“One more state to go to a constitutional convention.” So proclaimed Republican Council Member Max Morano’s latest tweet.
Having read it, Gavin Kane, his Democratic counterpart, summoned his chief of staff, Tina Millette. “What’s he getting at here?” Gavin turned his PC’s screen toward her.
Taking a guest chair, she said, “Republicans control thirty-three state legislatures. If they get control of one more state, they’ll have the numbers needed to call a constitutional convention.”
“Meaning they could rewrite the whole thing?”
“Well, definitely add new amendments. I think there are some restrictions on what they can do with the basic document, like they can’t reduce the number of senators each state sends to Congress.”
“They could pass that balanced budget amendment they keep harping on about?”
“I’m sure that’s on their agenda.”
“And ban abortion? They’d lose the next election.”
“Voters forget. Besides, think of what they gain.”
“This country is almost out of its mind. Surely things can’t get even crazier.”
Tina shrugged and left.
Time to call on Libby. He pulled out his wallet-sized electronic talking United States Constitution with the image of Lady Liberty at the top.
“Libby, what’s this about Republicans hijacking the Constitution?”
The device lit up. “What do you expect? You Democrats have been so criminally irresponsible that you put yourselves, and me, in this position.”
“So you aren’t Republican after all.”
“I’m neither one nor the other. That’s the point. I’m neutral.”
“‘Neutral’ means ‘couldn’t care less’ in my book.”
Predictably, the screen dimmed. Done it again, Gavin thought. Why am I such a hothead?
“Okay, Libby, I apologize.”
The screen stayed dimmed.
“Libby, I mean it. I realize you’re saying your job is to keep everything checked and balanced. Except the budget, I hope.”
But it seemed Libby was inconsolable because she didn’t return.
Gavin sat and thought. On the one hand, he could ignore Morano’s tweet. If he, Gavin, hadn’t understood its significance, most other people wouldn’t, either. On the other hand, shouldn’t people know the danger ahead if Republicans continued with their string of successes?
No point getting into an abortion war with Morano. In this city and this state, it wouldn’t become a big issue unless the Republicans brought off their constitutional convention plot. But they had several other dangerous issues that were bound to be priorities, like making Christianity the state religion and barring immigrants. And that balanced budget amendment.
He typed: “Constitutional convention? End of social safety net.”
* * *
Max Morano had been afraid his tweet would fail to engage bean pole Kane, whom he figured had no notion of just how close Republicans were to being able to hold a constitutional convention, never mind what it could mean. So he was gleeful when the response arrived.
On his iPhone, he tapped: “Republicans about to end Democrat efforts to bankrupt America.”
Figuring it would take Kane a while to come up with something, Max strolled out of his storefront office to enjoy a moment in a lovely spring day and to buy a souvlaki sandwich from the corner street vendor.
When his turn came to order, he asked the souvlaki man, “Know who I am?”
“Yeah. A customer who comes out on nice days.”
“I’m Max Morano. Know the name?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“The council member who represents your district.”
“You represent Silverton?”
“Well, no. I mean here, downtown.”
“Just because I work here don’t mean I live here. What’ll it be today?”
Walking back to his district office, Max felt depressed. This process of getting your name out was filled with potholes and indignities. He hated feeling the way Kane must every minute of the day—like an idiot. Did that vendor really need to get on his case like that? Next time he went to buy food on the street, he was going to someone else.
Back at his desk, he checked his iPhone. Sure enough, Kane had replied.
“Watch out for the next Great Depression, only ten times worse. Time to end Republican reign for the rich.”
Morano couldn’t resist: “Gavin Kane, hero of class warfare, can’t get over envy.”
* * *
Meanwhile, Gavin Kane had also been inspired to venture out to buy his lunch. Most of the time he had one of the interns go get it for him, unless he was having lunch with colleagues or donors. A young woman with piercings all over her face and two-toned hair was trying to get passers-by to sign a petition. Seeing the tall man headed toward her, she called, “Help make the city fight opioid addiction.”
Looking her in the eye, Gavin said, “A good cause. I’ll be voting in favor.”
“This isn’t a ballot. We’re getting signatures so that the City Council will take this problem seriously at last.”
“Oh, but we do.”
“I’m sure you do, sir. So why not just sign here?”
“I’m not sure I should. I mean, it would look like I’m padding the score.”
“Well, don’t you see? Republicans like that thug Max Morano would see my signature here and get on their high horse about how Democrats are always trying to tip the scales.”
The woman gave him a guarded look, then turned her attention to another pedestrian. Gavin wondered what he’d said to offend her. She’d acted like she hadn’t recognized him.
Back at this desk, he found Morano’s response waiting for him. “Me, envy that cretin?” he said aloud.
At that moment, Tina was opening the door. “Which cretin?”
“Morano. He claims that my objection to balanced budgets means I’m envious.”
“Come on now, you wouldn’t mind being rich. I could point to one or two off-the-books items—”
“Let’s not go there, Tina.”
“Then let’s go to this opioid treatment bill that’s before the Council.”
“I know about that one.”
“You do? Well, we’re getting a lot of calls, emails and good old-fashioned faxes.”
“In favor, I hope.”
“You’d better believe it. I thought you should take a look.” She dumped a pile of paper on his desk.
When she’d gone, Gavin turned to his keyboard. “Morano wants to balance the budget on the backs of society’s most vulnerable. Watch him vote against funding for opioid treatment.”
* * *
“What’s this about opioids?” Morano asked his chief of staff, Irma Jansen when she responded to his summons.
“I assume Kane is referring to legislation that City Council Democrats are pushing. It’s getting a lot of media coverage.”
“Why can’t people just say no to drugs?”
“Well, we tried that thirty years ago.”
“Under Reagan—Nancy. I remember.”
“Like I said, thirty years ago.”
“You’re saying it didn’t work.”
Morano looked around, but Irma was the only other person in the room, and she was too straight-laced and too on top of everything to be drug-addled. “I see no addicts here.”
“Cast your mind to the street.”
“The homeless, you mean?”
“Sure, we know lots of homeless people have a drug dependency. Also the crazy shouters and the people who get in your face. Then again, we probably don’t see the really hardcore addicts.”
“What’s the cost of this program?” When she told him, he said, “Where’s the money coming from?”
“Well, thanks for keeping me informed,” he said to her, by way of ending their meeting.
When she’d gone, he tweeted, “We can’t coddle everyone who goes astray.”
* * *
Here we go with “coddling” again, Gavin thought. In Morano’s world, life is one long boot camp for the people who don’t vote for him.
He typed: “Republican Morano should have been an accountant.”
Morano replied, “I am. I’m a proud CPA. Hence my respect for finances.”
To which Gavin promptly tweeted back: “The cost of doing nothing will be nothing compared to addressing the problem in the future.”
Morano’s retort was lame. “Democrat Kane shows he knows nothing about accounting.”
Gavin pounced. “Accountancy is to economics what solitaire is to contract bridge.”
He thought it was a knockout blow, but Morano came back with a line that made even him laugh: “Democrat Kane likes to gamble. Watch out, America!”
But if Gavin was laughing, others were laughing at his expense.
He typed: “Republican Morano CPA always loses sight of we the people.”
Still, he was worried. He took a walk around the room—a constitutional, so to speak—though it wasn’t large enough to get up a head of steam. Then, risking her ire, he brought out Libby again.
“You gotta help.”
“These Republicans are one state from holding their constitutional convention. Don’t you have some other safety valve?”
“Read Article V—Article 5 to you.”
Gavin wanted to insist she just tell him, but insisting would only get her to close down again. In the device’s search field, he tapped “Article V.” To his surprise, the text that came up was short—just one paragraph. Initially, it confirmed the worst: only two-thirds of the states could force a constitutional convention. But then he came to the clause: “…when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof…”
“Isn’t this a little redundant?” he said aloud, though not meaning to.
“Are you criticizing my writing style?”
“No, no, just trying to figure this out. So, even if Republicans get their convention, they still need to get three out of every four states to sign on.”
“I didn’t realize you were such an astute reader.”
Ignoring the insult, Gavin continued musing. “Which means we need only—what?—thirteen states to tell the rest to get lost.”
“A mathematician, too,” Libby sneered.
“Right away, I come up with twelve that would vote against it, and I’m sure a thirteenth can be brought on board.”
“Can I go now?” Libby shut down without Gavin even noticing.
* * *
In response to Democrat Kane’s “we the people” banality, Morano tapped: “We the people want to be solvent for the sake of all the generations of Americans to come.”
Why, he wondered, were Democrats so eager to bankrupt the country in a cause for which government wasn’t suited? He’d asked himself the same question a million times, but it always perplexed him. Drug addicts were charity cases, exactly why charities were encouraged and given tax incentives. Now Kane was attacking him for being an accountant. Who will he attack next? Lawyers? Well, they were used to it. Doctors? Hair stylists?
He read Kane’s predictable response: “Let’s stay focused on this generation and the next. Babies born addicts. It’s got to stop.”
Sure it’s got to stop, Max thought. But he was tired and bored with the day’s Twitter war. He couldn’t let Kane’s current tweet be the last word, but how could he bring it to a close? He had an idea that he acted on without a second’s thought.
“Democrat Kane is short-sighted, but at least he sees to the next generation. Progress.”
How he wished he’d given it that extra second’s thought. Right after he touched “Send,” he knew he was starting a whole new Twitter war. He should never tweet when he was this tired.
Kane shot back: “Shame on Republican Morano for mocking our sight-challenged citizens.”