The man approached the platform and looked out across the “crowd”. The Chronicle had sent someone from the Austin office. The American Statesman had sent someone as well. The local NBC station had at least noticed the announcement that the winner would address the media. And in the corner was the person he’d invited himself. A reporter for one of Houston’s Public Radio stations. He’d let her know that he had good info that the winner of the Powerball lotto was going to make an announcement at the official check presentation. She’d assumed it was some contact he had from his blog or perhaps a person he knew from his work for the city.
Oh, shit she muttered as she saw him on the platform and reached for her pocket recorder. The Chronicle reporter, knowing that she was from Houston as well looked over and then looked down to make sure that his own minirecorder was running. The American Statesman and NBC reporters remained oblivious, and as he made the last few steps to the podium a stringer for the AP walked into the back of the room, followed incongruously by a producer for ABC’s Good Morning America.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We are here for the presentation of the check to winner of the Powerball prize from July 18th 2017. As you may be aware a prize winner has a year to come forward and the winner has done so in the allotted time. He has also requested the opportunity to address the media, and we thank you for coming out.”
Turning to the winner Jim Douglass said “Mister Blaine, it is my proud duty as a representative of Texas Lottery to present you with this check for 455 million dollars.”
“Thank you very much Mister Douglass. Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I thank you for taking the time to come out. Please save your questions for the end.
I am here to accept the payout of 455 million dollars that I won via the Powerball. And I am here to announce the formation of The American Congress Party. “
The reporters all looked around at each other, uncertain what to make of Blaine’s announcement.
“As you know politics in the United States has become a game of numbers. Not numbers in the electoral college. Not numbers in the state legislatures. A game of fund raising. The 2012 election for president cost more than two billion dollars. The 2016 presidential election was nearly three billion.
We are in need of reform in America. It cannot come from one party or the other. In their desire for power both parties have concentrated on gaining control of both Congress and the Presidency. It has effectively ended the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches. When one party controls both branches they are in a position to railroad any pet projects of party leadership through. When one party controls the White House and the other one or both houses of Congress
I have spent the last six months consulting with various constitutional scholars, legislators of both major parties, former presidents, captains of industry, economists, and private citizens.
The goal of the American Congress Party is to influence legislation through lobbying and eventually legislative seats. It will never run a candidate for President, rather it will return balance to Washington. You may now ask any questions you have. Yes, Ms. Mathes.”
“Vanessa Mathes, KTBU Houston; What led you to want to form a third party?”
“We need reform in America. But don’t see it as a third party. That gives into the didactic world view. Us vs. Them on and off. Ones and Zeros. Red and Blue. Thinking like that is what has derailed us from what we as a nation should continue to strive towards. Next question, Mr. Simpson of the American Statesman.”
“Mr. Blaine, clearly you’ve done your homework. You say that you’ve consulted with various luminaries. Who? Who have you consulted with? And how did you get their attention? It is difficult to get a former president on the phone and pick their brain. I know, I’ve tried. “
“I’m sure you have. At least here in Texas we have former presidents who we can get with a local call. Imagine how difficult it would be if we were in say Massachusetts.
The room laughed at that jab at Mr. Simpson, and he flushed. He had once been an investigative journalist for the American Statesman, but making enemies in Austin had gotten him assigned to events like this. He was likely the only Pulitzer prize winner to have covered a lottery check presentation. And now he was glad he’d been assigned.
“You asked who I’ve consulted with. I’ve spoken with former President Clinton, Former President Bush, and former President Carter. I did not try to contact former president Obama in his role as a former president or as a constitutional scholar. I’ve also spoken with former Mayor Bloomberg, With Warren Buffet, with Jimmy Buffet, and Newt Gingrich. I’ve spoken with scholars at Stanford, Harvard, BYU, the University of Chicago, Penn, Howard and UT. In no particular order of course. As to how I got their attention I have known Dr. Shephard at Penn for decades since our university days. Different paths lead to different cleanings but it is all one forest. And having an obscene amount of money never hurts.”
“Follow-up- Did you say you consulted Jimmy Buffet?”
“Yes, a man can have other interests. I admire his music. He’s got as much of a right to have an opinion on politics in America as the rest of us.”
The local NBC reporter stood there agog. She had not expected to actually have to do anything beyond stand in front of the building during the five pm broadcast just before the weather. Here fingers were searching quickly over her iPhone keyboard trying to catch up. While she tried to figure out just what was going on here her camera man raised his hand.
Blaine smiled, and pointed- “Sir, please share with us your name and who you represent and ask your question”
“Hari Jindal NBC KXAN. Your new party is the “American Congress Party” -This is a name that could many meanings and sources. Are you an isolationist? Is it a reference to the Indian National Congress Party or the African National Congress? Is it simply a name?
“I am NOT an isolationist. America is a nation of immigrants. Either first generation or sixteenth. Some of our ancestors came here willingly, others did not, and there are millions of people whose ancestors were here when London Paris and Rome were mud walled villages watching for the people from the next village over to come and steal their grain. Yes, the name is a reference to the ANC and the Congress Party. Both movements can teach us a great deal both about The Struggle and what to avoid after the struggle is complete. Sarvodaya is a goal, although of course not under that name.”
The room began to look around at each other again. None of them were familiar with the term Sarvodaya, and the traditional media people were clearly uncomfortable with the camera man having become involved.
“Sarvodaya was Gandhi’s idea of universal uplift. The closest concept we have in America’s collective history is Johnson’s The Great Society. I’m sure that Mr. Jindal can explain it better within Indian history and culture than I can. “
Becki Bourgeoisie scowled at her camera man but had finally heard something that she thought she understood. Becki was the product of the best community college tv journalism program east Texas had to offer. Blonde, bouncy, able to read from a teleprompter she did a great job with pieces like lotto checks, makeup tips, car wrecks, and traffic reports. Actual political press conferences were not her forte.
“Mr. Blaine, you just made a comparison to The Great Society. Are you advocating an expansion of welfare? With what funds? For what purpose?”
“The issue of welfare and its impact on individuals and communities as well as America as a whole is just one minor area of concern. What we envision is not an expansion of welfare. It is not a contraction of welfare. It is a refurbishment of welfare.
Are there any further questions? If not my press secretary will be available in fifteen minutes to schedule interviews.”
From the back of the room the AP stringer called out
“You say that you did not consult with former President Obama. Why was that?”
“Several reasons. First, because he is the most recent former president, he is not as separated from events as the others. Also, as rumors continue that he may again seek to be one of the Senators from Illinois. Obviously nothing prohibits him from choosing to, but we wish to be separate from either major party’s delegations.”
“One final question” the Good Morning America producer said. “Why this? You’re suddenly wealthy, why of all things a new political party?”
“Because I want to leave something behind for America and the world. And getting the rights to Max Headroom was even more difficult.”