On the eve of the #VPDebate, here's my fictional debate from RED BLOODED. (Spoiler alert!)
"With election time fast approaching, Sinead’s novel comes just at the right moment. The author’s portrayal of a young girl’s struggle between personal need and social duty will have readers dying to know if her father was her father, if her mother will win the election, and if Dylan and Peyton are meant to be." - Library Journal
“Don’t wait for things, not if you can help it,” I told Peyton after she said she would save the Kennedy Center gift certificate I gave her for a special occasion. “Every Tuesday is a ‘special occasion.’ Nobody knows how long they have.” -The Troubling Transition by Richard Arthur
We settle into our seats. My grandparents and my Aunt Victoria, my biological mom, sit to my right, and Dylan sits to my left. Our “relationship” has generated a ton of positive feelings with both the press and the public, so the campaign wanted to have us next to each other for the inevitable shot when the candidates’ families are mentioned.
The cameraman gives the announcer, a commentator from PBS, a nod, and then the fingers count down.
“Welcome to the first and only Vice Presidential Debate,” the moderators says. “I am honored to moderate this debate, which will cover both domestic and foreign policy issues. Applause is only allowed at the end of the debate and, right now, as I welcome Vice President Oberto and Senator Arthur.” We applause wildly and my hands get sore from the clapping. My heart yammers in my chest, so I can only imagine what my mom feels.
She does great though, all poise and style as she responds to the first question about a nuclear Iran and the next about universal health care. She talks in confidence about our debt with China and the need to keep abortions legal but rare. She nails it when she says that gay marriage, like the battle over interracial marriage in the 1960s, shouldn’t be left up to the states. She and Ruiz are the first major party candidates to say that.
But then there’s a question about the younger generation. The voters like me, who will be going into the polls for the first time. The college students who look at their dismal job prospects. The multiple twenty somethings who still live with their parents.
The commentator asks Vice President Oberto, “What would you say to these kids? Why do you have the solutions for them?”
“Well,” Vice President Oberto sniffs and curls his fingers over the podium. “I think all of these kids are independent. They don’t need or want a government strapping them down. When you’re working hard, serving ten-hour shifts waiting tables, you don’t want the Federal Government to chomp out a chunk of your hard-earned money. Under our continued leadership, we will lower taxes and keep government in its rightful, minimal place.”
My mom clutches the podium as her jaw stiffens. That’s not good. We don’t want millions of Americans to see her jaw stiffen.
The commentator turns to her. “Senator Arthur, do you have a response?” She swallows. “Yes, I do. When you’re working ten-hour shifts as a waitress, you have more than just your paycheck on your mind. You’re thinking about your health insurance, you’re thinking about birth control, you’re thinking about your student loans, you may even be thinking about whether or not a prescription drug you’re taking is actually okay for you. The Federal Government doesn’t get in the way. From advancing women’s rights to regulating products, Governor Ruiz will ensure the government continues to both pave the way and make sure the way is safe for everyone.”
There’s no applause, because we can’t clap. But my heart warms. I lean to Dylan. “I’m sure she lost a few independents with that, but I don’t care, I loved it.”
Dylan smiles. “Me too.”
The commentator turns to Vice President Oberto. “A one minute response.” “The kids today don’t need us to pave the way, they want to pave their own way. And safety. Well, life isn’t safe. Who says the government needs to coddle us? Kids these days don’t want to be coddled and cooed to. They can take care of themselves. My colleague Representative Roberts’ recently wrote a book directed at young people. In fact, he’ll be sharing it with Yale college students, his alma mater, this weekend and…”
He trails off, realizing that perhaps invoking a conservative darling during the national debate isn’t the right direction to take. He wraps up with some equally pedantic and paternalistic closing thought about “kids these days,” but I don’t take it in because my mind buzzes. Representative Roberts will be at Yale, Dylan’s school, this weekend.
I make myself refocus when my mom starts talking again. “Well, as a Yale alum myself, I can assure you those students don’t represent the needs of the average student.”
I look at Dylan, quick. His closed eyes and pinched brow reflect what I’m thinking. She shouldn’t have said that. Sure, we get what she means. It’s easy for Republicans to talk about how the over-reaching government “hurts” privileged college students who can “take care of themselves,” but they’re ignoring the average 20-year-old, who depends on student loans, or help with health insurance, or a host of other things. But, by saying what she said, she lumped herself in with those privileged students. Instead of sounding like she had empathy for the hardship of others, she sounds like a rich woman looking down on the sad, poor lot of others.
I can practically hear the scratchings of “limousine liberal” as commentators prepare their post-debate remarks.
She gets it. She shifts and refocuses for thirty seconds on how the government helps youth.