“I’m always right and I never lie,” swore the candidate. His teeth gleamed a radioactive white as he simultaneously spoke and grinned an endearing smile that seemed practiced to support his position. In one hand he held a corn dog, well wrapped by a napkin to protect his custom cut Armani suit. He looked nothing like the people of the venue; a state fair was not his dress for success destination. He should be wearing cowboy boots, tailored jeans and a western top with pearlescent snaps enclosing his shirt and decorating his pocket flaps. At least he wasn’t wearing a western hat. Such an accoutrement would broadcast LIAR over his head in neon red. The leather vest was trying to fill in for the hat anyway. He couldn’t have looked less like he belonged there. In the eyes of many he didn’t, but Iowa was where those people entertaining a run in the coming elections all congregated all showed up to announced their candidacy while swearing up and down they had no intention to run -although if asked would probably set aside their desire to spend more family values time with family and accept the opinions of supporters to take a shot at the big chair.
A television news reporter pressed a mic in his face and asked, rhetorically of course, That between then and a private 200,000 viewers that he was truth the best chance for a party with. The answer was an abashed “Well, I do have the experience and the contact to reach across the aisle to secure the proposed agreements that might propel the country forward from its current static place. Our congress has single digit approval numbers. To invite the incumbent back is to invite the status quo, which certainly leaves us stuck in the tanglefoot quagmire we’ve experienced for the last thirty years.”
“So, you’re going to run?” asked the reporter.
“No decision has been made. Like I said, I’m just here to sample the winds.” The teeth gleamed brightly again. Behind him, the candidate handed his corn dog off to his aide who dumped it surreptitiously into a nearby trash can.
Fifty feet away, another politician, a stately woman with a Murphy Brown hairstyle wore a bright red dress with white sleeves. A blue scarf hung stylishly over her shoulders and embraced her neck. Another reporter was asking if she planned to run in the coming election. Again the candidate claimed they were merely putting a toe in the water to test the temperature, but had no specific plan to run. She too, she explained, would certainly step up if called by her constituents.
In fact, of the twenty two politicians at the fair, none of them was willing to come right out and say they planned to run. The truth was that they were merely preening for those who might step forward and offer the beginnings of a war chest to fund a run for the office. The likelihood was that they would all become announced candidates and then their numbers would dwindle as those with the greatest financial support would be able to soldier on. Others would be given deals for interim offices to step away, others yet would simply fade from the limelight to turn up later in private sector lobbying positions, their connections across the aisle use for access to those who went the distance.
All around this activity would be the bustle of the fair itself. Young farmers would show their pet livestock, families would play games of chance where a few would take home large stuffed animals or a doomed goldfish swimming in tiny globes of colored water. Cotton candy, ketchup and mustard would stain clothing like Picasso art pieces and kids, tired from a long day, would argue in the back seat of the family car. In truth, few, if any of the families, would have taken much notice of the politicians who came to the fair for exposure. The fair existed on two planes; one was as a backdrop to prove the down home, family valued nature of potential candidates to reporters desperate to fill their columns or air space. The other was actually a piece of Americana, an attempt to stretch an expired image of national life another year in spite of the winds of change that time and technology that continued to morph the country. In a few days it would be forgotten, the photos taken with smartphones shared among the circles of friends who were now off to new gossip and new games, films and apps for the kids, new concerns about money and the practical obstacles for the parents.
The politicians would vanish for a while, to reappear at another time on the airwaves, and they point back to their visit to Iowa as proof of their connection to the middle class, which they knew no longer existed. And the game would play on and on.