I met Senator Elizabeth Lear in a coffee shop one block from the Senate Building in Washington, D.C., the same senate building where I would start working tomorrow. The same senate building Elizabeth Lear would walk out of for the last time. I am taking her seat.
I had never imagined I would be here today. I was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1960 to two moderate Prairie home Companion Republicans. My father, to spite his Democratic parents who planted all their faith in FDR during the Great Depression, became a Republican. My mother, who didn’t care one way or the other, adopted my father’s leanings. She was a follower. There wasn’t much political wrangling in my house. We went to church on Sundays, took one vacation every summer to visit my grandparents, the Democrats, and went to the Iowa State Fair at least three times during the ten day run. It took at least three days to enjoy all the food, the rides, the games, the quilts, the animals and the fireworks. After such a conservative upbringing I was surprised to find myself leaning left, becoming a Buddhist, joining my grandparents and naturally rebelling against my own parents.
I enjoyed the political discussions at my grandparents house, especially during a presidential election year. Amongst the grandparents and my fathers eight siblings, he was the lone Republican. It was painful at times to listen to the fervent conversations and heated attacks directed at my father. He took his side of the issues very seriously and refused to back down, refused to change his mind. He held tight to Richard Nixon’s choice to wiretap or Reagan’s direct support to the rebels in El Salvador. My father stood his ground when it came to economic policies and believed the free market would solve all the problems, everyone could be rich if they only worked hard enough. His father reminded him that this is not what happened in 1929. I watched and learned. I seemed to have come by my abilities to resolve conflict and schmooze like the best of them from these family gatherings. I didn’t agree with my father but respected him all the same. I stood for the environment, freedom for women and social causes for the poor, the epitome of a liberal. I moved to D.C. last month to prepare for the upcoming session. It was my chance to enact change and hopefully, even if we didn’t agree, make my father proud.
Last November was a pivotal election year. A Democratic President had been elected two year earlier and this election had become a major cause for an intense rift to form, a divide more challenging, more deeply felt than ever before. Republicans felt disenfranchised, the Democrats held the majority of seats in both the House and Senate and the Republicans wanted the power back. Rhetoric spun with intricate lies, created to invite disbelief of the current administration’s goals. Emotions were at an all time, out of control, fevered pitch. Both sides wanted nothing more that to hold their seats and increase their numbers. Millions of dollars were spent on smear campaign ads on television, radio and the Internet. The public began to tire of the intensity of the battle, moving rapidly to a position of utter disgust for the political antics. The politicians’ behavior had become ridiculous and it seemed they cared for one thing only- holding their own political power.
On election day, new voting computers were installed at schools, in garages and fire stations. The results would surprise everyone. These computers were created at Kent State University and inspected by an independent group of computer scientists from Ohio State University in order to avoid any possibility of error. As the night progressed, the major new networks reported record numbers of voters. It looked like a new record would be set. The east coast reported first with numbers in the 80 percentile in many districts. The public was speaking. Pundits predicted the counts would not be certain until the next day. At 12:45 a.m. eastern daylight time, Brian Williams, in a special report, informed America that the entire network of computers had crashed- every single vote had been lost. This report was soon interrupted by the President, whose grim tone suggested a loss of greater proportion. He announced that an emergency session of congress had been called and a hasty decision to hold another election the next week would occur. New computers would be brought to all polling stations across the country, checked again by a new independent group from another university, this time Yale was chosen. The next week, computers checked, put in place, votes gathered- and once again- a crash of all votes. These two elections had cost the government, and the American people, 84 million dollars.
The public had had enough. Millions traveled to D.C., including myself, to demand a solution. What was discovered was this:
There was a little know law, which had been written in 1779, soon after the formation of the United States which stated-
Wherein an election of congress is held twice and results in no winning candidates, a drawing will be held of the general public to include all citizens of these United States, identified by any means as a citizen of these United States. Said drawing will occur in the office of the President under witness of the members of the Supreme Court. One name shall be drawn for each seat held in the Senate and in the House of Representatives until all seats are filled. All citizens of these United States shall prevail themselves to hold office for a period of not more than two years, serving a term to be followed by a new drawing of all citizens. From this day forward, no seat shall be filled by election alone.
So this is how I ended up in D.C. The President, with the Supreme Court as witness, drew my name. I am a registered voter in the state of Iowa and I became the first Senator chosen through the drawing. Sitting with former Senator Elizabeth Lear, she tells me how her senatorial career ended because of a technicological glitch. It was still unclear why the computers crashed. A special committee would be formed to investigate, later. The people were truly in charge now. I felt sorry for Elizabeth Lear but told her she was on her own. I didn’t need her in my office. I walked out into a fresh Autumnal day. I swore I smelled cherry blossoms.
Marilyn Johnston, of Wichita, Kansas finished writing out a casserole recipe index card and fell over dead from a brain aneurysm. She had been the 60th Republican chosen for a senate seat. The following morning the President once again drew a name to replace Marilyn, Robin McAllister of nearby Topeka became the newest member. She would have to temporarily give up her manager position at the paint store, pack up her family and belongings and move to D.C. She did so duty bound, with a sense of purpose, driven by Jesus. She felt God had directed the President (whom she did not vote for) to draw her name. In the name of her lord she would do her duty. This was an opportunity for her to make changes in the name of God, abolish gay marriages, bring prayer back to schools, abolish abortion, the IRS and all those crazy environmental laws. She was prepared to point nuclear weapons at every seemingly hostile nation. She envisioned a life free of social security payment, smaller government, less stringent laws for corporations. Yes, she believed this was her chance to bring the country back to its roots, although she had no idea that women weren’t a part of those roots, not in a political sense.
Little did I know as I took my seat in the senate chamber that first day, Robin McAllister would enter and sit next to me. She had been my childhood friend. I had not been a god fearing citizen for at least 25 years. This would prove an interesting session.