October 11, 1996

A Bit of Fiction

In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

The year was 2036. The nation was just beginning to recover from the 2030 financial collapse of the government, which necessitated declaring bankruptcy and cancelling the national debt. Most banks had failed, wiping out the savings of many people. The stock market had crashed, virtually wiping out the small investor. People had little money to spend, so the demand for all sorts of goods collapsed resulting in factory closures and massive unemployment. Making matters worse, the depression was worldwide, so export markets had also collapsed.

By mid October, the public opinion polls for the November elections revealed a situation unique in American politics. Five political parties each had strong candidates and the pollsters predicted a tight five-way race. The political pundits were pointing out that, unlike many European democracies, there was no provision in our constitution for a run-off election in case no candidate got a majority of votes. Similar situations had occurred in the past, but most people had considered it of no importance.

The candidates for president of the two major parties were saying essentially the same thing. Republican governor Allen Harkness spoke of reducing taxes, especially a reduction in the capital gains tax. He proposed beefing up the police forces to combat crime, and strengthening the military to protect the country against foreign invaders. Democrat William Walters, a former senator, also spoke of reducing taxes for the middle class, beefing up the police forces to combat crime, and strengthening the military to protect the country against foreign invaders.

The Conservative Party's candidate, General Arthur Holbrook, proposed a closed-door immigration policy and deporting all undocumented aliens and handing out long minimum sentences for all people who sold drugs -alcohol excepted. He proposed turning the FBI into a national uniformed police force, which would be used to enforce federal laws.

Billionaire Jason Payne, the candidate of the People's Party, proposed an abolition of the income tax and all taxes on corporation, substituting instead a 5% federal sales tax.

Earth Party candidate Eleanor Melbourne, former governor of California, wanted to preserve our national parks and forests and guarantee employment for every adult man and woman in the nation. She proposed expanding Medicare to cover the whole population.

John Claibourne, a former actor, ran on the Progressive Party ticket and proposed government ownership of all means of production and all large scale agriculture.

When the election results came in, the results were as follows: Conservative Party 30%, Democrats 28%, Republicans 27%, Peoples Party 9%, Earth Party 6%, . The electoral votes were also split, with no candidate having anything near a majority of votes. According to what is mandated by The Constitution, the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, whose members would decide the election, with the representatives from each state having one vote per state. Since the Conservative Party had gotten enough of their candidates elected to office to constitute about 30% of the representatives, a coalition of the Conservatives and the Republicans was enough to get General Holbrook declared president. His 30% of the popular vote was enough.

After the inauguration, President Holbrook had an additional ceremony in front of the capitol, attended by the staffs of the military establishment and close to half a million uniformed service personnel, in formation, in which he was sworn in as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Fighter planes screamed overhead.

In a radio and television address to the nation, The President declared a "state of emergency," and recessed congress. As he put it, "An emergency is no time for protracted debates. What is needed is action!"

A group of legislators protested, and barricaded themselves in the House Office Building. The newly-created Federal Police stormed the building and arrested the members of the group. They were held incommunicado; the charge was treason. For similar reasons, the PBS station in Washington D.C. was shut down as "an impediment to the war effort."

The first executions took place in April of the following year.

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