’m a citizen of both countries. I have both an American and a Mexican passport.”
“Where is Puerto Vallarta?”
“It’s a city on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the tropics. It’s a tourist city. My father went to Puerto Vallarta on vacation when it was barely more than a village, and there he met my mother. My father told me that when he saw my mother the first time, he immediately fell in love and knew that she was the woman who would be his wife. My mother worked in a hotel and spoke some English, and she was enchanted by the attention shown her by this gringo. My father proposed marriage to my mother, who said she would accept on one condition. She did not want to live in the United States, so my father would have to move to Mexico. My father flew home to settle his affairs, and when he returned to Puerto Vallarta, he and my mom were married. My dad never left Puerto Vallarta again except for short trips that we took as a family to his home in Seattle to visit my grandparents. What about you? Where are you from?”
Jason ignored the question. He didn’t want to talk about himself. “How did he make a living in Mexico?”
“Anybody who is fluent in English can make a reasonable living in Mexico. He got into the timeshare business. Almost all of the Mexican resort hotels sell timeshares. Tourists can buy the right to live so and so many weeks a year in a hotel, and timeshares can be traded. Say you want to spend your vacation in Las Vegas but you own a two-week timeshare in Mexico. You can trade your right to stay in a Mexican hotel for the right to stay two weeks in one in Vegas.”
“I suspect that selling timeshares is a rough business.”
“My father is a very persuasive salesman. But, tell me about yourself, Jason. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Chicago,” Jason replied, “but my story isn’t half as interesting as yours. My parents are both American, although my grandparents, my mother’s parents, were born in Poland. My mother speaks Polish with them, but she never taught me to speak it. Oh, and my Dad’s parents are immigrants, too, from England.”
“It’s too bad that you didn’t learn Polish as a kid. There are a lot of advantages of speaking two languages.”
“Yeah, but I can’t do anything about that now” Jason felt uncomfortable now that the conversation had turned to his history. He was afraid that if people got to know him too well, he would expose to the world what a shallow person he was. It was time to change the subject. “What caused you to come to Tempe?”
“I graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature. I decided to come to ASU to do my master’s degree and perhaps a PhD.”
“Why ASU? Why not get your master’s degree in Mexico? Wouldn’t it be cheaper?”
“Well,” Lupita tried to collect her thoughts, “ASU has an excellent graduate program in Spanish. Besides, here I was offered a part-time job teaching your Spanish class. That’ll help pay for my studies. Also, I’ve lived in Mexico all of my life. I wanted to get to know my American half.”
“Why did your parents name your Lupita? I’ve never heard that name before.”
“Lupita is a nickname. My real name is Guadalupe, like the Virgin of Guadalupe or Mary, Mother of Jesus, who is said to have appeared to a humble Indian named Juan Diego in Mexico City. The short form of Guadalupe is Lupe, but I’ve always been called by the diminutive form, Lupita.”
“Why is your last name Gonzales? Didn’t you say that your father is American?”
“My complete name is María Guadalupe del Carmen Obermeyer Gonzales,” said Lupita between sips of her Coke. “Can you see why I prefer Lupita? By custom, we Mexicans take the last name of both our father and our mother, so the short form of my name should be María Obermeyer, but I’ve always been called Lupita. If I used Lupita Obermeyer, I would feel like a person without an identity, ni de allá, ni de acá as we say in Spanish, neither from here nor from there. I feel more Mexican than American, so I prefer Lupita Gonzales. Maybe after I live in the States long enough, that will change.”
That was to be the first of many meetings. Jason might have been expected to take advantage of the relationship to get a better grade in Spanish, but he didn’t need to. Even when it came to languages, he proved to be a fast learner, and there were plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish in the Phoenix area including an AM Spanish-language radio station, KSUN. He bought a table-top radio and kept it tuned to the KSUN when he was in the dorm room, much to Jimmy’s annoyance. As to the Spanish-speaking kids in the class, he quickly learned that although they were fluent speakers, they had never learned to properly write the language. When it came to written tests, Jason consistently got the best grade in the class.
By the time the semester was half over, Lupita and Jason were a couple. They spent the evenings studying together in the student union. By coincidence, one of Lupita’s graduate courses was a seminar on the works of Gabriel García Márquez. Lupita was astounded when Jason mentioned magical realism and the invented history of the Buendía Family in the imaginary town of Macondo. She had never before met an American college freshman who knew anything about Latin American literature.
Some of the other students in the Spanish class did not look kindly upon the fact that Lupita and her star student had a relationship, but their dissatisfaction was limited to grumbling. No one took the complaint to the Office of Language and Literature. Lupita seemed unaware of her students’ discontent. Jason was aware of it, but he had never cared what others thought of him.
It was during the third week of classes that Jimmy said to him, “Dude, we’ve been working our asses off. It’s time we went a little wild and celebrated.”
“What sort of celebration did you have in mind?”
“Let’s go to one of the clubs and get smashed. It’s the thing all freshman do on weekends.”
“But I’m not old enough to drink,” Jason objected.
“Don’t worry about that, man. I know a place where they don’t look to closely at IDs. If you’re with me, you’ll get in.”
“OK, let’s go for it. Where should we meet?”
“Friday evening at 8 pm we’ll meet here in our room.”
Jimmy was as good as his word. When they entered the club, Jimmy said to the bouncer, “He’s OK, man. He’s with me,” as he slipped the guy a five-dollar bill.
The place was jumping. The music was loud, and the club was full of young students. This loud rock music wasn’t to Jason’s taste—he preferred classical—but the women were luscious, and Jimmy told him they were easy. Jason was sure that he wasn’t the only under-age drinker in the place. They went to the bar where Jason ordered a tequila sunrise. “Do you know this world-famous drink originated in Phoenix?” the bartender asked him as he deftly mixed the beverage.
“No idea!” Jason didn’t really care.
“Yeah, it was invented by a bartender at the Biltmore Hotel a long time ago. The 1930s I think.”
Jason moved away from the bar to avoid this inane small talk. He said to Jimmy, “Look, buddy, I’ll catch you later. I want to see if I can make out with one of these chicks.”
There was a buxom woman who looked to be about 25 dancing tipsily by herself to one side of the dance floor. Jason liked older women. Drink still in hand, Jason started dancing in front of her. “What’s your name?” he shouted above the music.
“Vero! Actually it’s Veronica, but everyone calls me Vero.”
“Pleased to meet ‘cha, Jason.”
The disk jockey was segueing one song after the other. All of the music was very loud and with an ear-numbing bass beat. After the fifth number Jason shouted, “Whadaya say we sit down for awhile? Whadaya drinkin’? I get us each another one.”
“I’ll have whatever you’re drinking.”
Jason got two more tequila sunrises from the bar and searched the room with his eyes until he found Vero seated at a table with three other people. In this crowded club, there was no possibility of having a table to themselves.
“Where ya from, Vero?”
“Sasabe? I never heard of it.”
“It’s a little town in Southern Arizona on the Mexican border. More of a village than a town, really. The main industry is catering to illegal border crossers.”
Vero had finished her drink quickly. Not to be outdone, Jason emptied his glass again, and went to the bar for two more drinks. After that things got a bit hazy. He remembered going to the bar several times for more drinks and leaving the club with Vero, each unsteadily supporting the other. His next memory was waking up completely nude in a strange bed. A shaft of sunlight coming through the window had stuck his eyes and awakened him. Vero was lying beside him fast asleep and also nude. There was another bed in the room with two sleeping figures upon it, one male and the other female. Had he and Vero had sex? He couldn’t remember, but looking at her nude body, he felt desire rising within him. He shook Vero awake, and she responded groggily. She responded languidly to his kiss. Without waiting for any more response from Vero, he slid on top of her and made love to her. He wasn’t really sure if she was sober enough to know what was happening.
Then he found his clothes on the floor beside the bed, got dressed, and had the presence of mind to check his wallet. Yes, it was still there, and it had some money in it. He had no idea how much he had spent on drinks the night before, so he couldn’t be sure that he hadn’t been robbed, but he assumed he hadn’t been. He slipped out of the small studio apartment without awaking the three sleeping figures. Vero had fallen back asleep, too. Once outside, he had to orient himself. He didn’t know where he was, but there was a main street with heavy traffic just two blocks away. He walked toward it. It was Rural Road, and he saw that he was just south of the Salt River and therefore no more than a half mile from his dorm room.
When he reached the dorm, Jimmy was already awake. “Man! You sure tied one on last night! Who was that chick you left with?”
Jason ignored him. He didn’t know the woman he had spent the night with, and at any rate, what business did this idiot have asking him personal questions? Finally he grunted, “Just a woman,” and fell down on his bed fully dressed. He vowed never to have so much to drink again. Jason couldn’t stand not being 100 percent in control of himself.
The semester passed much more quickly that Jason had expected, and soon it was time for the yearend vacation. Jason flew home to Chicago during the Christmas break. His father Craig was waiting when Jason got off the plane at O’Hare Airport and gave Jason a big hug, but he released him when he felt his son stiffen in his arms. “The kid hasn’t changed,” Craig thought to himself. He had hoped that being on his own would make Jason more human.
“Let’s go home,” Craig said aloud. “Your mother’s been cooking all day. I think she’ll have a good meal for us.”
“Yeah, I’ve really been missing Mom’s home cooking,” Jason, lied. Inwardly he cringed at the thought of eating greasy meat with vegetables boiled to a mush and served with a cheesy sauce and some gross, fat-laden, unidentifiable type of chocolate pudding served as desert.
The two weeks that he spent with his family dragged on slowly in Jason’s mind. His parents, in contrast, were delighted to have him home and felt that the time was passing far too quickly. Even though Jason was uncommunicative, he was their son, and they loved him. They just wished that he weren’t so distant all of the time.
As often as he could, Jason took the L to the Loop or borrowed his father’s old Chevy and drove north toward Wisconsin, just to get out of the house. He found that the cold Chicago wind bothered him much more that it used to. He had become accustomed to the warmer Phoenix weather. In Chicago, he shivered even in his winter coat anytime he was outside.
Finally, the Chicago vacation was over, and his father drove him to O’Hare Airport for his flight back to Phoenix. Irene didn’t go along, claiming that she didn’t feel well. In truth, she was glad to be rid of Jason and didn’t want to go through the pretense of a loving mother saying good-bye to a loving son.
“Things ain’t goin’ so good, Jason,” his father began as they were driving out the Kennedy Expressway toward the airport. Work’s been slow, and I haven’t been makin’ as much money as I used to. I’m afraid I’m not gonna’ be able to send you as much money as I have been.”
Jason thought in silence. How was he going to complete his studies? The money he was making working during the school year staffing the Student Union information desk wasn’t enough to pay tuition and meet his other expenses. He’d have to figure something else out.
Then his father added, “Your Mom and I have enough saved up to help you through the next semester. After that, you’re going to have to figure out a way to make it on your own.”
Jason saw an advantage to the situation. Once his parents stopped helping him financially, he would no longer be obligated to visit them. He knew that they would be as glad to see the last of him as he was to get away from them. He was unable to maintain the pretense of being a loving son. He despised his parents. What a pair of uneducated dumbbells!
Lupita was not waiting for him at Sky Harbor Airport when he landed in Phoenix. Public transportation in the Phoenix area was very primitive compared to Chicago, and Jason assumed she hadn’t been able to persuade anyone to give her a lift to the airport. If nobody cared enough about him to pick him up, he would have to take the bus to ASU in Tempe. He didn’t bother calling Lupita to tell her he was back. She knew which flight he was arriving on, and if she couldn’t be bothered to take the bus to the airport to greet him, why should he bother calling her?
“I’m so happy that you’re back,” Lupita told him the next day when they met in the cafeteria of the Student Union. “I missed you so much.”
“I’m glad to be back, too,” Jason replied. This was true. In the few months he had been living in Tempe, he had learned to appreciate the warm weather and the more casual culture of the Phoenix area. He hoped to never see Chicago again. “And I also really missed you,” Jason added. This was not true. Jason viewed his relationship with Lupita as a convenience, but he felt no affection for her. He knew he was incapable of falling in love, but if he were going to be in a relationship, it might as well be with Lupita. She would serve as well as anyone else. Jason didn’t know what type of career he wanted, but he envisioned great things for himself. He believed that a great man needed a wife to support him, and he thought Lupita might be that wife.
School was ending for the summer when Jason suggested to Lupita that they live together. Lupita wasn’t sure that was a good idea. “Besides,” she added, “we don’t have enough money to rent an apartment.” That was true. Lupita had been offered the opportunity to teach Spanish classes during ASU’s two summer session, but that job wouldn’t bring in enough money to support them both, and Jason no longer had a job at all. His boss had informed him that due to the decreased enrollment in the summer, he had to cut back on staff. Jason also remembered what his father had told him. He could expect little financial help from home. He had to find a better job. He needed a full-time vacation job that could turn into a part time job when school resumed at the end of the summer. The job definately had to pay more than he had been earning at the university.
“My parents can’t ever know that I’m living with a man without being married,” Lupita fretted. “They’re very conservative Catholics.”
“Well, my parents are Catholics, too,” Jason countered. “We can’t spend our lives worrying about what our parents think. It’s time we made our own lives. I love you, and I want to live with you.”
Jason began searching the advertisements in the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, which were both owned by the same publisher and generally carried the same classified advertisements. The Republic came out in the morning seven days a week, and the Gazette appeared in the afternoon Monday through Saturday. Not many of the ads in either paper appealed to Jason. He needed a job with flexible hours. A used car lot called Friendly Motors on East Van Buren Street ran an ad almost daily looking for car salesmen “Must be good with people, sales experience preferred but not necessary. Flexible hours. Call Texas Bob for an interview.” Jason had ignored the ad for several weeks, but not being able to find anything better, he finally called the number in the ad and set up an appointment.
Jason had seen Texas Bob on TV commercials. What a smooth talker! He made the used cars he sold seem like unbelievable bargains. “Friends, we jist got a notice from th’ bank sayin’ we have to sell some of them thar cars you see behind me, so we’re discountin’ ‘em to move ‘em on out. Look at this one, a 1960 Edsel. Friends, they jist don’ make cars like this no more. Come in and check out this here car, and if you like it, we’ll make you a deal that will knock your socks off. It will fit your pocketbook with easy weekly payments. We’re so anxious to find a good owner for this car, friends, that if we think you’ll give it a good home, we’ll almost give it to you. We carry our own contracts. Bad credit, no credit, slow credit, low credit, it don’ matter, folks. We can finance yew. Have somethin’ to trade? If you can drive it in, tow it in, push it in, or ride it in, we’ll take hit in trade. We’ll take almost anything in trade except for yer mother-in-law, but if you insist, bring ‘er in and we’ll take a look at ‘er and see what we can dew.” Texas Bob finished every commercial with the same line, “Friendly Motors. Where you come in walkin’ and go out drivin’.”
It was a long bike ride to the car lot on streets with heavy traffic, but Jason was at the car lot 15 minutes before the scheduled interview. The lot was on seedy East Van Buren Street, which was famous in the Phoenix area for the prostitutes who walked its sidewalks, cheap motels, drug dealers, dangerous bars, used car lots, and frequent violence.
When he sat down in the small portable office at one corner of the small car lot, it turned out that Texas Bob was not at all what Jason had expected. For one thing, the hokey accent of the TV commercials was gone. Texas Bob had the tones of a Midwesterner, perhaps from Minnesota, Jason guessed. Except for his dress, he had the manners of a sharp businessman. He was wearing cowboy boots and faded jeans held up by a wide leather belt with an enormous brass buckle in the form of a star. His vertically striped blue shirt was covered by a leather vest, and around his neck hung a bolo tie with a clear plastic slide inside of which was entombed the body of an oversized scorpion. His enormous cowboy hat hung on a wooden peg behind his desk. To the left of his desk, a confederate battle flag adorned the wall, and to the right was a no-smoking sign, looking out of place.
Texas Bob saw Jason’s glance linger on the no-smoking sign. “I used to smoke,” he explained, “but since I quit years ago, I can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke. If I breathe it, it sets off a coughing spell. I’d really like smoking to be banned altogether someday, but I would never say that to my customers. Almost all of them smoke.” Then suddenly, “What makes you think you can sell cars?”
“I learn things faster than other people do,” Jason explained. “I think I can learn to do anything if I set my mind to it.”
Texas Bob’s real name was Robert Samuelson, but no one called him anything but Texas Bob. He was largely self-taught, so he appreciated other people who were quick learners. Business school did not prepare its students to sell used cars, but he sensed that Jason had the street smarts needed to learn. Then he looked out the window and noticed that a couple had entered the car lot. He pushed a form toward Jason. “Fill out this application and leave it on my desk. Drop back again tomorrow, and we’ll discuss terms. In the meantime, I have work to do.”
“Does that mean you’re offering me the job?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, I don’t know much about you, but I’ll give you a chance. At any rate, I’m not taking much of a risk. You’ll only get paid if you sell, and if you can’t sell, I won’t have much invested in you. Now let me go outside and see if I can sell these yokels a car.”
Texas Bob’s business model took into account a big turnover in sales personnel. Most of them stayed only a few months. If Jason didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be a big loss. However, Texas Bob had a feeling that Jason might stick around longer than the typical used car salesman.
As Jason filled out the job application, he could hear Texas Bob outside. He had changed not only his accent but his entire personality. “Howdy, folks! I see ye’r lookin’ at that thar Ford. You sure do have an eye for quality, you sure do. That thar car is pbob’ly the best bargain we got on the lot. We took it in trade from a preacher man who hardly never drove it.”
It was late spring in 2002. Jason and Lupita were seated at the breakfast table in their home in Paradise Valley, a bedroom community for the more affluent members of the Phoenix business community. It had been two years since Jason had persuaded Lupita to return. When her parents refused to let him talk to her on the phone, he flew to Puerto Vallarta to bring her back. When he rang the bell at her parents’ house, it was Lupita herself who answered. She was shocked to see Jason. She had had no idea that he was coming.
Although it seemed melodramatic, Jason had planned what he would do. He fell to his knees before Lupita and swore that he loved her. He said he had been miserable ever since she left and now realized that he could not live without her. Jason felt pleased with himself thinking back on that day. It was one of his better pieces of acting. He was so convincing that Lupita agreed on the spot to go back to Phoenix with him. Keeping up the pretence of loving her in the two years that followed had not been as easy, but somehow Jason managed it. He couldn’t afford to have Lupita leave him. A divorce settlement would ruin him financially.
“What are you smiling about,” Lupita asked across the breakfast table.
“Oh,” Jason replied, “I was thinking back to the day I went to Puerto Vallarta and how glad I am that you agreed to come back to me, and I was thinking of how much I love you.”
“I know that you love me, Corazón. I am also so happy that I came back. Our life together has been so much better these past two years.” Then she thought to herself, “Well, our sex life could be better, but no marriage is perfect.”
Financially, things had gone very well for Jason the past two years, also. Nationally, car sales dropped after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, and some of Jason’s competitors had gone out of business. Thanks to Jason’s sharp sense of marketing, he had grabbed a larger share of what was left, and his sales had increased. He now had three dealerships in the Greater Phoenix area thanks to his being able to buy two bankrupt dealerships at fire-sale prices. All were mortgaged up to the hilt, of course, but Jason was not the type of person to lie awake at night worrying about how to pay off his debts. His financial situation was shaky, but Jason delighted in taking risks and felt that he was smart enough to always come out on top. He was certainly smarter than those dumb-assed bankers.
“I’ve been talking to Martin Glover, the big cheese in the Arizona Republican Party. He wants me to run for the state legislature. I’m thinking of taking him up on it.”
“I’m shocked!” Lupita really was astounded. “I had no idea you were interested in becoming a politician. You’ve always said you despise them. At any rate, aren’t you a Democrat just like me?”
“If I enter politics, it will be good for us financially, Honey. I don’t want to be just a car dealer the rest of my life. I’ve got bigger ambitions. As to partisanship, the Republicans run things in this part of the state. If you want to represent Paradise Valley in the State Legislature, you’ve got to be a Republican. The Arizona Democrats are a bunch of losers. They’re always talking about the poor people, Hispanics, the uneducated, and other losers like that.”
Lupita sighed inwardly. She bit her tongue, but she was hurt at Jason’s remark. He had lumped Hispanics, the uneducated, and losers together in one sentence. She wandered if he thought that she was a loser. He probably did. He couldn’t consider her to be uneducated. She had much more schooling that he had. But then, who knew what Jason thought? His opinions didn’t always reflect the facts.
Lupita had been happier when she and Jason were first starting out and were both poor students. Now that they were well to do, Lupita’s life had become routine. With the money that Jason earned, there was no economic reason for her to work. She could only earn a fraction of what Jason brought in. Nevertheless, she didn’t want to be dependent on Jason, and she didn’t want to hang around the house all day. She needed something to challenge her mind. She recalled the day that she had gone back to Olivari Technology and asked if she could get her old job back. The receptionist in the personnel office had asked her to take a seat. “I see you’ve worked here before,” the receptionist had remarked as she glanced through Lupita’s résumé. “Just make yourself comfortable and let me make some phone calls.”
Jason interrupted her daydream. “Why the sigh, Honey? Don’t you want to be the wife of an important man?”
Lupita didn’t realize that she had sighed out loud. She hoped that she hadn’t been thinking out loud, as well. “I don’t care about such things, Corazón. But if it’s important to you, I’ll go along with it.”
In her heart, Lupita didn’t feel that way, however. She was Hispanic and a trained educator. Even though she was not working in the field she trained for, her educator’s mind made her very sympathetic toward the poor. Her mother’s family in Mexico was dirt poor. In her mind, the Republican Party in Arizona was led by rich people whose pretended interest in ordinary people disappeared quickly after each election.
Jason suppressed a feeling of irritation as he poured himself a second cup of coffee. Ever since he had brought Lupita back from Puerto Vallarta, she had been calling him Corazón or mi Corazón, a Spanish term of endearment that meant my heart. There was a rising antipathy toward Hispanics among influential Republicans in Arizona, and his wife’s brown skin and occasional use of Spanish did nothing to help him fit in with the Republican crowd. In hindsight, he felt he would have been much better off marrying a blond with lily-white skin. But, it was too late to do anything about that now. The last thing he needed was a messy divorce. Given his growing prominence in the Phoenix area, it would be the subject of conversation among all of the gossip mongers who had begun to dominate local talk radio.
Despite her PhD, Lupita didn’t seem to have good sense. She even volunteered twice a week at a food bank to feed the losers who couldn’t get a job. In this world, you had to look out for yourself. Worrying about people who were not smart enough to fend for themselves was a waste of time. How did he end up with such a dumb-assed wife?
“I’ve got to go, Sweetie,” he said. He kissed her on the cheek and parted with the words, “I love you.”
It was time for Lupita to leave, too. She went to her car and drove to her office at Olivari Technology. She was no longer a secretary. When she reapplied for a job after returning from Mexico, she was offered a position in international sales. While getting her PhD, she had not only taken classes in Spanish literature, she had been required to take classes in Portuguese and French. France, with its high-tech industry, was an important customer for Olivari Technologies, and most educated French people do not communicate well in English. Perhaps she had a natural gift for sales, or perhaps Jason Wilder’s reputation as a businessman helped her, but more likely it was her sharp mind plus the fact that she spoke four languages that had enabled her to quickly rise to the post of manager of European sales. The business classes she had taken in night school at the university had doubtlessly helped, too. She was not making as much money as Jason, but she now had a comfortable income of her own, and she made a point of saving a substantial portion of each paycheck. As she became more skilled in the ways of business, she began investing her savings in secure stocks.
An hour after leaving Lupita, Jason was sitting in the Caf’ Casino French restaurant on Camelback Road looking over the table at Martin Glover. The two had coffee and croissants in front of them.
“Look!” said Martin. “You’re an important man in the Phoenix business community. I know you will have the support of the people who matter if you decide to run for the State Legislature. You also have name recognition among the voters. Ordinary people will vote for you.”
Jason was disappointed. “Being in the State Legislature isn’t exactly an important position. I was hoping for more.”
“No, being a legislator is no big thing.” It’s just a first step. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. I see you as our governor in a few years if you play along with us.”
Jason wasn’t convinced. “If I’m so well known in the business community, why don’t I run for governor now?”
Martin couldn’t help showing his impatience. This guy had an exaggerated sense of his own worth. “The business community supports you and so do we party leaders, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You have to prove yourself at the bottom of the ladder before you move up. How well do you operate under fire? Will you support our policies even when the going gets tough? As soon as you run for office, you’re going to be criticized, because there are a lot of people who don’t like how we run things in this state.” By “we” Martin meant the Phoenix Forty, an informal group of 40 families who ran local and state politics from behind the scenes.
“How long do I have to settle for being a legislator?” Jason wanted to know.
“Let’s say you serve two terms in the House of Representatives. That’s four years total. Then you run for the Arizona State Senate from your district. Let’s say you serve two terms in the Senate. That’s four more years. If you have a good record during those eight years in the legislature, it will be time to think about running for governor.”
Martin Glover had an uneasy feeling as he left the restaurant. He didn’t trust Jason. If he and his group backed Jason, he wasn’t sure that Jason would remain loyal to them. His only hope was that Jason was smart enough to understand that it was in his best interest to support the existing Republican power structure. After all, Jason was one of them. He was part of the business elite. It was time that he showed some loyalty to the rest of them. If Jason played his cards right, he and Lupita might be invited to join the Phoenix Forty someday. But, no. Lupita was a Mexican. She wouldn’t fit in. Why didn’t Jason dump her and marry a younger, white trophy wife with money as John McCain had done when he entered politics?
When Jason got to his office, he sat down alone to think about what Martin had said. If he was going to run for governor someday, there was no way he was going to spend eight years dinking around in the Legislature first. “No! I’m not going to let that dumb-assed Martin Glover dude tell me what to do!” he said out loud.
If he was going to get on the primary election ballot, there wasn’t much time left. The primary was only months away, and there must be a deadline for turning in petition signatures. If he would just do what the Republican Party wanted him to do, he would get loads of help from Party volunteers and would be a shoo-in to get on the ballot. No! He wasn’t going to do that! He was not going to be beholden to these people. On the other hand, if he played along with Martin Glover and his gang for now, he could stall for time as he picked up some political education. But, no! He couldn’t play second fiddle in this game!
If he was going to be in charge of his own political campaign, he didn’t have much time to get organized. He had to announce his true plans as soon possible, or he would never get everything done on time. To hell with Glover and his whole stuck-up crowd! Going it alone would mean hard work, but Jason had never shied away from putting in the necessary effort to get what he wanted.
Early the next morning Jason let the press know that he would be making an important announcement on the grounds of the State Capitol Building that afternoon at 2 pm and promised that it would be worthwile for each news organization to send a reporter. He hurriedly had a podium and public address system set up on the Capitol’s lawn. Martin Glover made sure that the right people in the press were informed. He was still under the delusion that he was in charge and that Jason was about to announce his candidacy for the Arizona State Legislature.
About 15 reporters showed up, but they were the important ones, a reporter from the Arizona Republic, one from each of the wire services, and the four most important Phoenix TV stations had camera crews on scene. Two of the radio stations had also sent reporters. There were also a few local political commentators in the audience. Jason stepped to the podium and got right to the point.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I hereby announce that I intend to run as a Republican candidate for governor of the State of Arizona.”—Martin Glover’s ears couldn’t believe what they were hearing.—“I would rather devote myself to my business, but things are not going well in our state and as a concerned citizen, I think it is my duty to do something about it. I am appalled by how our state is being overrun by illegal immigrants. The president refuses to adequately protect our border with Mexico with the result that criminal gangs composed of wetbacks operate freely throughout the state. Our border communities are under siege. I intend to build out the fence on our southern border with Mexico that the Federal Government promised but has never delivered and send Arizona National Guard troops to the border to seal it completely. I’ll have every truck that comes across the border searched right down to the last tomato and head of lettuce so that not one wetback and not one ounce of drugs makes it through.
“We also need to cut taxes to attract industry and out-of-state investment. I intend to reduce the taxes on business, cap Arizona’s top-bracket personal income tax rates, and cap property taxes. I promise to make Arizona the state with the lowest taxes in the nation. We need to do this to create jobs for our citizens.
“I find it disgusting that state agencies operate in Spanish as well as English. This is America, folks, and everyone should speak American. When we go to vote, we are confronted with a ballot printed in two languages. That is unpatriotic. You’re supposed to be able to speak American in order to vote in this country, and if you can’t, you should stay home. When I get into office, it will be American only! Real red meat American English! None of that pansy British-speak!
“Another thing I find unacceptable is that only 11 percent of the land in Arizona is in private hands. The federal government claims most of the rest. That land belongs to us, the citizens of Arizona, and it’s high time the federal government gave it back to us. When I am governor, I will introduce a bill in our state legislature declaring that federal government’s title to all of the land it claims in Arizona to be null and void. I will return that land to the people, who are its rightful owners.
“We all know that the lefties in government want to take away our right to bear arms. As long as George Bush remains in the White House, we have some protection, but there are plenty of people in various government agencies who want to take away Americans’ right to defend themselves, and if some leftie Democrat gets elected president next time, the first thing he’ll do is try to take away our guns. When I am elected governor, I will give every American citizen over 14 years of age living in Arizona the right to carry a gun everywhere in the state including in schools. I’ll make sure that no left-wing politician in Washington interferes with our gun rights. No business and no government building should be allowed to violate our Second Amendment rights by prohibiting people carrying firearms from entering any building they want to. I’ll make sure that they don’t. And gun owners will not have to pass background checks either. There’s such a thing as gun rights in this country, and I intend to make sure that they are respected in our state. If those liberal states back east want to do something different and violate our sacred Constitution, that’s their problem. Everyone living in Arizona has a right to carry a gun. No exceptions!
“Finally, there’s the problem of the Washington Beltway liberals imposing laws on us that take away our rights. I intend to prohibit any law enforcement official in Arizona from enforcing federal laws or regulations that trample on our rights. It’s time we stood up for our own rights and stopped kowtowing to the lefties in organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, who have come up with the fiction of global warming. Our planet is not warming, folks. It’s cooling off. The lefties invented the fiction of global warming so that they would have an excuse to take over more control of our lives.”
Pandemonium broke out among the reporters. Martin Glover had summoned them here to cover the announcement of someone who was going to run for the state legislature, not governor! As local politics in Arizona go, this was a sensation, and the press was going to make as much of it as it could.
There were many questions during the next half hour, and Jason handled them all well as the TV cameras rolled. One reporter asked, “But, didn’t you used to do radio and TV commercials in Spanish?”
“Yes, I did,” Jason admitted, “but I was wrong to do so. I was younger then, and I made a mistake. We have to protect America from those who would undermine our culture by coming here and refusing to learn our language. All of those people come here and have lots of children, and the children grow up speaking Spanish. Even their kids refuse to speak American. This is the first time that people with their pants up have been overrun by people with their pants down.” Jason had heard that remark somewhere before and decided to appropriate it for himself.
The same reporter persisted, “But isn’t your wife Mexican?”
“My wife is an American. She was an American citizen at birth. She could be president some day. It’s true that she was born in Mexico, but her father was an American. She is just as much a native United States citizen as George Romney, who was also born in Mexico, or our own great senator John McCain, who was born in Panama. She could run for the office of president of the United States someday, just as both of those men did.”
Another reporter asked, “How are you going to overrule the federal government and take over federal lands?”
“Don’t you worry,” Jason replied, “when I’m elected governor, I’ll just do it. I’ll send the national guard out to reclaim what is justly ours if the federal government refuses to let us have it peacefully. Some of us may have to take up arms to protect ourselves from the government.”
The press conference went on for hours. The TV camera operators sent runners back to their TV studios with rolls of video tape from which editors could extract sound bites for the afternoon news and kept recording. No one knew what outrageous remark Jason would make next as he answered the reporters’ questions.
Finally Jason said, “That’s all folks. Thank you for coming.”
The TV crews started packing up. They had much more than they bargained for, and as the word spread, the viewership of the evening news was bound to take a big leap. In the meantime, they had some great video coverage from which the studio editors could extract juicy sound bites.
Martin Glover was not at all happy with Jason’s announcement. He was supposed to run for the state legislature, not for governor! Who the hell did that bastard think he was, anyway? Well, he’d show him. The Phoenix Forty had handpicked Alice Dickerson as the next Arizona governor, and it would put all of its resources behind her. That lousy, low-class car salesman would soon learn what it meant to buck the Republican machine.
Another person who was not happy was Lupita. Jason had not asked her to stand with him as he made his announcement, and now she understood why. He couldn’t have gotten away with the things he said had his brown-skinned wife been standing by his side. Jason’s attack on Mexicans was an attack on her. She was so agitated that she couldn’t remain still. She strode back and forth in their living room while she waited for Jason to come home. Uncharacteristically for a woman who was usually passive, she was seething with anger.
When Jason arrived home a few hours later, she let him have it. “I saw your announcement on the news. How could you say those things, you bastard? You insulted and belittled your own wife in front of millions of people.”
Jason, who had barely made it beyond the front door, stopped dead in his tracks. He had never heard Lupita use such language. He stuttered in trying to reply. Finally he managed to get a few words out, “It was Hobson’s choice. If I want to get elected in Arizona in today’s climate, I have to take an anti-immigrant stance. There is no alternative.”
“Is running for governor so important to you that you will publicly insult your wife, your mother-in-law, and my people?” Lupita wanted to know.
“Ah, Honey, I didn’t insult you. I love you.”
“You damned well did insult me! You insulted my roots; you insulted where I came from; you insulted my identity, who I am.”
“You know I didn’t mean you, Honey. You’re one of the good Mexicans.”
“Good Mexican? That is the last straw!” Lupita turned red in the face and held her breath as if she were on the verge of losing control and exploding. Then, she turned on her heal, marched into their bedroom, and slammed and locked the door.
Jason tapped timidly. “Let me in, Honey, please.”
There was no answer. Jason could hear drawers opening and then slamming shut. He had no idea that Lupita could get so angry. Then, the door burst open in his face and Lupita pushed by him and strode to the front door of the house. She was carrying a suitcase.
“Honey, let’s talk about it,” Jason pleaded.
Lupita paused in the door. “I can’t talk about it now. I don’t know if I ever can. I’ll be in touch with you when I decide what to do.”
Jason heard her car start in the garage and then back out into the street with a screeching of tires. Another screeching of tires, and he heard the car round the corner at the end of the street. Then it was very quiet.
Now Jason was angry, too. “That bitch! That hussy! That whore! I’ll show her that she can’t get away with this!” he shouted out loud. But then he remembered again that everything he owned was also legally Lupita’s property. He got a beer out of the fridge, grabbed the cordless phone off the kitchen counter, and sat down in his favorite chair in the living room. After taking a sip of beer, he dialed his lawyer at his home phone number. What the lawyer told him did not make in happy. “Your wife can take you to the cleaners if she gets a good attorney. All things being equal, I’d rather be on her side than yours.”
“Let her stew in her own juices!” Jason shouted to himself after hanging up. “She’ll come crawling back.”
Lupita drove around for awhile aimlessly and aggressively, taking her anger out on the car. Then her better sense prevailed. She had to calm down, or she would have an accident. She pulled into a shopping center parking lot and sat in the car trying to get her emotions under control. Finally she drove to a nearby motel and checked in. She had to get some shuteye to be ready for work in the morning. It was after midnight when she finally fell asleep, and she awoke groggily six hours later to the sound of the alarm of the clock radio on the night table beside her bed.
She showered, dressed in some of the clothes she had brought with her in the suitcase, put on her makeup, and headed for work. On the way she stopped in a restaurant for breakfast. As she sipped her second cup of coffee, she thought back to what the psychologist had told her when she had sought marriage counseling. Yes, the councilor had been right. Jason was a psychopath. He could put on a good act as a loving husband for a time, but inside he cared for no one but himself. This time, she would not let him sweet-talk her into going back.
Arriving at her office, Lupita gave her secretary instructions to not put through any calls from her husband. She told no one at work about the problem that she was having in her private life, although her secretary easily divined that all was not well in the Wilder household.
Jason didn’t give Lupita much thought in the following days. He had a business and a political campaign to run. Because he had defied Martin Glover’s instructions, he could expect no help from the Arizona Republican Party, at least not until he beat that slut Alice Dickerson in the primary. What the hell made them think that a woman could be governor, anyway?
His first step was to get on the primary ballot. That meant setting up a campaign committee and registering it with the Arizona Secretary of State. Then he would be allowed to circulate nominating petitions. Because he would get no help from the Republican Party, he couldn’t rely on volunteers to circulate the petitions. He would have to hire professional petition circulators and get the petitions turned in by June 1. That didn’t leave much time. It also meant a very large expense.
Help came from an unexpected quarter. Jason received a phone call from Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Balboni. “Jason, we had our differences in the past, but I remember that you apologized and even made a contribution to my campaign. Now I think that I can help you.”
Jason was so surprised that didn’t know what to say. “That’s great!” he managed to stammer. “What do you propose?”
“I’ve got a big list of people who worked in my last campaign and a list of donors, some of them quite wealthy. I’m willing to turn those lists over to you.”
“But, what do you get out of it?” Jason wanted to know. Jason knew enough about Paul Balboni to understand that he was a lot like Jason. Neither of them did anything unless they could obtain some advantage from it.
“I don’t get along with the Republican establishment any better than you do. If that Dickerson broad is elected governor, or worse yet, if a Democrat gets elected, I’m going to have lots of problems. I have a feeling that you and I can work together.”
“I’d be happy to work with you Paul and for any support you could give me.”
“Ok, Jason, but don’t cross me. I have ways of making the lives of my enemies very unpleasant.”
“Don’t worry,” said Jason, “if you help me get elected, I will be eternally grateful. I’ll owe you big time.”
A few hours later, a sheriff’s deputy dropped off a packet of information from Paul, and Jason noticed that a large proportion of Paul Balboni’s political supporters either lived in Sun City or Sun City West, both retirement communities outside of Phoenix. Eighty percent of the residents of those communities had no more than a high school education and nine percent hadn’t even finished high school. The population also consisted of 98 percent whites of European descent with a median age of 75. This was exactly the demographic that Jason could appeal to. These people voted, and having little exposure to ethnic minorities, they were highly susceptible to Jason’s message of a state under siege from people not like them. They were also a group with little trust in the Federal Government, and they always voted for the most conservative Republicans.
Jason called several people on the list. He didn’t have to talk to too many of them before he found a core of people who were willing, even anxious, to help him in his campaign by telephoning others to ask for support, five-dollar donations, and to request them to circulate nominating petitions.
The reason for the five-dollar donations was that Arizona had an organization called Clean Elections, which funded the campaigns of candidates for state office provided they met certain conditions. The candidates must collect a minimum number signatures and five-dollar donations to qualify for Clean Elections funding. The advantage of Clean Elections funding was that once qualified, a candidate could spend full time campaigning without having to devote time and resources to additional fund raising. Jason decided to go with Clean Elections funding, although he had no intention of running a clean election. Jason appointed Paul Balboni as his campaign manager.
The year was 2010 Jason was in the second term as Arizona governor when he received a phone call from Luther Hogson, the elder of the two billionaire Hogson brothers who had inherited a fortune from their father and increased it greatly by cornering the silver market a decade earlier. They were known to be generous contributors to ultraconservative political candidates.
“I won’t beat around the bush. Willard and I want you to run for president next year. We’re willing to finance you to the tune of $300 million dollars. We’ll give you 24 hours to think it over.”
“President?” Jason was taken completely by surprise. “But, but, don’t you think I’m pretty young to be president? I just turned 35 last year. Is this a joke?”
Luther was not to be so easily deterred. “Believe me, I’m not joking. You’re over 35, so you’re old enough to be president. It’s true that you’ll be the youngest president in US history, but there’s a first for everything. If Willard and I pick you to be president, you’ll be president.”
Jason’s still couldn’t believe that he was talking to one of the richest men in the world. He stalled for time to try to collect his thoughts. “But to run for president, you have to be known nationally. No one outside of Arizona knows who I am.”
“Don’t worry about getting known. Willard and I will take care of that. If you agree to run as our candidate, on the Republican ticket naturally, we’ll make sure that everyone in the world who isn’t living in a cave will know who you are. I don’t want your answer now. This call has to come as a surprise to you, but I’m not the type of person to be put off. You have 24 hours to make up your mind. I’ll call you again tomorrow at about this time.”
The phone clicked and the connection was broken. In the old days of metal telephones that sat on desks or tables, you could hear someone slamming down the receiver on the other end. Now, with cordless electronic phones, the person on the other end pushed a button and the connection just went dead. Jason often thought that it made hanging up on someone much less satisfying that it used to be.
Jason was so shaken after the call that he couldn’t get up from his seat. The Hogson brothers! Every politician and every political commentator knew who the Hogson Brothers were. They were among the richest billionaires in the world, although no one knew for sure exactly how much money they possessed. Forbes Magazine estimated their net worth at $57 billion, but that was probably a low figure. The Hogson Brothers were publicity shy, never gave interviews, and kept their finances as secret as they could. It was rumored that much of their wealth was hidden in a complex network of offshore banks and holding companies that even the Internal Revenue Department couldn’t untangle.
In addition to being fantastically rich, they were the most powerful political figures in the United States, perhaps in the world. They pulled strings behind the curtain to get people elected to public office. Many people thought that the Hogson Brothers had the president of the United States in their pockets, and from what Jason had just heard, they apparently did. The president had promised to raise taxes on high income earners during his campaign, but now that he was in office, he seemed to have a cozy relationship with Wall Street. Could that be due to the Hogsons’ influence? Some even claimed that the Hogsons were the real power behind Vladimir Putin, although that seemed farfetched.
Jason was in no position to finance even a minimalist campaign for president himself. True, he now had over $100 million stashed away in the Cayman Islands bank account, but he couldn’t use that dirty money to finance a campaign. Every dollar that his campaign committee spent would be open to public scrutiny, and he would risk going to jail if it came to light that he had taken bribes and avoided paying income tax on them.
On the other hand, the Hogson Brothers wouldn’t finance his run for president unless there was something in it for them. Would there be anything left over for Jason? Jason was used to being in charge, and it would go against his nature to take orders from the Hogsons, even if it meant getting even richer.
There was no one with whom he could talk over the situation. He hadn’t spoken to Lupita since shortly after their separation. Oh, Lupita! That reminded him that no one in modern history had been elected president who hadn’t had an apparently loving wife by his side. Had there been any bachelor presidents at all? Jason did an online search. Oh, yes, there had been. James Buchanan was a lifelong bachelor, but he was elected in 1857. Times had changed since then. Grover Cleveland was also single when he was inaugurated in 1885. Could Jason be the third bachelor to become president? Actually, bachelor wasn’t the correct term. He was divorced, a word that had once had a nasty connotation, but now divorced people were grouped together with the never married under the rubric “single.” Ronald Reagan had been divorced when he ran for president, but he had remarried. Being divorced was not the stigma that it used to be.
Jason couldn’t sleep well that night. To say that he was an unemotional person was an understatement, but that night he did feel excitement. Even if he were not elected, even if he were not even nominated, the mere fact of running for president would be of immeasurable financial value. After he retired as president, he could picture himself being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fill a seat on the board of directors of several large companies, sinecures with juicy salaries that required no work. Even during his term as president, there must be some ways of earning some money on the side. After all, Lyndon Johnson started his political carrier as a Texas schoolteacher and ended it as a multimillionaire. Did the Hogson Brothers really have the power to get a 36-year-old divorced man elected president? If they did, would they own him? Was he about to make the Faustian error of selling his soul to the devil? If Hell really existed, which Jason doubted, he had long ago consigned his soul to its eternal fires. In for a penny, in for a pound.
The next day it was Willard who called. “You talked to my brother Luther yesterday, and he made you a proposition. Are you ready to accept?”
“I assume you want something in return.” Jason said, still not sure that he was willing to give those brothers so much control over his life.
“If you don’t get elected, you’ll owe us nothing, but that is not probable. When you do get elected—and with our backing I can guarantee you that you will—we’ll want your support on some legislation we’ll propose. There’ll be people in Congress who will make sure the bills get through both chambers, but we want your word that you won’t veto them or oppose them in any way. We also want you to initiate some of them.”
Jason was still hesitant to accept and attempted to drag the conversation out. “How are you going to get people in Congress to back your bills?”
“That’s our business! Look, I’m not going to spend all day on the phone beating around the bush with you. Either you’re with us or you’re not. I want to know right now. Are you with us? There are plenty of other people willing to work with us.”
“OK,” Jason replied, “I’m with you.”
“I know you’re officially not in good financial shape.”—At least the Hogsons didn’t know about his offshore bank account.—“Your car lots are a financial mess. We know about your secret offshore bank account, but we also realize that you can’t touch that money without getting into trouble with the law.”—Damn! These Hogsons seemed to know everything.—“You can save that money for your retirement. You won’t have to touch it as long as you’re working for us. We’ll take care of you.
You’ll soon receive a visit from someone who will give you the number of a secret account in Switzerland into which $100,000 has already been deposited. He’ll also give you an ATM card that you can use to withdraw up to $500 a day. You will nominally be in charge of your campaign, but we’ll make all the decisions. We’ll tell you who to pick as your campaign manager, we’ll make sure that you get campaign donations, and we’ll establish several independent educational organizations that will run ads against your opponents and praise your ideas, which will be our ideas, of course. All you will do is travel, deliver speeches, hold rallies, and give interviews. We’ll write your speeches for you, and we’ll supply you with talking points to answer questions from the press. Understood?”
“Yes, I get it.”
The phone line suddenly went dead. These Hogsons certainly wasted no time with pleasantries. That was the last that Jason was to hear directly from either of the Hogson brothers until his presidency was over.
Five minutes later Jason’s phone rang again. It was his secretary. “There’s a gentleman here to see you. He says his name is Gerald Wilkinson. He says you’re expecting him.” Jason suspected that this visit had something to do with the phone call he had just finished.
“Show him in.”
As soon as the door closed behind the visitor, he opened his briefcase and put a wad of $50 bills on Jason’s desk. “This should hold you over until you need more. Here’s your ATM card for the Swiss account. It looks like a membership card in the American Youth Hostels, but its magnetic strip is programmed as an ATM card. Just insert it in any ATM and you can withdraw money. Your PIN number is the four digit year when your ex-wife was born.”
Without giving Jason time to respond, the visitor turned on his heel, opened the office door and walked out, quietly closing the door behind him, and leaving his empty briefcase standing open on the floor next to Jason’s desk.
Jason was flabbergasted. It was like something from the mafia days of the 1920s, but even then, politicians had had some independence from the mob. It was hard for him to believe that he had just sold himself to a pair of modern day mobsters passing for legitimate businessmen. However, the pay was good. Jason was used to turning every relationship to his own advantage, but this time he didn’t think he could gain control of the situation. The forces that had just taken control of him were much too powerful. He had just sold his soul to the Hogson Brothers, just as Johannes Faust had sold his soul to Mephistopheles in the famous German legend.
About two hours later, his phone rang again, and his secretary told him there was a man named Shawn Killingworth on the phone. “He said to tell you that he represents ‘the brothers’ and you would want to talk to him.”
“Put him through.”—Then after a pause, “Mr. Killingworth?”
“Yes, but you should call me Shawn. I’ll be your campaign manager in your run for president.”
“That was fast! I just talked to Mr. Hogson a bit earlier today.”
“Yeah, those Hogsons don’t let any grass grow under their feet. At any rate, as I said, I’m your new campaign manager. We need to get started. You have a difficult year and a half ahead of you. Are you up to it?”
Jason was not used to things happening so quickly. “How much do you get paid, and how do I pay you?”
“You needn’t concern yourself with those matters. I work for the Hogson Corporation. They pay me. I’m a salaried employee. However, we have a grueling series of primary elections to get through. If you think running for governor was tough, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. You can plan on spending the next eighteen months living on the point of exhaustion.”
“Have you managed presidential campaigns before?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, I guess you have a right to know a little about me. Let me give you a quick summary. I was a young, star-eyed volunteer in Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 and again in 1984. By time George Bush senior ran, I had worked my way up to a paid position, and I travelled from state to state as part of a team setting up his campaign appearances in advance. I worked for Bob Dole in 1996, and we got him nominated. We could have had him elected president if he had followed our advice, but after he won the nomination he started to think he didn’t need us. He convinced himself that he had won the nomination on his own merits, so we dumped him and left him to his fate. Let that be a lesson to you.
“After the Dole campaign, I was hired by the Hogson Brothers to manage their political interests. It was my organization that got George Bush junior elected. In fact, I was the guy who came up with the phrase ‘compassionate conservative.’ By the end of his first term, the public realized that he was a lousy president and that our two guys, Cheney and Rumsfeld, were really running the country, but we managed to get him re-elected anyway. Without our help, he would have been a one-term president. Unfortunately, he got uppity and stopped listening to us in the middle of his second term and started doing things his own way. He fired Rumsfeld and stopped listening to Cheney. He refused to take orders from us. Getting Bush reelected was a big mistake. We would have been better off letting John Kerry run the country. Kerry is an honest man, and we would have had no influence with him, but it would have been better for us to have him in the White House than that intellectually challenged bastard who suddenly decided in his sixth year in office that he was going to act like a real president. We learned from that. We won’t make that mistake again. In the future, anyone who doesn’t toe the line is going to pay a big price and not simply end up as a pariah as Bush has.
“I next managed John McCain’s campaign, and I would have gotten him elected, but he insisted on proving that he was a maverick and wouldn’t take my orders. He picked that idiot Sarah Palin as his running mate, even though I pleaded with him not to. That was another mistake we made. As we did with Dole, we dumped McCain after we got him nominated. When you make a mistake that big, the best thing to do is discard the candidate and cut your losses.”
Jason interrupted. “But Sarah Palin was the sweetheart of the conservatives. Wasn’t she a plus on the Republican ticket?”
“She may have been the sweetheart of some of the stupider conservatives, but everybody else could see that she has very little between the ears. Can you imagine what a disaster it would have been if something had happened to McCain in office and Palin had become president? She’s too much of an airhead to even understand our orders let alone carry them out.”
“I see your point,” Jason replied.
“There’s a reason I’m telling you all this. If you want to get elected, you’ll do things our way. Rebel and we’ll drop you like a hot potato, and even worse might happen to you. We know about the skeletons you have in the closet.
“Obama is up for re-election. He’s a popular president, and he’ll be hard to defeat. He’s not a bad president from our point of view. He plays along with us halfway. For example, he made sure that the bankers who made themselves rich and crashed the economy during the Bush administration got off scot-free. The Hogsons made billions from that crash, and Obama made sure that no one’s the wiser. The poor bastards whose retirement funds owned the banks’ stock and the mortgage-backed securities got stuck with the bill.”
Jason was impressed. “There’s no way I could run for president at this time of my life if it weren’t for you and the Hogson brothers. Don’t worry. I’m completely in your hands, but speaking of getting rich, is there any possibility that I might end up well-off?”
“Behave yourself, and do as we tell you, and we’ll make sure you get a cut of the action.”
“Are you sure you can get me elected?”
“No question. The Supreme Court did us a big favor recently, for which I will modestly claim some of the credit. Starting this year, supposedly independent political action committees will be able to spend unlimited money on the primaries. The Hogson brothers are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their man into the White House. We’ll be running all sorts of ‘independent’ ads slinging mud at your opponents and praising you, and thanks to our buddies on the Supreme Court, no one will be able to trace where the money came from.”
There’s not enough space in this book to go through the primary process in detail, so I’ll just give you an overview. If I were to print here all of the things that Jason told me in our interviews before his death, you would be astounded. You may be under the impression that the president of the United States is selected by a democratic process. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A small number of very rich, mostly white, and mostly male oligarchs pick the president all the while putting on a show to make it look as if the president were selected by the will of the people.
Campaigning had to begin in 2011. The primaries, which normally begin in February, started right after New Year due to a revolt of the state Republican parties against headquarters in Washington. Traditionally, the primary season begins with the Iowa caucuses in the first week of February followed a week later by the New Hampshire primary. Then come the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary. In 2012, a number of states moved their primaries ahead of Iowa to January in the hopes of getting more national attention by displacing Iowa’s reputation as “first in the nation.” Not wanting to give up their importance in the nomination race, Iowa and New Hampshire pushed their caucus and primary election respectively to just after New Year. The Iowa caucus was held on January 3, a day when many voters had still not shaken off the effects of their New Year’s hangovers. By the time an attenuated Super Tuesday rolled around on March 6, 13 states had already held their presidential primaries.
Jason followed an exhausting schedule flying from state to state to campaign, but he consoled himself with the thought that the other candidates were working even harder, because they did not have the support organization behind them that he had. The other candidates had to spend part of their time begging for donations, for example. Jason didn’t have that responsibility. Jason also didn’t have to worry about spending time with a team of speechwriters. A week before each campaign appearance, a courier arrived with the speeches he was to give the following week. Luckily, there was enough repetition that he was almost able to memorize the speeches and could deliver them with only an occasional glance at his notes:
“The Constitution guarantees every American citizen the right to bear arms, and I’ll make sure that the Constitution is obeyed. When I’m president, every illegal immigrant will be shipped back to Mexico. I promise to scrap the Federal Reserve, which is printing money so fast that it’s ruining our country by promoting run-away inflation. I will also do away with the hated Internal Revenue Service that is bleeding Americans dry and taking away money the rightfully belongs to them. If you earned the money, it belongs to you and not to the government. Thanks to the conspiracy between the dysfunctional Obama administration, the big banks, and the Federal Reserve, inflation is eating up the paychecks of the average worker. We can stop inflation dead in its tracks by returning to the gold standard.”
Jason now understood why the Hogson brothers had picked him as their candidate. Except for the promise to abolish the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Service and go back to the gold standard, most of the points in the speeches could have been lifted from his speeches when he ran for governor. Even Jason realized that these ideas were nuts. Returning to the gold standard was an especially dim-witted idea that appealed to people who didn’t know enough about economics to balance their own checkbooks and if implemented would take the United State economy back the Stone Age era of bartering. He couldn’t believe that the Hogson brothers wanted any of these things to happen, but he understood their appeal to the dumbbells who voted for rightwing candidates. He was enough of a politician by now to know the wisdom of promising the voters whatever they wanted to hear, even if those promises were beyond ridiculous and you had no intention of keeping them.
However, there were differences in the speeches written for different states. The nominating process began with the caucuses in Iowa. Shawn told him that he would “be spending most of his time in the northwest part of the state. “That’s where our people are. It’s very important that you come across as a conservative Protestant fundamentalist.”
Jason changed the subject. “Why is Iowa so important?. Iowa sends less than one percent of the delegates to the Republican Convention.”
“Yeah, but it’s ‘First in the Nation,’ and gets more press coverage than any other state during the primary season. The press writes that whoever wins the Iowa caucuses has ‘momentum.’ If you can get voters to believe that, you start a bandwagon effect. People want to be able to brag that they voted for the winner.”
Jason had another objection, “I’m not religious—in fact I’m an atheist—but I was baptized Catholic. How am I going to come across as a Bible-thumping rightwing Protestant?”
Shawn had an easy answer for that one. “You’re a good actor, Jason. Watch the religious TV stations, and you’ll soon get a feel for how to scam those people. The preachers on religious TV have the act down to a science. Some of them are boozers and maintain harems of mistresses, but when they’re in front of the TV cameras, they slip into a very self-righteous role. Think of Jim and Tammy Baker. If they can fake it, you can fake it. If people think that you have the same religious values that they have, they’re not going to question which church you go to.”
“Or don’t go to,” Jason added.
The speeches Jason was to deliver in Iowa all stressed the need for much larger federal government subsidies for ethanol. “Why do we want to push more federal subsidies?” Jason was puzzled. “I thought I was supposed to be against big government.”
“You are against big government and for bigger ethanol subsidies at the same time. You don’t understand the conservative mind. They’re all against big government when they see the other guy’s snout in the trough. When it comes to their own interests, they all want to milk the government for every cent they can. Iowa grows lots of corn, which is used to make ethanol. Giving food to the poor is anathema to conservative values. Using taxpayer money to give government subsidies to rich farmers fits right in with conservative ideology.”
Jason had known next to nothing about Iowa before the campaign started. He quickly learned that so-called “Christian values,” were of utmost important to Iowa Republicans, especially in in the northwest corner of the state where he held up to three rallies a day. He also learned that Christian values had their limit. Fundamentalist Christian values were very much aimed at giving more benefits to the already well off. They did not include sympathy for the poor, the immigrants, or people with a darker skin color. Jason could see the influence of people like the Hogsons in shaping these peoples’ opinions. There was no other explanation for the fact that so many people were ready to act against their own interests by demanding that the government give their money to people who were already fabulously wealthy.
Iowa has a largely rural population with scattered small towns and no real cities. Only three percent of the population is black and only a bit over five percent is Latino. Almost 90 percent of the population identifies as white, non-Hispanic compared to 62 percent of the nation as a whole. Most Iowan Republicans had no idea about the problems of non-whites, and most of them didn’t want to know. “Send those people back where they came from!” was a popular refrain.
“Ethanol is essential in reducing air pollution in our country,” Jason declaimed before one rural gathering after another. “When I am president, I will mandate that gasoline sold in the United States contain at least 30 percent ethanol. That is essential so that our children and grandchildren have clean air to breath.” Christian values could include a bit of environmentalism, as long as the environmentalism lined the pockets of the believer.
“I also promise to increase all federal farm subsidies. Our farm families are the backbone of American society, and I promise that I will protect them. My grandparents were small farmers in Europe who came to this country, because in Europe farmers were starving to death. Here they were welcomed. I learned about farming at my grandparents’ knees. Farming is in my roots. Our government needs to do more to support farmers and preserve our cherished American values.”
His grandparents probably didn’t even know which end of a hoe to pick up, and as far as that was concerned, neither did Jason, but this was politics, and “stretching the truth,” as Shawn called it, was par for the course.
And on religion: “When I was a young man, I led a life of sin and depravity. I drank alcohol, and I fornicated. Then the Lord appeared to me in a dream and told me that I was saved. He lifted me from my sinful life and set me on a straight path. Glory be to God! I accepted Jesus Christ our Lord as my savior. Hallelujah! And it was God who appeared to me and told me to run for president to save this sinful nation. We are living in the last days. The Lord is about to appear on Earth again, and when he does, those of us who have been saved will go with him to live in Heaven. Those who have not accepted Jesus Christ will descend into the fires of Hell and spend eternity in unspeakable anguish. I am so grateful to the Lord for havin’ chosen me to save this great nation and return it to its former splendor. Glory to God!”
To which many in the audience replied in chorus, “Amen.”
The whole time Jason was eyeing a particularly buxom woman in the front row and thinking to himself, “Boy! Would I like to screw her!”
“When I am elected president,” Jason continued, “I will make sure that this country is run accordin’ to strict Christian values.”—Jason was trying to remember to drop his g’s as he spoke.—I will do everything in my power to overturn Roe v Wade and make sure that the lives of unborn children are held sacred.”
Again, there were cries of “Amen!” from the audience, louder this time.
Of course, none of this was true. Jason was not only a baptized Catholic, he hadn’t been inside a church since he was a teenager on the rare occasions when his parents had managed to rope him into attending mass. As to abortion, he didn’t care one way or another. He was lucky enough to be a man and was never going to get knocked up, so why should he care? Pregnancy and abortions were women’s problems.
In New Hampshire, the message was different. In Iowa, only 25 percent of the population had graduated from a university, and most of the college educated were Democrats. In New Hampshire, 33 percent of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree, and some college graduates were Republicans, even though the Republican Party had been losing influence among the better educated since the 1990s when the far right began to take over the party. However, Jason’s job was to appeal to the conservative Republicans who now formed the core of the New Hampshire Republican Party and not to the people who used to be Republicans. That meant dumbing down his message not quite as much as he had done in Iowa but more than he would have done if he were campaigning in the general election. He would worry about the Democrats and independent voters when the general election rolled around and hope that they had forgotten his primary speeches by then.
“One of the first things I’m gonna’ do when I’m elected is overturn Obamacare. People should have the right to choose which healthcare insurance they want to buy or whether they buy health insurance at all. It’s un-American to tax people and force them to give money to the big insurance companies against their will. That’s not what this great country stands for.”
Jason spent most of his time flying back and forth between Iowa and New Hampshire with occasional forays into other early primary states such as South Carolina. He had a bus permanently stationed in Iowa with “Jason for President” painted on both sides in bright red letters. No matter where he was in Iowa, he railed against taxes.
“My plan is to introduce a flat tax. Everyone in America will pay the same tax rate, and it will be fair to all. I will also eliminate corporate income taxes. We need to attract industry back from places like China and Mexico and provide jobs for Americans, not for the Chinese. Zero income tax on corporations will encourage companies like Apple to bring their profits back to America and stop hiding them in overseas accounts. When that money is in America, it will make our economy stronger and make us all more prosperous. It’s time to make America great again! This country was chosen by God to lead the world. Under the Democrats, our administration has shown itself to be weak with a pathetic foreign policy. In a Wilder administration, America will again take the place that God intended it to take as the undisputed world superpower. ”
After the rally, a New York reporter cornered Jason and asked in a cheeky tone of voice, “Say, Jason, aren’t you divorced? How does that play with your claim to be a servant of God?”
“Yes, I am divorced. When I found the Lord, my wife wasn’t prepared to walk with me on the path to salvation. She continued her sinful ways under Satan’s influence, and we parted.”
Lupita was furious when she read Jason’s words, or rather a French translation of them. She was flying business class on Air France back to the United States from a sales meeting in Paris, and had tucked a copy of the newspaper Le Figaro under her arm to read on the plane. The French press, along with most of the rest of the world, was following the American presidential campaign with great interest. On the front page was a headline that translates into English as “Jason Wilder Appeals to the Iowa Extreme Right.” Under it was what the French press calls a chapeau or summary of the article. It read in translation, “Mr. Wilder Says Ex-Wife under Satan’s Influence.”
Lupita had to restrain herself from screaming out loud in the crowded airplane. Her anger must have shown on her face, because a passing flight attendant stopped and asked her, “Y-at-il quelque chose qui vous dérange, madame ? Is something wrong, ma’am?”
“Non, rien merci. No, nothing.”
Lupita had to change from Air France flight to a United Airlines flight in Newark, and by the time she landed in Phoenix, she was exhausted from lack of sleep. When she arrived home, without bothering to change into something more comfortable, she picked up the phone and dialed her lawyer.
“Lincoln, did you read in the papers what that asshole who’s my ex-husband said about me?”
“Yes, I did. You’re well rid of that guy.”
“That’s not the point! I want to know if there’s anything I can do to get even. Can I sue the bastard for libel?”
“Claiming that Jason’s statement is libelous would be impossible to prove in court, because there’s no legal way to prove that Satan even exists. Therefore, it’s not possible to say over whom he does or does not exert influence. Am I making sense?”
“No you’re not. What you just said sounds like lawyer speak, but I do understand that you think I can’t sue him and win. I’m not at all happy with that answer,” said Lupita just before she slammed down the phone.” I want to get even with that son-of-a-bitch!” she yelled to herself. Then she took a few breaths. It wasn’t fair to take it out on Lincoln. This was a matter between her and Jason. She would find a way to put that bastard in his place. She also vowed to stop swearing. She’d never used that sort of language before she met Jason.
Jason was smart enough to understand why the Hogson brothers were pushing the low tax agenda. The elimination of corporate income tax would benefit them enormously as would a flat tax with its resultant shifting of even more of the tax burden from the rich to the middle class. The country as a whole would suffer. The lowest-income groups would bear the burden of financing the government, and high-income people including the Hogson Brothers would make out like bandits. Reduced taxes would mean very little money for maintaining the country’s roads and bridges, but that wouldn’t affect the Hogsons in the least. They didn’t drive; they flew in private jets and helicopters. It didn’t matter to them if the roads and bridges went to pot and educational standards slipped even farther. As to the rhetoric about eliminating the IRS and putting the country on the gold standard, Jason knew that the Hogsons weren’t serious. That was pabulum to feed the unwashed masses.
Jason didn’t care about ordinary people, either. He was already seeing himself as a member of the elite. The whole country could go to hell in a hand basket, as far as he was concerned. He was smarter than other people were. He had great confidence in himself and believed that he would come out on top no matter what happened to the rest of the country. He suspected that the Hogsons would do even better.
Just as the primary campaign was, the general election campaign was made very easy for Jason. His job was to travel, hold rallies, and make speeches. He didn’t have to worry about financing, planning, or even writing his own speeches. The funds somehow magically appeared from multiple donors. Jason had no idea who the donors were, and given the newer opaque campaign-finance laws made possible by the Hogson-controlled Supreme Court, no one else could trace the money back to its source either. In panel discussion shows on TV news programs, analysts and reporters asked where all of the money was coming from that was financing the attack ads against Barack Obama but no one had the answer.
All the paperwork such as finance reports were taken care of behind the scenes without Jason’s intervention. Most of the campaign funding was spent off the books at any rate, making the campaign finance reports pure works of fiction. Jason didn’t know how those accounting tricks were pulled, but he was relieved to not have to worry about such details. Jason almost felt as if running for president were an automated process. All he had to do was to show up where he was told to, when he was told to, and say what he was told to say. “This is so simple and automated, I wonder if there’s an app for it?” he asked himself whimsically.
Having it easy did not make Jason happy. He was used to being in control, but now unseen persons were manipulating him from behind the scenes. The thought kept coming back to him that he had sold his soul in exchange for a chance at power and riches. Like Faust, he was gaining the power and riches that he had sold his soul to obtain, but in the end, hoped it would be possible to back out of the agreement and keep his soul as Faust had done. At some point, somehow, he would have to get out from under the Hogsons’ thumb. Nevertheless, for the moment it was best to play along. The important thing at present was to become president of the United States. He could deal with the Hogsons later from a position of power.
On the other hand, was he really going to win? His poll numbers were depressing. They had him in third place in the Republican primary race nationally. In Iowa he was second, and in New Hampshire he was fourth. The polls also indicated that if he were the Republican nominee, he would lose to Barack Obama in the general election by a wide margin. Fifty-seven percent of the electorate viewed him unfavorably against 31 percent who viewed him favorably. He had good reason to feel depressed. This was not what the Hogsons had promised. Perhaps they were not nearly as powerful as they had led him to believe.
“Don’t worry,” Shawn assured him, “I promise you everything is in good hands. The poll numbers mean nothing. Trust me on this. This will end just as we want it to.”
Jason didn’t trust him, and as the race went on, Jason came in second or third in primary after primary, in caucus after caucus. He didn’t win a single one of them. Jefferson Cunningham led in the number of delegates, and Andrew Parsons was running a close second. The two were running too close to each other in the delegate race to predict which of them would come out on top. Jason trailed them both. Again, Shawn Killingworth attempted to reassure him. “The voters are under the impression that they decide who is going to be president. They don’t. I’m telling you not to worry. You will be nominated. We have this under control.”
When the primaries were over, Jason was still third, but he had enough delegates to act as a spoiler. Neither of the other two candidates had enough delegates to claim the nomination outright. Of the 2,286 delegates up for grabs, Jason had only 532 committed to vote for him. Andrew Parsons had 864 delegates and Jefferson Cunningham had 792. Ninety-eight delegates were uncommitted, but few of them appeared to be leaning toward Jason. To win the nomination, a candidate was required to have the support of 50 percent plus one of the delegate votes. Even if all of the uncommitted delegates were to vote for Jefferson Cunningham, he would not have enough to win the nomination. Whoever won would need some of Jason’s delegates.
“I thought you were going to make sure that I won this race,” Jason complained to Shawn. “Instead, it looks as if I will get to decide which of these other two imbeciles gets the nomination.”
“Relax! I keep telling you to leave this to me,” was Shawn’s answer. “I know what I’m doing. Just hold your pants on; it ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings, and she ain’t even on stage yet.”
“It’s hard to have confidence in you and the Hogson brothers when I don’t even have a shot of being nominated.”
“Take solace from history,” Shawn” countered. “James Garfield was also in third place when the Republican Convention began in 1880, but on the 36th ballot he won the nomination and went on to become president.”
“That’s a bad example. Garfield was shot by a nut job soon after taking office and then died a lingering and painful death at the hands of an incompetent doctor. That’s not the way I want to end up.”
The Republicans had not had a brokered convention since 1948, so no one could predict the outcome. On the opening ballot, most delegates were required to vote for the candidate they were elected to represent, but if no candidate received a majority of the votes, which seemed assured to happen, delegates would be free on later ballots to switch to another candidate. Ballots would continue to be taken until one candidate prevailed. There would be intense behind-the-scenes negotiations in an attempt to switch delegate votes from one candidate to another.
The Republican Convention was held in Tampa, Florida. The Convention was opened at 2 pm on August 27 and recessed 10 minutes later due to Tropical Storm Isaac’s expected arrival. However, the storm veered west and struck the coast of Louisiana. Before balloting could begin, the Party had to settle a kerfuffle among the Maine delegates. Opposing groups of the Maine Republican Party had each sent a slate of delegates to the convention, one slate in favor of Andrew Parsons and the other in favor of Jefferson Cunningham. The dispute ended in a compromise. The official Maine delegation would be made up of half of the proposed delegates from each group. The decision split Maine’s delegation down the middle and made it irrelevant in early balloting.
Once all of the boring opening speeches were over, the convention settled down to the business of picking a Republican nominee. However, that proved to be difficult. The convention held ballot after ballot, but neither of the two leading candidates could obtain the 1,144 delegates necessary to win the nomination. For decades, the primary elections had decided who the presidential candidate of both parties would be long before the conventions were held, and the party conventions were viewed as rubber-stamp events whose main purpose was to give the delegates an opportunity to have a good time and feel that they were important. The convention delegates were incapable of doing the job for which they were ostensibly there: To pick a nominee. In the old days when the candidate was selected in “smoke-filled rooms” off the convention floor, things went more smoothly. Party bosses had control over the delegates and decided how they should vote. Now, the skills developed in those days to handle a deadlocked convention had been lost. The delegates were much more ideological and not inclined to be bossed around by self-appointed bigwigs.
Representatives of the three candidates met behind closed doors in an attempt to resolve the impasse. The meetings dragged on without resolution. The leaders of the Parsons and Cunningham campaigns both appealed to Jason’s representatives to release Jason’s delegates to their candidate, but acting under Shawn’s instruction, Jason refused, and his delegates loyally and stubbornly continued to vote for him. Floor vote succeeded floor vote with neither of the leading candidates winning a majority and Jason’s coming in third. The press reported a rumor that representatives of the Cunningham campaign had offered some of Jason’s male delegates “a good time” in exchange for changing their votes, but when word leaked out, Jason’s delegates expressed an even stronger loyalty to him. If they changed their votes now, it would appear that they had been bought.
Cunningham finally conceded that he could not win, but he refused to endorse Parsons, for whom he had developed a deep hatred. The time for gaveling the convention to a close approached, and still no candidate had been nominated. The convention could not end that way. A candidate had to be nominated, so the convention was extended for an extra day at great expense to its sponsors.
As it became increasingly obvious that neither the Parsons nor Jefferson could win, wiser heads began to exert their influence. They persuaded each of the two leading candidates to release his delegates with the stipulation the other would not be nominated. The only person left in the running was Jason, who began to fill quite complacent. However, his optimism was premature. The Republican establishment at first refused to accept him as a compromise candidate. He stood for the ideas of the “crazy” right wing of the party and not for the establishment’s more traditional Republican values.
The party leaders discussed drafting Arizona senator John McCain. However, after some discussion, that idea was discarded as impractical. McCain’s expressed political views were all over the map depending on which group he was trying to please. Rather than gaining him popularity, McCain’s machinations had angered people in all wings of the Republican Party. The diminishing coterie of moderates considered him far too conservative, and the growing number of Republican right-wingers found him to be too moderate. They called him a RINO, Republican in Name Only.
McCain’s ignorance of economic matters was painfully obvious to all. The Republican bigwigs feared that Obama would run circles around John McCain as soon as the subject turned to the nation’s economic problems. McCain’s only smart economic move had been to marry a rich heiress after his marital infidelity had brought his first marriage to an end. McCain was a war hawk in an era when Americans were tiring of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. His solution to all foreign problems was to bomb anyone he didn’t like out of existence and then send in American troops.
The Republican establishment finally threw in the towel. If neither of the leading two candidates could win the nomination, they would have to accept Jason as the Republican compromise candidate, no matter how distasteful they found the idea. They recognized that his powerful backing by the Hogson brothers gave him an excellent chance of winning the election. In the end, winning was all that mattered, and no one wanted to be on the wrong side of the Hogsons. Parsons and Jefferson, each mollified by the fact that the other would not win the nomination, both put the word out that they were releasing their delegates to vote for Jason Wilder. Perhaps a little behind-the-scenes prodding from the Hogsons helped them reach that decision.
On the next roll-call vote, state after state announced that its delegation was voting for Jason Wilder. Finally, there was a motion from the floor to nominate him by acclimation. The roughest part of the campaigning was over. Only three months remained until November’s general election, and this time there was only one opponent, the sitting president, Barack Obama.
The Convention had one more task to complete, the nomination of Jason’s vice-presidential running mate. By tradition, the presidential nominee picked the vice-presidential candidate and the Convention delegates rubber stamped the decision. What the delegates didn’t know was that Jason would in turn rubber-stamp the candidate that the Hogson brothers had probably already chosen for him. Jason was curious to know who his running mate would be. He hoped the Hogson brothers wouldn’t extend an olive branch to either Cunningham or Parsons by offering the vice-presidential slot to one of those idiots. He hated them both.
Jason’s suspense didn’t last long. The phone rang. It was Shawn. “Your running mate is Chamita Monroe.”
“Who?” Jason asked with his ignorance obvious in his voice.
“Senator Chamita Monroe from Texas.”
“Never heard of her,” Jason responded, still sounding dubious.
“Well, you’d better start brushing up on her, because you’re going to meet her before you make your acceptance speech. Google her and make yourself familiar with her history. For now, I’ll give you a quick fill-in. She’s the second African-American woman to ever be elected to the United States Senate. The first was Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois, of course. Oh, and while you’re Googleing her, I’ll have an information packet about her sent over. It will not only tell you who she is, it will tell you why you picked her, well, the reason you’re supposed to tell the press. Then this evening the three of us will have a late diner together in my hotel room at 9 pm. I expect you to have done some homework that time. By tomorrow you’ve got to be able to handle questions from the press about your running mate.”
“Why did I pick her?”
“Officially, because she balances the ticket. She’s from the South, and you’re from the North. She’s black, and you’re white. She’s a woman, and you’re a man. The fact that she’s African-American will help deflect the accusations that you’re a racist. The two of you will be running against the first black president in American history, so it will be very helpful to have a person of color on the ticket. She’s also the first African-American of any gender to be elected to the Senate from the South since Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce represented Mississippi during reconstruction. That was before the Klu Klux Klan took over the state and suppressed the black vote. She’s also a great speech-maker.”
“OK, those are the official reasons for public consumption. What’s the real reason?”
“She’s one of ours, of course. She’s been doing an outstanding job of looking out for the Hogsons’ interests in the Senate since she was first elected. As vice president, she’ll preside over the Senate and be able to help us even more.”
The late diner did not go well. It was apparent to Jason as soon as he walked into the room that Senator Chamita Monroe had a chip on her shoulder. Instead of addressing Jason by his first name, she insisted on calling him Governor Wilder. “I’ve read your speeches. It seems that you have a low opinion of black people, Governor Wilder.”
Jason suppressed an urge to repeat the cliché “Some of my best friends are black.” In truth, he had no black friends and had never had much interaction with anyone didn’t have lily-white skin except Lupita since he had moved out of the dorm room he shared with Jimmy Jefferson at Arizona State University decades ago. He came up with a typical politician’s evasive response, “I’m sorry you have that impression. I hope that as you get to know me, you’ll find out that that isn’t true and that we can be friends.”
Chamita wasn’t buying it, “As I said, I’ve read your speeches. You not only don’t like blacks, you don’t like Mexicans. You refer to the United States as a white Christian nation. That sounds pretty racist to me. My opinion of you is that you’re a white supremacist.”
Jason didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about blacks or Mexicans. He didn’t give them much thought, just as he didn’t give much thought to anyone unless it was to figure out how he could take advantage of the person. However, he wasn’t going to admit that. Aloud he said, “From what Shawn has told me, I think you’re in a position to know that I didn’t write my own speeches. You should know better than to take the content of my speeches as my true beliefs. In my speeches I said what I was told to say. If you’ve looked into me at all, you should know that my former wife is a Mexican.”
“Former wife? Obviously that didn’t work out. You chucked her as soon as you entered politics. You couldn’t get rid of her fast enough. Were you ashamed to have a brown-skinned wife by your side? However, I admit that I’ve also had to say things in speeches that I don’t believe. That doesn’t mean that I’m convinced that you’re not a racist. I’ll be keeping an eye on you, and we’ll see if your actions change my opinion.”
“Let’s not fight over this,” Shawn interrupted. “We had Jason use the tactics that were required to win the Republican nomination. Now that we’re switching to the general election, it’s time to change tactics. We’ll be appealing to the broader electorate from now on, and that means no more references to white America. We need to get some black and Hispanic votes to win this election.”
“Is that why I’m on the ticket? Chamita asked. “Am I the token house nigger broad?”
Shawn was a bit taken aback at the vulgarity of Chamita’s question, but he didn’t completely lose his composure. “The fact that you’re black and the fact that you’re a woman are both important. Until Obama was elected, no person of color had ever been elected either president or vice president of the United States. I won’t deny that your skin color is an advantage in this election. As the first woman and the first black person to be vice president, you will be a role model for others. However, that’s not the reason we picked you. We think you’re the best person for the job. And, don’t forget that vice presidents often go on to become president. You’d make an excellent president if you’d learn to control your tongue.”
Jason asked, “Is that a subtle threat aimed at me? Are you implying that if I’m elected president, something could happen to me in office and Senator Monroe would take over?”
“Take it for what you want to. Now stop referring to each other as Governor Wilder and Ms. Monroe. From now on it’s first names: Jason and Chamita. Got it?”
“That’s not going to be easy,” Chamita responded.
Jason and Chamita didn’t become friends during the meal, but Jason noted that she was very intelligent with a quick grasp of the facts. She also had a PhD in philosophy and was well versed in international politics. In short, she was much better educated that Jason was, and although he didn’t say it aloud, he recognized that she was much better qualified to be president than he was. He was certain that if she were white and male, their roles would be reversed. That made him hate her all the more.
After the convention was over, Jason had a brief respite from politicking. He and Chamita would hit the campaign trail soon—they would start with a joint appearance in Chicago—but in the meantime, there was little chance of getting news coverage. The Democratic Convention, which would be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, was about to start and wouldn’t end until September 6. Until then, the Democrats would suck up all of the news coverage, even though it was a foregone conclusion that they would nominate Barack Obama to run for a second presidential term.
Shawn decided that it would be a good time for Jason to visit his parents in Chicago, whom he hadn’t seen since the Christmas vacation he spent with them during his freshman year at Arizona State. Maybe they could use the visit to drum up some press coverage. Shawn said that showing himself as a loving son from working-class Chicago would help him with the Illinois vote. Obama was also from Chicago, so the Chicago papers billed the presidential election as a battle between two hometown boys, Obama, the elite and wealthy black constitutional lawyer from the Southside and Jason, the working-class white boy from the Northside. Obama would have more support in the city itself, which leaned heavily Democratic, but Jason could count on support from the suburbs, which were largely white and Republican. Obama would probably carry Illinois, but Shawn wanted Jason to at least put up the appearance of trying to win votes in the city where he was born. It would be a big upset if Obama were to lose the election in his home state.
Jason didn’t call his parents to arrange the visit. In fact, he wasn’t keen on the idea of visiting them at all. He left it up to Shawn and his people to arrange the visit and to book Jason’s airplane ticket. The Secret Service would book the tickets for Jason’s security detail. The airplane that he would use during the campaign was still being repainted with the Wilder & Monroe logo in large letters on both sides, so he flew first class on a commercial flight.
The first communication Craig and Irene had with Jason was when the latter stepped off the plane at O’Hare Airport. Shawn’s people had arranged for his parents to be chauffeured to the airport in a luxurious limousine with a Secret Service and police escort and also made sure that the Chicago press was there to record the family reunion when Shawn emerged from airport security and gave a big hug, first to his Mom, Irene, and then to his dad, Craig.
How his parents had aged! Craig was now 88 years old and had to use a walker to get around. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer had a persistent cough. At 74, Irene was getting up in age, too. Jason wondered if his father would survive long enough to see him inaugurated as president of the United States in January. Well, if he didn’t, too bad for him. Absence had not made Jason’s heart grow fonder of his parents.
It was no longer simple for Jason to travel even a short distance. He and his parents were driven to the house on Fletcher Street in a caravan of black SUVs and limousines that also carried members of the press and Jason’s Secret Service bodyguards. His parents were now also assigned their own Secret Service detail. The entire caravan that left the airport must have consisted of 30 automobiles, all with tinted windows. A Secret Service agent who rode in the limousine with the family explained that many of the other automobiles were decoys so that any possible terrorists wouldn’t know which car to attack.
Jason didn’t know what to say to his parents in the car, but Craig started the conversation, “You come a long way, Jason, and you done it on your own. I still regret that your Mom and me weren’t able to help you more when you were a student.”
Jason remained quiet. This was not a comfortable situation.
After a while, Craig continued, “Your Mom and me never thought you’d break off all contact with us. So now you come back, now that you’re a big shot.”
“Look, Dad! I’m no happier with this situation than you are. Let’s just try to get along for the few days I’m here. I promise you and Mom will be well compensated.”
Irene, who had been silent since they entered the car, finally spoke up, “We don’t want your money Jason. What we wanted was a son, but we didn’t get one. No amount of money can make up for that.”
“Suit yourself, Mom. The money’s available. It really doesn’t matter to me if you take it or not.”
It made quite an impression when the whole entourage entered the Fletcher Street in a long caravan. Jason would never travel alone again. For the rest of his short life, he would constantly be surrounded by Secret Service agents and often by the press as well. Members of both groups would accompany him in a caravan of black cars with darkly tinted windows whenever he traveled by land and would surround him in the plane wherever he flew.
The neighbors’ initial enthusiasm wore thin when police blockaded Fletcher Street and much of the surrounding neighborhood. TV trucks with high microwave towers set up operations in front of Craig and Irene’s house, and Secret Service agents began going from door to door asking residents about their overseas connections and if they owned guns. Few of them did. Entering and leaving the street became difficult, and even sleep was disturbed by the noisy reporters who filled the street 24 hours a day. Neighbor women, who were used to dropping by to have a cup of tea and a half hour of gossip in Irene’s kitchen, were blocked from approaching the Wilder house by men wearing dark suits and dark glasses with an earphone in one ear.
Reporters vied with each other to interview the Wilders’ neighbors since the Secret Service kept them away from the Wilders themselves. “What was Jason like as a kid? Is there anything special about him that sticks in your memory? How did he get along with the other kids? What was he like as a teenager? Did you know when he was growing up that he would someday run for the presidency of the United States?”
Jason had been a rotten kid, of course, but now that he was famous, the neighbors all remembered him as a marvelous child. They all knew even when he was small that he was destined for great things. Many of them claimed to be Greg and Irene’s best friends. Not one of them remembered that Jason sometimes smoked pot in the alley, was mean to animals, and made the lives of the younger neighborhood kids miserable. The neighbors grumbled among themselves about the fact that the neighborhood had been taken over by a gang of men in dark suits wearing dark sunglasses, but secretly each of them was proud of the attention. When speaking to the press, they all claimed to be delighted that one of theirs had become so famous.
“I remember when he first learned to ride a bicycle,” one of the neighbors said. “He kept falling down, so I held onto the bike and ran alongside him until he got the hang of it. To think that I taught the future president of the United States how to ride a bike.”
Another woman claimed that she had always baked cookies “especially for Jason. He would come over to my house and sit in the kitchen, because he always knew that I had milk and cookies for him.”
Inside the Wilder house, things were not going well. Jason didn’t want to be there, and he didn’t hide that fact from his parents. He wasn’t even allowed to walk out the front door without making arrangements with his Secret Service detail in advance so that a small army of men could walk with him, keeping him surrounded at all times. He wondered if someone was spying on him when he went to the bathroom to take a piss. “If I asked one of those guys to come in here and wipe my ass for me, he’d probably do it,” Jason thought.
There was no sense going outside or anywhere else if it was so complicated. He felt penned up in the house. He went to his old bedroom and closed the door. It was the only place where he could be alone. He called Shawn on his cell phone.”
“Shawn, you gotta’ get me outa’ here. I can’t take this. No way am I gonna’ stay cooped up in this house. I can’t stand my parents, and they can’t stand me. There is no way we can continue bottled up together like this. This visit wasn’t a good idea.”
“You’re going to have to show some patience, Jason. We need to create the impression that you come from a loving family.”
“Loving family? Christ! You should be here! I’m telling you I can’t take this for a week. A few more hours of this, and I’m gonna’ explode.”
“OK. A couple of us will put our heads together and see what we can come up with. In the meantime, you’ve got to act the part of a loving son.”
“Sweet Jesus! That’s not gonna’ be easy. Make it quick, please,” and he hung up.
Irene had cooked supper for the three of them. That’s not quite true. Shawn had arranged for a caterer to deliver a meal in advance, and Irene had heated it in the microwave. Jason’s cell phone rang. It was Shawn. “Jason, I’ve arranged for ABC News to get an exclusive of the happy family sitting around the diner table. Let them in to shoot some video. They need to film you eating and talking to each other. It’s a way to squeeze in a few words about our side amid the blanket TV coverage of the Democratic Convention.”
Jason’s parents were more than happy to have a normal conversation with him while the TV crew filmed. The family tried to act as if the TV crew and the off-camera Secret Service agents were not present. The crew shot an hour of video, which was going to be edited down to a one-minute blurb on the national news. The family made a show of eating and talking while the crew filmed. Occasionally the director would give them orders such as, “Jason, hold your fork in your right hand, look toward your father, and talk to him. It doesn’t matter what you say. The audio, is off. We’ll do a voice-over when we show the video clip on the news.”
“You know, Pop, one thing I miss about being in Chicago is going to see the Cubs. I hope when this campaign is over that I have time to relax and watch a baseball game.”
Craig nodded attentively as the cameras recorded the scene. Inwardly he thought, “What the hell? The kid never went with me to see the Cubs when he was living at home.”
The TV crew also wanted some shots of other rooms in the house: the living room, the kitchen with Irene standing at the stove and stirring a pot of stew, which in reality was a pan of cold water placed there as a prop. The director also wanted to film Jason’s bedroom. “Don’t you have a Teddy Bear or something that you used to sleep with when you were a kid?”
“A teddy bear? What kind of a weirdo kid do you think I was? No, I used to read in bed. I never cared for stuffed animals.”
“Well, what did you read? We’ll get a shot of you reading one of your old books.”
Jason looked at the bookshelf in his room. The books were just as he had left them when he moved to Arizona years ago. He grabbed the copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude that he had borrowed from the public library as a teen and never returned. He didn’t have many pleasant memories of his life in Chicago as a teen, but now he remembered how he had enjoyed reading this book. He wondered how many hundred dollars in overdue-book fines he now owed.
“It would look better if you picked a book by an American author,” the director told him. “It would look more patriotic.”
Jason sighed, put down the book and said, “I guess you’re right.” He picked up a slim volume of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men that he had been required to read in a junior high school English course. What a dumb story that was about a couple of losers. However, he asked the reporter, “Will this do? Who could be more American than John Steinbeck?”
No sooner had the TV crew left than the front doorbell rang. It was Shawn. “Jason, I hate to drag you away from your family, but we have a minor emergency. Your house has been broken into back home in Phoenix. You need to fly back and tell the police what was stolen. I’ve got a car to take you to the airport.”
Jason made the necessary excuses to his parents. “I’m sorry to have to go. I was really looking forward to spending some time with you.”
“We understand,” Irene answered. “You’ve got to go. We understand.”
“We’ll miss you son,” Craig lied.
“I’ll miss both of you, too,” Jason replied with equal insincerity as he gave them a big hug.
Jason’s parents were just as glad to see his back as he was to be getting out of the house.
Sitting in the back of the chauffeured limousine with Shawn, as the caravan of black SUVs motored down the freeway Jason said, “This isn’t the way to O’Hare Airport!”
“We’re not going to O’Hare. There’s a private jet waiting at Midway to fly us to Phoenix.”
“A private jet? But I thought my campaign plane wasn’t ready yet.”
“It’s not your campaign plane. We’ve made other arrangements.”
Jason was astounded to see that the private jet wasn’t a small business aircraft but a full-sized Boeing 737. He didn’t have to ask who the plane belonged to. The plane was crewed by a pilot, a copilot, and a steward who served them champagne as they settled into the large, comfortable bucket seats in the front compartment of the plane, which was equipped as a spacious office. Before them was a large mahogany desk with a telephone, and on the wall was a giant plasma TV screen. “Please buckle yourselves in until we take off,” the steward said as he took their now-empty champagne glasses. Once we’re in the air, you can move around the plane, and I’ll be serving some light snacks.”
The “light snacks” turned out to be Russian caviar with crackers and another bottle of champagne. “Man! I could get used to traveling this way!” Jason sighed.
“You’ll travel better than this beginning in January,” Shawn told him. “Don’t forget that with the presidency come two official Boening 747s, and whichever one you’re riding in will be called Air Force One.”
“By the way, was my house really broken into?”
“No, I had someone throw a rock through one of your windows, which set off the burglar alarm. I made sure he wore a black hood so he couldn’t be identified on closed-circuit TV and wore surgical gloves so as not to leave fingerprints. The supposed burglar’s getaway car was picked up on closed-circuit TV cameras, but it was stolen. Sooner or later the police will find it abandoned in the desert north of Scottsdale with no fingerprints. We had the car sanitized before it was abandoned. Don’t worry, the guy barely entered your house, and nothing was taken, but no one will doubt that it was a real burglary attempt. We have people working for us who know how to do this sort of thing.”
When they arrived at Jason’s home, there were two Paradise Valley police cars plus three Arizona Department of Public Safety squad cars parked in front, and the street was blocked with yellow police tape. One of the Secret Service officers identified them to a police officer who lifted the police tape and allowed the limousine to pass. The rest of the motorcade parked in the streets around the house.
Jason unlocked the front door and entered with two of the police officers and three Secret Service agents. He made a show of inspecting every room. “I don’t think anything was taken,” he said finally. “I owe that to the prompt police response. You officers did a great job.”
“Thanks, Governor,” one of them replied. Jason was no longer governor, but everyone in Paradise Valley remembered that he had been.
Jason and Chamita kicked off their campaign with a joint appearance in Chicago, even though they had no hope of carrying the city and only a small hope of carrying the State of Illinois. In addition to picking up the conservative vote in the Chicago suburbs, they hoped to pick up the vote of a few liberals, who were disillusioned with Barack Obama’s performance in office. It wasn’t their decision to begin the campaign in Chicago. Shawn had said it would seem like an insult not to start it in the city where Jason was born. He tried to get Jason’s parents to attend the rally and appear onstage with their son, but they refused. Jason and Chamita assumed that Shawn knew what he was doing, and they did as they were told.
Chamita turned out to be a better speaker than Jason was. There was a certain rhythm in her voice as she read off the speeches that Shawn and his assistants supplied her as she railed against Obama’s and Clinton’s trade agreements, which she claimed were costing American jobs. “When we are in the White House, we will put a high tariff on Chinese imports and bring those high-paying manufacturing jobs back to America. Our country is being flooded with cheap, low-quality imports from Chinese factories. The Chinese are using those products to spy on us. Every time you make a call using a Chinese-built cell phone, or every time your call or Internet connection goes through a piece of Chinese-built telecommunications equipment, someone in China is listening in. Obama refuses to do anything about Chinese spying and economic cheating. When Jason and I are in office, we will put China in its place.
“NAFTA is a bad deal pushed onto the American people by the Clinton administration. Ross Perot was right when he said that NAFTA would cause ‘a giant sucking sound’ as American jobs disappeared south of the border. That is exactly what has happened. Clinton promised us that NAFTA would make Mexico more prosperous and reduce illegal immigration, and what happened? NAFTA made Mexicans poorer, so millions of them poured across our border, willing to work for a few dollars a day and taking jobs away from hard-working American families. When Jason and I are elected, one of the first things we will do is to demand that Congress renounce NAFTA. NAFTA is bad for the United States. NAFTA is bad for Mexico.
“Climate change is a liberal fraud perpetrated on us by the Chinese government and the Obama administration who want to undermine the good-paying jobs that used to exist in American factories. Does anyone here doubt that Obama has been a nightmare for the American worker?”
“NO!” the crowd shouted in chorus.
“Hell no!” Chamita added.
“HELL NO!” the crowd responded.
“American companies spend billions of dollars trying to comply with government red tape that the Obama administration put into place in the name of preventing climate change to the point where our companies are no longer competitive. Do Chinese companies cut their emissions?”
This time the crowd shouted, “ HELL NO!”
“Chinese government officials laugh all the way to the bank at the fraud they have managed to foist off on the American liberal left, a fraud that is strangling our economy. And, what happens when Obama’s climate-change rules get too expensive for American companies? They pull up stakes and move to China, taking good-paying manufacturing jobs with them.
“Those of us who are black were excited when Obama was elected president, but he has let us down. Has he helped you?”
“HELL NO!” came the response.
“A black male born today has a 30-percent chance of winding up in prison. Police officers, who are supposed to protect us, are gunning down our people in the streets all across the nation. Far too many of our people continue to live in poverty in crime-infested neighborhoods where drugs are sold openly while Obama’s buddies on Wall Street get richer and richer. Obama has betrayed black Americans. Obama has betrayed white Americans. Obama has betrayed Latino-Americans. Obama has betrayed Asian-Americans. Obama has betrayed us all. Are we going to put up with this?”
Shawn was on the phone with Luther Hogson. “Luther, I think and Willard have really made a mistake this time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Jason ever since we started his primary campaign last year, and I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. He’s a real slimy character.”
“What makes you think that Willard and I trust him?”
“But, you’re about to have him elected president, and I’m almost sure that once he’s in office, he’ll turn on you.”
“Of course he will,” Luther agreed.
“Luther, wouldn’t it have been much better to have picked Chamita to run? She’s been working for us for a long time, and I’m pretty sure she’s the person we want sitting in the Oval Office. She’s certainly a better campaigner than Jason is.”
“It would have been much harder to get Chamita elected. She’s a smart cookie, but some of her votes in the Senate have been questionable. They were votes made in our interest, of course, but they’ve aroused a bit of public suspicion. No, Jason was the right choice. We’ve got Chamita in the right place to take over when Jason gets, err, I mean to say if Jason gets out of line. It’s a dangerous world out there, and accidents happen to people all the time.”
Shawn got an uneasy feeling. “I hope you don’t mean that Jason is going to meet an untimely death.”
“No!’ Luther replied sharply, “don’t even think that when you’re talking on a telephone line where who knows what government agency is listening in! Murdering a president would be a terrible crime if someone were so inclined. Let me make it clear to you and to anyone who might be listening in that such a thing is out of the question. Besides, law enforcement techniques have advanced by leaps and bounds since the time Kennedy was assassinated. Anyone behind such an assassination would be caught. If we need to get rid of Jason, we can do so without laying a finger on him.”
“The Kennedy assassination was a real professional job,” Shawn said admiringly. “They never did find out who put Oswald up to it.”
“Yeah, but we can’t get away with that sort of thing these days.”
“We? Were you and Willard behind the Kennedy assassination?”
“I said no such thing!” Luther retorted. “I want it clearly understood that I know nothing about Kennedy’s death except what was written in the press. At any rate, if Jason doesn’t play ball with us, anything that happens to him will be legal and aboveboard. He will be the cause of his own downfall. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.”
Unseating a sitting president is not an easy matter, and Barack Obama still had a residue of goodwill among the voters, despite his failure to deliver on his agenda during his first term. Jason and Chamita campaigned hard to nourish the seeds of doubt that had already taken place in voters’ minds about Obama’s performance in office.
“Obama took office with the promise of putting American back to work,” Jason hammered away on his stump speeches. “However, millions of Americans are still unable to find jobs, and those that can are flipping burgers and making the minimum wage. You can’t support a family on that sort of income.
“And why hasn’t he put more effort into creating decent jobs for decent people? Because he’s too busy pushing the liberal agenda. Thanks to Obama, men can marry men, and women can marry women. If he has his way, people will soon be able to marry animals. The mere thought of men having sex with men and women having sex with women and both of them having sex with animals is disgusting. It’s time that we stopped tolerating this sodomy in our midst and returned to the Christian values upon which this nation was founded.”
Actually, although Jason had never tried it, he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have sex with another man. If he weren’t running for president, he might risk it just to satisfy his curiosity.
The history of the Obama-Wilder campaign has been well documented, so I will not go into great detail about it here. Chamita attacked Barack Obama from the left to win the black vote, and Jason attacked him from the right to win the white vote. Suffice it to say that the night of the election was a real nail biter, as you probably remember. NBC first declared Barack Obama the winner and then recanted as more Pennsylvania precincts reported, and it appeared that Jason Wilder might carry the state. Then enough votes were counted in Ohio that the TV networks felt confident in declaring Obama the winner there. Pennsylvania turned out to be a cliffhanger, however. Obama only needed two more electoral votes to be declared the winner, and Pennsylvania had 20 them up for grabs. By three am, all Pennsylvania precincts had reported except those in Somerset County in a state where Obama had only a slight edge of 322 votes in the precincts reported so far. No one could figure out why some precincts in Somerset County had not reported their vote totals, but for some reason hour after hour passed, and the final tallies did not come in. Finally, the networks signed off their election coverage for the night and went back to running old movies, and people went to bed still not knowing who had won the election.
When the nation awoke the next morning, the election was still undecided. It turned out that Pennsylvania was still using an ancient punch-card system, the same system that had enabled the Supreme Court to snatch victory away from Al Gore in the State of Florida 12 years earlier. This time the problems revolved around a single precinct in Windber, a city of only about four thousand inhabitants. Several hundred ballots that had apparently been cast for Obama had been torn, and local officials had declared them invalid. If the decision were allowed to stand and the ballots were not counted, Wilder would carry the precinct and therefore claim Pennsylvania’s twenty electoral votes by the slimmest of margins. That would make him the president elect.
No one could explain how the ballots had become torn, although conspiracy theories abounded. The Obama campaign protested, of course, and the matter was sent to the courts to settle. Given the urgency of reaching a decision, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case directly and to give it priority. It took only two days for the Court to reach a decision. The Supreme Court was dominated by Republican appointees, just as it was in the days when it awarded the presidency to George W. Bush despite Al Gore’s overwhelming lead in the popular vote. It was not hard to predict that history would repeat itself and the court would again rule in favor of the Republican candidate, Jason Wilder, just as it had ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the Florida ballot dispute 12 years earlier. That is exactly what happened.
Jason was jubilant. To think that a humble person like him, born the son of a working-class construction worker in Chicago, could become president of the greatest country on Earth. He was busy on the phone answering calls from people who were anxious to congratulate him. Now that he was going to be president, everyone wanted to be his friend. It didn’t occur to him until later that his parents hadn’t called. Oh, well, no big loss.
Another person who didn’t call him and whom he didn’t call either was Chamita. She still couldn’t stand Jason. That also didn’t bother Jason. Many past vice presidents had spent their years in irrelevancy. She would be living in a house on the grounds of the Naval Observatory with the address One Observatory Circle, and although her offices would be on the White House grounds, there was no reason why Jason had to see her. She could appear at his side when he gave important speeches and even sit in an elevated position behind him when he addressed Congress, but that didn’t mean that they had to speak to each other in private.
Jason felt time heavy on his hands while he waited to be sworn in as president in late January. He had expected to be overwhelmed with duties during the transition, but Shawn and his team were taking care of everything. Anytime Jason tried to get involved, Jason told him that he needed trouble himself. His people had everything in hand. Rather than being pleased at being released from responsibility, Jason was annoyed. It irked him to take orders instead of being in charge. “Just wait until I’m sworn in,” Jason thought to himself. “I’ll show Shawn and these Hog-nosed brothers who’s boss. I may have to take their crap now, but soon the shoe will be on the other foot.”
If you have enjoyed these short stories, perhaps you will enjoy the book , which weaves these stories and others into the complete life of Jason Wilder from birth to death.
You may be interested in my other Kindle book about my 2015 pilgrimage, , whose description you can view by clicking [+ here+]. I also write a blog with entries almost daily, which you can view at or view the site by clicking .
This book is a collection of three short stories from the life of the fictional character Jason Wilder, a psychopath who in this alternative view of history manages to defeat Barack Obama in his bid for a second term as president of the United States. The first story, "Jason Wilder in Tempe, Arizona," follows Jason through his first year as a university student and ends with his application for a summer job with the infamous used car salesman Texas Bob. The second story, "Politically Outspoken," portrays a successful Jason Wilder who is dissatisfied with his upper-middle-class life and decides to run for governor of Arizona. The third story, "Running for President." gives this collection of stories its title and begins when the fabulously rich Hogson Brothers approach Jason to run as their candidate for president of the United States. It is a cynical view of corrupt presidential politics that some find all to believable and could have been written as a satire on the 2016 presidential campaign.