The writer and his wife experience the hoopla of a political convention.
The voice at the other end of the line was Earl Long’s, the local head of the FairTax initiative (the sans IRS, sans income tax, pro national consumption-tax plan). “Mark,” he says, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
“Oh, oh. Now just what’s that, Earl?” I responded, reclining back in my swivel desk chair and suspiciously mustering my resolve.
“The Kansas Republican state convention is next week in Overland Park. Senator Jerry Moran has offered the FairTax people free admission if we wear his T-shirts and volunteer to hand out literature and so forth. Also, we could use more hands manning the FairTax booth. How about you and your lovely wife hopping aboard? Why, she’s the Republican precinct committeewoman for Mission, isn’t she?”
“Yeah. But, Earl, that’s the Saturday my Kansas Authors Club meets, and they’ll be planning for the fall convention in Lawrence. I really need to be there.”
Well, there it was—Earl understood, he considering me a major regional literary presence and all, so I thought that matter was settled. But I made the mistake of mentioning Earl’s call to my dearly beloved Dee.
“What!” she exclaimed. “The senator is offering us free admission and free T-shirts and we get to mingle with the muckety-mucks and the state movers and shakers? And I’ll have the opportunity to complain to the governor about taxes? Good heavens! How could you turn that down? We’re going. That’s that.”
“Yes dear,” I replied. And I began dialing Earl’s number.
Now, the convention herd was to begin seriously congregating Friday afternoon and evening, the Friday morning activities devoted to insider organizational planning and volunteer training sessions. The major hoopla events were scheduled for Saturday, culminating in a huge rally for Senator Moran with the Sunflower Showdown basketball game (KU versus K-State) on a big screen in the background.
Dee and I arrived early Friday evening and checked in with the Moran table to claim our T-shirts and receive our instructions. Next we touched base with the FairTax folks and got our briefing on their display, slide show and new literature. Then it was off to the multitude of reception rooms with their array of cash bars and tasty goodies of all varieties and glad-handing, promise-issuing politicians.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had prominently positioned himself near the door with plates of chocolate chip cookies and a wide rent-a-smile. When I reminded him I’d once driven his SUV in a Mission city parade with his wife and children waving wildly out the windows as he scurried along outside shaking hands and handing out fliers, he clasped me like a long-lost brother. Such heartfelt appreciation! What huge, rich chocolate chips!
Next we meandered into the reception room for Congressman Kevin Yoder. They were serving BBQ with special sauces, chips, fruit and complimentary wine. Congressman Yoder and his wife Brooke (who, by the way, is…well…dare I say it, really “hot”) were having pictures taken with the attendees while holding their two young daughters. After I worked my way to the head of the line carrying the message to support the FairTax and dump Obamacare, he asked if I wanted a picture with him, as he held a baby in front of my face. I already had one from an earlier meeting, I assured him. “But do you want another one?” he enthusiastically offered. I tactfully declined, explaining our mantel was already full.
Moving along, we drifted through the Senator Pat Roberts gathering. I shook his hand, thanking him for a small paycheck I’d once received for some door-to-door campaign work I’d done. He looked me in the eye, crushed my hand, and said, “I was delighted to do that for you.” The adjoining room accommodated Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s assemblage. I took the opportunity to compliment him on a speech I’d heard him deliver once to a FairTax group on voter fraud. He’d pointed out that had it not been for fraud in a Missouri precinct that carried the Democrat to victory, the later Obamacare legislation would never have passed. A little fraud can have monumental consequences was his mantra. And finally we reached Governor Sam Brownback’s room.
There was a long line waiting, and when Dee and I finally reached the good governor, I could see the buffet was nearing exhaustion. Only two tacos left. As Dee voiced her dissatisfaction with the property tax burden and other tax matters, I watched those tacos disappear. Such is the fate of late comers, I mused, but, after all, I was still smacking on chocolate candies from the Kobach reception, so certainly no real complaints seemed justified.
The next morning Dee slept in, but I donned my FairTax T-shirt and motored bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in to the festivities. First off I checked with the FairTax bunch and inquired in what capacity I might best serve. I was told, seeing as how they had plenty of help at the table, I might simply take a roll of FairTax stickers and wander about, informing passers-by about the FairTax and plastering a sticker on the chest of whoever seemed interested. Considering the goodly number of young, well-endowed females tripping hither and yon around the halls, that seemed like a dream assignment.
I’d barely begun when I came to the Donald Trump campaign table. I noted the Ted Cruz table and the Marco Rubio table were triangulatedly situated with the Trumpsters’, all respective parties glaring at one another. Being genuinely curious about what makes the Trumpsterite tick, I tarried there and began asking questions of the man and lady with the Trump bumper stickers and yard signs. The man, middle aged and bearded, looked like an extra for a motorcycle movie; the lady wore glasses and a pleasant, but nondescript, expression.
“Why Trump?” I asked.
“The border, protecting our jobs,” the lady answered.
“These damn politicians all been lying to us,” the man added. “He tells it like it is. And we need a fresh start.”
“And we want someone who understands what makes America great,” the lady continued. “And respects our troops.”
Then the man began expounding on a blog he was starting that in some way had a connection with hemp oil or some such. In any event, I thanked them, took a couple fliers and moved on down the line.
When the noonhour arrived, I shifted back to covering the FairTax booth, allowing some of our people to attend a luncheon where the headline speaker was Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. Earl informed me later that the speech was utterly devastating in revealing the depth of corruption the Clintons have engaged in while raising money all over the world. However, too bad he’s preaching to the choir, I thought. Wonder what would transpire if someone sneaked him in to a Democrat convention and sprung him on the diners. Another author obit?
Midafternoon I returned home, snarfed down a sandwich, changed into a Moran T-shirt and brought Dee back to the convention center with me for the evening gala. And a fine gala it was. Senator Rick Santorum was there, along with Senator Ben Sasse, to help pump up the Moran rally. I was struck with how sharp Santorum’s nose is when viewed up close (the term “chiseled” comes to mind) and how short Sasse appears—almost the diminutive stature of a jockey. Not sure what the takeaway would be, but that constituted my impression.
The basketball game got underway on the overhead screen, and everyone cheered as they munched on cookies and popcorn and gulped punch. When halftime arrived, the Moran volunteers sprang into action waving signs in the air and U.S. flags and whooping and hollering. Dee and I joined in—after all, we’d promised—but from the comfort of our chairs. After a warmup by the other two senators, Senator Moran took the stage and began outlining how we’re going to save America in the next election. That is, if we all vote for him. It was a real stemwinder, and at times a tearjerker. And to top it all off, after the speech, KU won the ballgame. There was going to be more eating and even dancing, but Dee and I had had our fill, so we piled into the car and headed for home.
Now, the bottom line of the whole experience, at least from my humble perspective, is pretty much down to earth. At a political confab like that, one senses the electric-like power crackling in the air and the excitement of potential “connections.” The influence of a sweaty handshake. The fantasy bobbing in the mind like a balloon for real beneficial change. There’s a certain spirited eroticism that seems inherent with the spiked heels and cocktail dresses moving to music. Always, too, the whispered prospects of money jumping from one pocket to another. And there it all is, wrapped up in the aroma of BBQ, perfume, wine and cake. Oh yes, indeed! But…faintly underlying everything is another slight smell, familiar to most farmers and practitioners of animal husbandry—that waft of something one might encounter drifting across a barnyard.