Campaign Trails: Debates

Continuing my policy of writing fiction about subjects I have no authority to write on, here is the second installment of my surrealist retelling the 2016 Presidential Election. Feel free to read part one, “Decisions,” to catch up.


Megan began introducing each candidate at the first GOP debate at 7:00 PM sharp, and by 7:30 she had only introduced the first seventy-three candidates. One by one they marched onto the stage, gazing into the mess of lights and wide eyes in the audience.
Getting on stage was, to begin with, not easy. Before being granted access to the stage, the candidates had to go through several checkpoints. First, GOP armed guards asked for each candidate’s GOP credentials and had them sign paperwork, at gunpoint, pledging support for their party’s nominee no matter who he or she (with the phrase “lol” next to the second pronoun) would be. Next, the Koch Brothers personally shook hands with each candidate and slipped them a red pill and a blue pill, telling them to make the right choice; the blue pill was, of course, wrapped in several hundred dollar bills.
Lastly, four NRA officials stood at the stage’s edge and asked to see each candidate’s weapon of choice. This was the last test candidates had to pass before being allowed to enter the debate, and it was often a difficult one. For instance, Ben made the mistake of bringing his water gun. He began quoting several founding fathers and later Albert Einstein to justify his choice. Unable to tell what he was actually talking about, the NRA officials decided to let him pass.
Donald was 366th in line. The stage was filling up with heavily armed candidates brandishing their fancy speeches, and Donald, as far removed from the party’s rules and regulations as he was, had not known to bring a gun.
“I never got that memo,” he told the NRA officials.
“We’ll have to kick you out for that. Rules are rules.”
“You can’t do that,” Donald said, thinking as rapidly as he could for a way out. “Ted told me not to bring it.”
The officials turned to see Ted on stage leaning two AK-47s over his shoulders.
“He lied to you? Why would he do that?”
Donald thought for a second, and the answer seemed obvious.
“He doesn’t like me. He’s biased. He wants to win by lying.”
“But you still don’t have a gun. We can’t let you on stage without one.”
Behind him, the rest of the candidates waiting for the first GOP debate–about six hundred or so–grumbled and shifted their guns. Donald turned around and glared at them. Speechmakers, they were. Speechmakers with props. They had policies, plans, sketches, and verbal magic tricks. Donald didn’t even have a water pistol.
Donald was learning how this game worked, and found he didn’t like the rules. Immediately behind him was Marco, practicing a speech intended to make bricks fall out of people’s noses and then form into a short wall between audience members to highlight his immigration policy. He looked Donald in the eye and grinned.
“Hey, Don, forget something?”
“What are you up to?”
“Planning how I’ll win the debate.”
“How are you gonna win? You’re too. . .”
“Can’t think of a word?”
“Shut up.”
“Use your words, Don. Like this.”
Marco began reciting a talking point, just a little one, and its power made a brick fall out of Donald, but not out of his nose. Donald’s face turned a sharp shade of Republican red as the brick slid down his pant leg. Marco was not an experienced public speaker, but even he had the gift of turning words into actions. He recited another policy on immigration, and two more bricks fell out.
“You little rodent,” Donald snapped.
“What are you gonna do, little Don? You’ve never given a good speech in your life. We’ll whoop you out there.” Another brick.
Donald could not think of anything to say. It was true, he could not transform words into actions. But he was aware of a few actions he could easily produce without the need for communication. He leaned forward and punched Marco in the face once, twice, then once in the stomach. Marco fell down, but not before Donald could reach over and pull up the AK-47 he had slung around his shoulder. Swinging it over his own, he turned around and faced the NRA officials.
The NRA officials decided that they liked Donald’s style and let him on stage. Marco would still be allowed to debate (he brought grenades in his pants, a “nice touch” the officials thought), but spoke through a broken, bloodied nose.
Three hours after Megan began introducing the candidates, all of them were on stage, totaling 956. They were crammed shoulder to shoulder, ignoring the twenty-nine podiums. Megan glared at them all and wondered why they didn’t just have two debates, or three or four.
“Well, ladies and gentleman,” she said, “I’ll address the first question to you, Governor Perry.”
The hundreds of heavily armed candidates shifted on stage, rocking back and forth trying to maintain a comfort zone. Beneath them something cracked. They all heard it, even Megan. “Now, you’ve been very critical. . .” she continued. More crackling. A few pops, a few snaps. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” asked Rick.
“Just that creaking. Any idea what that is?”
“I don’t hear anything.”
After that, the weight of the 956 Republican presidential candidates combined with the weight of their numerous weapons broke the stage. It collapsed in the middle, and the rest followed into the basement floor beneath the studio. Along with the fragments of the stage went the Republicans pummeling onto one another into the basement, until the room filled up. Then they toppled into one another, bodies upon bodies, suits upon suits. When the dust cleared and the mostly middle-aged men grumbled and moaned, the audience wasn’t sure if they should cheer or boo.
“Anyone ready to drop out yet?” Megan asked.
About one hundred candidates responded affirmatively to what turned out to be the first question of the first Republican presidential debate.

Bernie got a text message from Hillary while he muddled his way through the summer heat in Georgia campaigning door-to-door.
“Wanna debate or something?” read the message.
Confused, he texted back, “Am I invited?”
“Nobody else wants to run. I heard you were thinking about it. We need a few more good candidates,” she replied.
Bernie blushed. Somebody was finally acknowledging his campaign. He texted back “Yes!” then added several more exclamation marks. He had to follow up with “Can I get a ride over to it, though?” and went back to work knocking on doors for support, swimming in the new validation but ultimately wishing Hillary would become the nominee early on. He knew he couldn’t make it far the way he campaigned, and knew she was a good candidate. Hillary, for her part, privately wished it would be Bernie, or Joe, or Elizabeth, or anyone else. But almost every Democrat she texted responded with support for her campaign and a casual dismissal of the Presidency: “No thanks.” “Not in my lifetime.” “Have you seen Obama? He looks like he’s 90! I’d rather stay young.” She wanted a more diverse pool for voters to choose from, but was glad there would be more than one candidate, at least.



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