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Welcome To American Primary

Where reality TV meets politics...

By L.M.B. JohnsonPublished about a year ago 14 min read

WEEK 1: The assistant straightened the collar on Kiley’s lavender suit as she practiced her voice exercises. “Va, va, va...this, that, these.” Her face was dabbed and hair sprayed one last time. Suddenly the lights turned on and the cameraman used his fingers to signal...three, two, one.

With a large smile she announced, “Good evening, everyone. I’m Kiley Kristofferson coming to you live from beautiful Denver, Colorado. Thanks for joining us tonight for the first ever presidential primary brought to you entirely through the magic of reality TV. We’re excited to introduce you to the fifty candidates that you, America, have chosen from each of your states. Not only will you be able to learn more about these amazing people, but you’ll also have the chance to choose your favorites each week, and eventually select one of the next presidential candidates for next year’s election. Will your favorite man or woman be the next president of the United States? Stay tuned to find out. Welcome to the new way of voting that’s run entirely by the people, and for the people. Welcome to American Primary!”

The music burst in as the camera pulled away from Kiley. As she sat on the dark stage, the giant screen behind her scrolled images of American flags and voting logos. She mumbled her lines to herself. After ninety seconds, her lights and camera were back up. Behind her in two rows sat fifty men and women. Some were dressed in suits while others wore casual polo shirts and khakis. From there, the introductions began.

Meanwhile, at the UCLA girls dorms, six roommates sat glued to the program. One girl asked, “So how did all of this start? Why are they doing the voting this way?”

A swirl of conversation began as Stevie, a freshman, quickly scrolled through her phone, and then sat up and exclaimed, “I found their website…’Thanks to the work of several concerned citizens, thousands of moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Independents came together to step away from the angry participants in their own parties and find ways to work with each other. The idea wasn’t to create new platforms for each issue, but instead to use what they DO agree on to create legislation, and then find ways to compromise in the areas that they don’t agree on. Soon the United Alliance was formed creating not only a whole new political party, but a new way of voting for candidates.’”

“Cool.” mumbled a girl who was crunching on Cheetos.

Another sophomore asked, “Are the Republicans and Democrats going to do this?”

Stevie’s sister, Shawna, laughed, “Are you kidding? With all those old white guys in control? They’re not going to give up their power.”

After reading more to herself, Stevie spoke up again, “Hey, listen to this, 'Ten candidates will be introduced every week. At the end of each show, viewers can vote on their favorite one. Only the top five will move on to the next round. At the end of the ten weeks, the five finalists will be in the regular primary election. This will decide which UA candidate will be chosen to run against the Democratic and Republican nominees.’ " Stevie then commented, "That sounds way better than guessing who to vote for based on those idiots on CNC and Wolfe News.”

One of the girls commented, "Well, if they can use reality TV to find music 'idols' and wives for bachelors, why not use it to find the next president?"

As the girls laughed, the show's theme song began. “SHHHH!” demanded Shawna while the rest ceased their talking.

WEEK 3: “Welcome back, everyone.” Kiley announced. “With me tonight are ten of the candidates that the American people have spent all year researching and voting for.” The camera panned back to show their smiling faces.

Sitting next to Kiley was her co-host, Sean Pennington, a popular journalist and TV personality. He exclaimed, "But first, let's talk to one of the candidates about how all of this started."

He stepped over to Marcus Martinez from Ohio. “Well, Sean, after the creation of the United Alliance Party two years ago, committees in all fifty states were formed and allowed to select a candidate from their own state. Each one was given a year to learn more about the ideas of men and women in their communities and choose who would represent their state on this program. "

"That's right," said Sean, " The participation has been outstanding. The numbers have already increased by over fifty percent since this started last year.”

Kiley nodded and then abruptly turned the conversation towards interviewing the candidates. Down the row they went introducing each person and their state. There was Carrie Phelps from Ohio, Frank Johnson fro Oklahoma, Josh Framingham from Nevada, and on down the line Americans were introduced to that week's new faces.

The introductions were short to allow time for the hometown interview videos. The stage lights faded while the giant screen showed a local newscaster from Nebraska introducing their candidate in front of his home. One by one the videos transitioned through all ten states as the candidates bragged proudly about historic sites, new businesses, and great schools in their communities. Family members were introduced in living rooms and high school bands held parades in their honor.

Paula Michaels was the moderate conservative from Florida who’d taught junior high for fourteen years. A man from channel twelve asked her questions. “After teaching for seven years, I decided to run for school board.” she explained. “Then I served as mayor for six years, and then lieutenant governor for eight.” She continued by saying, “I have dreams of upgrading the education system in America to not only make us more competitive with China, but more importantly give better lives to kids in low income areas whose bright minds are being wasted.”

After a few more questions, the video transitioned to the next interview. James Riverton was a sixty year old businessman from Georgia with a deep southern drawl, a larger than life personality, and remarkable problem-solving skills.

“Ya see,” he explained as he and the Atlanta commentator walked slowly, “I’ve owned companies throughout the South and have seen the trend of people losing their jobs every time new technology comes out. I like to find ways to quickly re-train employees whose old jobs become obsolete so they can transition to new, more advanced jobs.” She seemed impressed and continued her questioning. James had been a Democrat and his only political experience was as the mayor of the small town of Dahlonega just north of the city. However, his reputation made him an obvious choice for the Georgia candidate.

As the success of the show grew, each night the commentators at CNC and Wolfe News criticized this new process. Some called it a joke. Others called it anarchy. Max Farr at Wolfe poured over the ratings numbers late each night as the knot in his gut grew. Katherine Sylvan at CNC did the same. After weeks of this, she picked up her phone and texted Max.

Lunch tomorrow at Mortons?

He replied with… YES 1pm.

After their salads were served the next day, Katherine got right to the point. “You know that this new political process is going to be a problem for both of us if it succeeds.”

Max replied, “That’s a very big IF.”

“I know your ratings have taken a hit the same way we have. Viewers have been relying heavily on social media and those pod-casters since the show started.” she explained.

He sipped his water and said, “...and that’s just the short-term issue.”

She wrinkled her forehead, “What’s the long-term?

“If it succeeds, the other two parties will have to follow suit. Four years from now the DNC and RNC will have to do something similar to this show or else find themselves obsolete.”

“You really think it’ll come to that?”

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “They’re already dinosaurs as it is. This show proves it…shows the voters how outdated their process has been for decades.”

As their main courses were being served Katherine remarked, “If they become obsolete, so do we.” Then she asked, “So what do we do?”

“Same as usual,” Max said. He popped a french fry in his mouth, “Find dirt on the most popular candidates, then Kiley and Sean, the podcasters…all of them.”

On Long Island, Sharon LaFita, a Broadway director and mother of three teen boys, leaned against the island in her kitchen. She and her husband Mike discussed homework with their boys as they set the table for dinner. Normally, watching TV during a meal was a no-no, but the excitement of the new show caused Mike to make an exception.

“I’m telling you,” Mike said, “that guy from Phoenix is going to win it all!”

Two of the boys argued against him. “What about the woman from Oklahoma?” they asked.

Sharon asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the first female president ever came from this show? Like Governor Michaels from Florida.”

The middle boy held both hands up and repeated, “Or…the woman from Oklahoma…Hello!”

Sharon smiled and nodded. She marveled at her boys’ sudden interest in politics.

WEEK 6: By now fifteen candidates had been eliminated, five more would be by the end of the night, and ten new ones would be interviewed and voted on. Back at the UCLA campus, the viewing had to be transferred to the 60” TV in the Student Center to accommodate the seventy plus students who now gathered. Bowls of chips were placed on a table along with bottles of water and energy drinks.

After the introductions, Sean asked the candidates about their interactions with each other. The candidate from Maine spoke up. “I’m encouraged by the positive energy and creative ideas I’ve heard from these guys.”

Many of the others nodded in agreement. “That’s true,” said Sasha Bishop. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt positive about a political discussion with folks from other parties until now.” The others agreed.

Sasha was an African American Independent doctor from Utah. As a pediatrician, she had seen the effect that Big Pharma was having on medical costs and on the lives of families. As a Utah Senator, she’d also seen the corruption in Washington, D.C. Her refusal to vote straight Republican or Democrat had made her unpopular among the leadership in both parties. However, her talent for using social media to spread the detailed stories of what was happening in the Capitol made her very popular in her home state.

After two other contestants commented on the progress happening off-camera, Jennifer Hammarford from Massachusetts spoke up. Trying to sound more serious, she stated, “Ya know, it’s nice to see everyone getting along, but I’m not a fan of compromise.” The group fell silent as she explained. “I have very strong stances on several important issues, and as President, I don’t plan to compromise my principles. It sounds nice in theory, but in reality, these are serious issues that need serious solutions.”

Donald Rapovich from Oregon replied, “But when we say ‘negotiate and compromise’, we don’t mean that we compromise our principles. Hell, I’ve always been pro-teachers union and always will be. However, if Governor Michaels is willing to meet me in the middle on, say…an immigration bill, I’m willing to do the same on school choice legislation.”

The others nodded while the audience applauded. Donald continued, “That’s what politics is, Governor Hammarford. It’s about finding a way to swallow your pride and meet your competitor half way. NOT doing that is what almost tore this country apart just a few short years ago.”

The audience applauded again. Sasha continued the thought by adding, “Yes, and it’s also why the United Alliance party was founded. Our whole objective is to bring dignity back to American politics. If you feel you can’t be part of that, I’m sure the DNC or RNC would be happy to welcome you back.” Her comments were mixed with sarcasm as well as good-natured joking, and the audience applauded even louder than before.

Stanley Chan was a Republican from Michigan. He’d yet to succeed in politics, but was the CEO of a successful tech company. After seeing the response to Jennifer’s comments, he sat back and said nothing. This would be the week that would cause them to both be eliminated at the beginning of round seven.

WEEK 8: As the ten contestants from week seven sat around the circle in a private room, Kiley and Sean asked a few solemn questions before revealing the winners and losers. In an effort to not humiliate or over-sensationalize the weekly results, the producers of the show decided to announce them away from the audience so that the winners could respond gracefully, and the losers could leave with dignity. It was all televised live, but the mood was professional.

Without dramatic music or commercial interruptions, Kiley announced the first three candidates who would be moving on, and Sean announced the last two. The five winners stood and hugged the five who were going home.

Sharon and her family stood in their living room and cheered as they watched. Most of the one hundred students in the UCLA Student Center cheered, too.

Max slammed his hand on his desk as he watched. Katherine followed the live ratings feed on her tablet. When the numbers reached nine million, she threw it into the TV that hung on the wall. The popularity of this new version of politics had overcome Katherine’s and Max’s attempts at sabotaging it.

Now that the semi-final rounds had begun, the difficult questions were asked. What will you do about taxes? Immigration? Gun control? Where do you stand on abortion? Trade with China?

Overwhelmingly they replied with answers like, “I’ve worked with both parties on these issues and am willing to find common ground.” Or, “Maybe that's the wrong question. What if we could prevent it from happening in the first place?” While a few candidate’s answers fell flat, most of them shared creative solutions. Former Democrats were brainstorming with former Republicans between shows. The idea that they had more in common with each other than with their former party members was becoming apparent.

Meanwhile, more Americans were learning about this new form of positive politics. Along with participating in the weekly votes, viewers created positive guidelines for online debates, and many even discussed which candidates to support if theirs was eliminated. More importantly, previously damaged friendships and relationships were being mended.

Back in New York, Sharon LaFita thought about the argument she’d had with her brother last Thanksgiving. A comment about defunding police had escalated into a yelling match and ended with him walking out before dinner could be served.

Now she sat on the couch and texted him. Are you watching this?

I’m addicted, was his response.

How can these guys be so cordial, but we can’t even get through dinner? She added crying emojis to her comments.

He thought and then responded…How about the next time we argue I can pull your pigtails and you can give me a wedgie?!? He added laughing emojis.

Or, she responded as she giggled to herself, How about Mike and the boys can put tape on our mouths and only allow one of us to speak at a time?

DEAL! He replied. Sorry I was a jackass.

Sharon wiped a tear away as she laughed and typed, me too.

WEEK 10: Tonight the final five would be chosen for next month’s primary election.

After commenting on when and how viewers could vote, Kiley made an unexpected announcement. “Whoever the first place winner ends up being will have to choose their running mate from the other four top candidates!” The live audience cheered wildly. College students, families at home, and millions of others were surprised and amazed. Social media was flooded with comments and predictions.

And now the moment Americans had been waiting for: the announcement of the top five winners!

“GUYS!” yelled a UCLA junior, “they’re about to make the announcement!” All one hundred and sixty students and staff members fell silent.

With the ten finalists standing around them, Kiley announced, “The first top five candidate for this year’s United Alliance party is…James Riverton from Georgia!”

The live audience cheered and several UCLA students let out yells of support.

Then Sean held up his microphone, “The next candidate is…Donald Rapovich from Oregon!”

Mike and his oldest son yelled, “Yes!” at the same time.

Kiley continued, “The third candidate is…Paula Michaels from Florida!”

Dozens of the UCLA students let out yells of support. Sharon stood up between her boys in her living room and screamed “YEEEESSSSS!”

Then Sean announced, “The fourth top five candidate is…David Patel from Minnesota!”

Again cheers rang out from the audience and millions of viewers. By now social media was ablaze with comments and excitement.

Finally, it was time to reveal the final winner. Slowly and with a few dramatic pauses, Kiley announced, “And now, the fifth and final candidate for this year’s United Alliance party is…Sasha Bishop from Utah!”

As the audience cheered, dozens of UCLA students stood up and screamed. Sharon and Mike LaFita yelled out a cheer of approval and clapped loudly.

As confetti fell from the ceiling and hugs were shared among all ten contestants, Sean looked into the camera and said, “Well folks, there you have it. The United Alliance party officially has their first ever top five candidates for next month’s primary election. So don’t forget to vote through the mail or at the polls. And don’t forget to join us in sunny Orlando, Florida in October when the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates will officially accept their party’s nomination at the UA National Convention.”

Kiley nodded and continued, “That’s all for this evening folks. Thanks again for joining us and for being part of America’s new journey into positive politics!”

Short Story

About the Creator

L.M.B. Johnson

Teacher, mom, believer in peaceful politics! Please feel free to send [constructive] criticisms on any of my works. My genres are: dark fiction, spiritual fiction, & articles on everything from improving politics to gardening & food.

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