I’m the favorite to win. It’s not my foreign policy and it’s not my handling of domestic issues. Nobody gives a shit about the unemployment numbers, job growth, the illusory downward trend of the trade deficit. Nah, what they care about is my hands. Can I throw hands? They want to know if a vote for me is money in the bank.
It wasn’t always this way, and those old-timers that remember the old guard are becoming fewer and fewer. Started with Rubin. Won in a landslide, a real landslide back in ’20. The man promised more drones and he delivered. His orders killed more people than the plague. It was an incident. Internet videos of kids missing arms and legs and faces. World leaders begging for an end. Rubin all smiles for the press, making his point to the world: You do not fuck with us.
Vlad, Bad Vlad, he didn’t beg. He spoke. He screamed. He rallied. The world was listening and when Vlad came back from his mysterious poisoning (“domestic dissidents, sympathetic to our cause” Rubin had said), when he came back, Vlad threw down the gauntlet.
“Your leader is weak! He hides behind his robots. I offer a challenge. I will remove all forces from occupied lands if this coward can defeat me like a man! No innocent blood will spill.”
All of this was subtitled, Vlad did not speak the English. He said our language dripped like poison from the mouths of demons.
It was a joke in the beginning. The civilized world scoffed at the audacity of this killer, this madman, this self proclaimed deity. But Vlad persisted, used the blood of his people to fund his platform. And then someone made a t-shirt. One Fight for Peace was the text. No one needed an explanation, no one needed context. The words were truer than any ever ironed onto a cotton-poly blend. The pundits began asking the questions.
What is Rubin afraid of? Is a single fight worth more than our children’s lives? Is he even aware that he looks like a fool?
And then the outright accusations:
Rubin’s a coward. Rubin is weak. Rubin can’t defend us.
And finally, a single demand:
One fight for peace, Mr. President. End this now.
Popularity polls dipped to dangerous levels. Rubin was heckled wherever he went. Children laughed. Lesser countries stopped paying their debts. And of course, everyone wanted a t-shirt. If Rubin wanted a shot in ’24, something had to give. Turned out that something was his face.
In a live-streaming, network television event bigger than any in history, President Rubin was thrashed mercilessly by Bad Vlad. The Man, our President screamed and cried like a child on the world stage. He begged. He groveled like a dog. And we- safe on our couches, paychecks wagered- begged and groveled with him. He was us. The world saw us for what we were: soft, pampered, lazy, self-righteous. We were left to lick our wounds, hide. You could taste the collective shame in the air.
After a month out of public eye Rubin demanded action, a strike on the heathen region. No one followed. No one listened. Rubin had lost his people and he quietly disappeared as the country breathed a collective sigh. The figurehead of our downgraded status was gone and we tried to get back to a semblance of normalcy.
’24 came and the promoted Veep lost out. The people spoke loudly. Their message? We want to forget this ever fucking happened. It was time for new blood. It was time for change. The handlers started cruising the gyms. It was only logical.
It was a brutal primary season, but that could have been predicted. I felt a little tinge of remorse as I pummeled the old man’s face, cutting my bare knuckles on jagged, broken teeth. All of this in front of his wife, the plastic-faced, platinum blonde in pumps and pearls. But it was only a tinge and it was fleeting. I didn’t make it this way. The old man should have known better, but he was a dinosaur, one of the old guard. Vegas had the odds at thirteen to one. His base still wagered on him, lost a bundle. An expensive lesson, but one they were sure to remember.
* * *
The cameras flash, the moderator raises my hand in victory. I’m sweating under the hot lights, but my heart rate never went over one-ten. I’m the great hope, not white or black, just the hope. The people expect me to do one job and that’s get our country back. Make us respectable again, feared.
I climb the narrow staircase and nod to the Secret Service in front of my apartment door. My sons are crashed out in the blue glow of the TV, just couldn’t hang. I kiss their foreheads and watch the talking heads in one box and the beating in another, my finger resting on the button. I kill the picture. Janie is asleep and I slip into bed next to her. I stroke her thigh, knowing I won’t be this close to her for a long, long time. She rolls over and whispers “hi”. Her breath is sour sleep riding on sweet mint. I hold her close, pull down those little panties.
First thing in the morning the work starts again. My campaign manager wants to start going over the videos, mine and Davison’s. He’s the heavy handed incumbent and the odds will be in his favor. A win is going to need a careful plan, a sound strategy. My new training partner is a lead-fisted southpaw with dancing feet, just like The Man. That’s okay. I’m going to teach him to brawl. Then I’ll teach the world.