Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
September 3, 2020
Jackson, Capitol County
"Senators," Grandpa McHale said calmly, "thank you for joining me this evening."
Several of the Senators and their interns were packed into one of the meeting rooms of the Fairview Capital. After a well-organized defense in Memphis in February, Smith had deemed it safe for the federal government to move back to Jackson from Columbia. Grandpa stood at the front of the dining hall behind the podium Austin had seen Smith at almost a year earlier. The circle tables had been replaced by desks with two chairs at each, a senator and an intern to every desk. All of the Meritables were present, excluding Hayes, who was preparing for a 2021 governor run in Kentucky.
"No, thank you," Esa said firmly. "We all know why we're here, and we all know what you want to talk about, and I also know that the vast majority of us will approve your decision, regardless of who it is."
The old man cracked a smile. "You know that, do you?" he chuckled. "Well then, Esa, I guess that you also know that my grandson's a damn good politician, and that he's more like me than I want him to be sometimes. And because of that..." He trailed off, sighing, tightening his jaw and looking away before turning back to the Senators and their interns. "Because of that, Francis DuBois will be my pick for the vice presidency."
The senators politely applauded, barring the pair from Delmarva, who had been strong supporters of his brother. Some of the interns scowled at Austin, others nodded approvingly, and still more just ignored him altogether. Kira was among the ones nodding, a small smirk on her face until everyone was hushed by Grandpa McHale.
"Settled down, now," he huffed, "settle down. "I'm old, and I ain't nearly as loud as I used to be!" Several people smiled or allowed themselves to quietly laugh. "Now, lookie here." he pointed to a stand beside him with a chart of the thirteen states on it and continued to speak. "As you can see, we're gonna keep the senate under wraps this year. Five Senators are up for reelection, and four of them are ours. Best case scenario, we pick up a seat. Worst case scenario, we lose one in Alabama. We can pick up McCoy's seat here, but it's gonna be a tough battle, and I just don't think it can be done. Y'all need to work together to keep what you've got, cause in two years, two of you are up for reelection, and I think it's safe to say that Edwin Hayes's seat will be vacant. Questions so far?"
Not one hand was raised. There would be no questions-- they'd had this speech, heard this plan, a million times before. No one stopped him from going on, but instead of the House map they were expecting, he turned over his poster and showed them an electoral map splattered with Meritable blue and Liberal gold. Austin sat a little straighter and nudged Esa, who had stopped listening rather quickly.
"We've got a good chance to win this, people," Grandpa McHale said. "We need thirty votes to win. We have a head start of fifteen because New England, New Penn, and Delmarva are so damn loyal to a grizzly bear from the other side of the Mason-Dixon. Meanwhile, Smith's only safe place is Texas."
"Are you going to try to compete there?" one of the interns asked.
"No, not this year. Maybe in four more years, but not now," the old man answered. "Instead, I want to focus on our swing states: Georgia, Alabama, and New Ohio. Were strong enough in Illinois, Virginia, and Erie to win there easily enough, but if we take just one of these, the presidency is ours."
"What about the other states?" Prestons questioned, posing yet another one of his theoretical scenarios. "Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida?"
"I'm gonna ignore them," the old man answered, "because that's where a certain Senator McCloy comes in. Since we've repealed that godforsaken amendment, she's willing to do anything to get it back and keep Smith in office. It's a dirty trick, but if we can convince her that she'd have to elaborate how radical Smith's regime is to the rest of the south so that the states will support him, they'll turn on her and him both, coming right to us."
"Who's idea was that?" DuBois asked from the back of the room.
""Mine," Senator Romney of Illinois answered. "If any southern stereotype is true, it's that rednecks will get riled up if they think a president supports communism, and that they'll vote for whoever they think can stop a red wave."
"And I thank you for that," Grandpa McHale said. "Anyways, With the House, the Senate, the presidency, and the majority of the governors all on our side, we can start moving forward with our agenda. I'll go ahead and take a coupla policy questions. Uh, yes, Senator Obama?"
"Some of the more radical Meritables and right wing independents have talked about creating a third party that's borderline Nazism regarding immigration and miltarism, such as Governor Terrence of Virginia. Do you condemn their apparently racist and extremist beliefs, and would you say so in a public address, despite Terrence being a member of your own party?"
"If Donald Trump was a Meritable, I'd make no difference between him and Terrence," the old man answered. He looked around the room. "I would condemn them in public, and I'd do it today if necessary. Let them form their party and see how far it gets. I'll not have extremists and white supremacists slander the names of Reagan, the Bushes, and the late President Wilson by spreading their lies and hatred. Next?"
Austin turned and heard Kira's voice sound. "How do you intend to approach education? Will it be a priority during or after the war?"
"It'll be a priority during and after the war, yes," McHale answered. "Since we're stuck with the barter system until further notice, we'll be able to pay for lots of things at once tht we wouldn't otherwise be able to pay for our military supplies, education, and green energy all at once. We'll have colleges up and running within the year, and we'll work towards setting up a real monetary system. Until then, I think we'll try to shift towards something like Ithaca Hours, where you work for money in theory. That should be easier in a smaller place like Lawrenceburg than here, Memphis, or Corinth, but it's a start to rebuilding all of it at once."
Apparently surprised by his answer, Kira gave Grandpa McHale a quick, courteous nod, adding, "Thank you for your emphasis on preserving education and the planet."
"Well, I think that there's one subject that we've been avoiding thus far," Esa said. "I think we ought to discuss how your defense plan differs from Smith's."
"That's easy enough," the old man grunted. "We focus on offense for a change, spreading democracy on the other side of the river. We need to make a push for El Paso, take the last of Texas, and then ask the United Nations for help. If they refuse to, then we go to Canada and Mexico. They can't refuse us if we show enough strength. We take Texas, we take the West, we take the West... we win the war."