What happens when politicians speak their minds? Here’s a short story involving politics, corruption and morality.
SHORT STORY- DIVIDING THE SPOILS
“…The votes have now all been counted, and the results are in. The Nationalists have a slight edge over the Liberals, with one-hundred and sixty seats in the House of Representatives compared to one-hundred and twenty-two seats held by the Liberals. The Progressive party forms a distant third place, with thirty seats, followed by the Unity Party with eighteen seats. Other parties like the Green Party and the Freedom Front have fewer seats.”
Adam White nodded with satisfaction as he sat in his chair watching the news. The Unity Party headquarters were already in a festive mood as they watched the news. They knew the deal that White had made with the Nationalist Party- that the Unity Party were to be a part of a coalition government along with a few other smaller parties- but they had not expected to have won so many seats in the House of Representatives. They were expecting to win around five- instead they had managed to win a stunning eighteen. Adam smiled. Fourth place in the general MP elections. They would be no tiny player in the coalition government.
Not a big player, to be sure, but with enough representation to be worth listening to. The Nationalists desperately wanted to win this election- they had not won one in a whole decade- and he did not know how much vote buying they had done in order to obtain their one-hundred and sixty seats. But even that was not enough for a landslide victory. They still needed the smaller parties to ally with them to be sure they would get to run the country. Adam smiled again. The Unity Party with its eighteen seats could not be ignored if the Nationalists wanted a secure place.
Adam was a thin, young, black-haired man and he walked around confidently as he congratulated numerous people on the party’s success. He may be the party leader, but no leader could accomplish anything without his lieutenants- and he felt his lieutenants deserved to be congratulated. “Great job on the campaign posters. They looked awesome!” he told one member of the campaigning department who was beaming with pride and joy.
A reporter and a camera-man walked up to him and asked him to give a press statement about the success of the party. “It was unexpected but I’d like to thank all who voted for us. Thank you for giving us your confidence.” he said, smiling. “In return, I am also confident that we will be able to do our best to serve the country as your representatives, no matter what side we are on- the government or the opposition. We will do our tasks to the best of our ability. This nation needs clean, duty-serving politicians to help propel our country forward.” White paused and rose his voice. “To all our voters- you will not regret voting for us!” The headquarters cheered as they heard this but White did not stay to continue with the festivities.
He had more important things to do and he walked out of the party headquarters and stepped into his car, a black object that reflected the moonlight in the darkness. White drove off alone as he turned on classical music that fitted his tastes; he was in a good mood as he wondered what sort of role the coalition government would give him. He was about to get to find out.
* * *
It had been a long road that had led Adam to be sitting with the most powerful men in the country. “I’ll be an engineer.” he’d once told his mother. The next day, he’d change his mind. “I’d like to be the Prime Minister.” The next- “I’ll be an astronaut.”
“Ambition”, his mother had told him, “is important. Be ambitious. Aim high.”
“Yes”, he had promised his mother, “I’ll be ambitious. I’ll aim high.”
By a twist of fate, he had ended up being on the road going for Prime Minister- politics. He and James Vince, leader of the Progressive Party, had been childhood friends. They were like the same people with opposite personalities. Both were smart, both were ambitious, both were well-liked, and both had a talent for speaking.
There was a key difference between the two though. Adam had an ethical attitude to things. Things were either moral -or they were not- and he refrained from what he considered immoral. Ambition was not the only thing his mother taught him, but also things like having values. Fairness. Morality. “What are you but the worth of your actions?” she’d said when he admitted to cheating on a test. “Would you rather have a perfect test score or be able to go to bed each day saying, ‘I did the right thing?’”
This innocence had soon been ruined for him. He remembered how shocked he was when he heard James had bribed his way into a prestigious high school. “That’s unfair!” he’d cried. “What about other students?”
“Man, you’ve gotta clear the dusk from your eyes.” James said. “See the world. Is there anything that’s fair? No. The end justifies the means.” He said that while he was drinking very heavily- James loved to drink- and he tended to really speak his mind when he was drunk. White had realized then that somehow, unlike other students, he’d had his innocence stay with him for too long. Only in late middle school did he begin to see the twistedness of society. It was not a good world, and he wondered how he’d ever seen it alternatively.
He remembered his mother’s expression when he told her he’d chosen to go into politics. He would study government and hope for a career as a politician. “There is no good politician.” his mother’d said, disgusted. “You really don’t want to go in it.”
Adam refused to believe his mother. He trusted that he could be a clean politician- a good politician who could stay above the dirtiness of it all.
“Well, good luck.” was all his mother could say. Since that day, White felt that he’d lost some sort of warmth and closeness to his mother- they just started distancing themselves- and now as the leader of the Unity Party, they barely ever talked. It was fair enough, Adam reflected. In the end he’d started bribing- and cheating- and going into dirty politics. It was unavoidable after all.
He sighed as he drove on the dark road. He’d went on the same road as James, after all. He sighed again. Perhaps once he was finally a part of running the government, he could develop a clean reputation. On such a night as the aftermath of an election, all things were possible.
* * *
Richard Monroe watched as his servant poured premium quality wine. He grumbled. It was beginning to get late and still only the James Vince, leader of the Progressive Party, was there. He still needed Adam White, leader of the Unity Party and Sarah Wright, leader of the Green Party there. He did not wish to wait much longer and he pondered what sort of festivities they must be up to.
Richard grumbled again. There had been little festivity in the Nationalist Party headquarters, hence the reason why he was able to leave so early. The Nationalists were dying to be a part of a government once again- and the last time they did that was over a decade before. In the words of one of his less subtle colleagues, they were ‘hungry and thirsty’- they all knew how much better, how much more possibilities, that came with governing than running the opposition. But they could not manage to win a large victory- and thus they needed the smaller parties.
But running a coalition of conflicting interests was difficult, and Richard knew it. He still had no clear idea what the smaller party leaders would want, and he only nodded slightly when he saw Adam White and Sarah Wright walking in together. “I’ve been waiting some time.” he said, a subtle sign of disapproval. “Congratulations on your parties’ victories- but let’s not linger too long on the formalities. We have much to discuss.”
They all nodded as Richard pulled up a chart with a list of all the available major positions and ministries. “First off- let’s put this straight. We’ve won our victory. Unless this coalition breaks apart- and I’ll see to it that it doesn’t- we will be the ones running the country.”
“Cheers!” cried James, holding up a glass of wine. The rest did the same and drank together. Monroe nodded, satisfied, and continued on.
“Now that we’ve won the battle- it’s time to divide the spoils of war.” Richard said with a lowered kind of voice. They were sitting in a private room, but he did not want to be overheard.
Adam cringed silently at the terms divide the spoils. He was no clean politician- there was no such thing as a clean politician- but he liked to make himself believe that he was at least morally correct. He was doing his duty to serve the country, not simply for his own personal gain, although that was certainly a part of it. He glanced at James, who kept on drinking- glass after glass. James’d put up a lot of weight over the past few days, and although they were still the same age, James looked considerably older.
“Alright, my young men- and women.” Richard smiled, looking at Sarah. “I will be taking Prime Minister. That will not be contested for. The roles of deputy prime minister and Minister of Finance will also come from politicians in my party.
“Sarah- the Green Party with its environmentalism ideals will be given the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. WIll you accept that?”
There was a short silence.
The Green Party had barely seven seats. Would they actually be given an entire ministry to take care of? Adam blinked. If Richard was not so desperate, he must not have done it. White began to reassess the man sitting in front of him. He was desperate to be in power, to secure success.
“I accept, sir.” Sarah said delightedly.
Richard grunted. “Alright. As expected. Now- I’d like to be giving control of the Ministry of Labour to one party and the Ministry of Education to the other. Which would you like? Have your pick, men.”
Adam noticed how James’s face became considerably twisted after hearing that. Labour and Education. Richard noticed the change in face. “Don’t worry, James. There will be plenty of chances for you to fill up your stomachs. They may not sound so good- but they come with power and funds. You will be able to reward yourself.” Adam understood what Richard meant. He would have the chance to be corrupted and take all the money he wanted.
“Sir- I’d prefer to have the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, if you may…grant it to me and my party.” said James. “The Unity Party would do well with Labour and the Green Party with Education.”
Monroe laughed loudly. It was not a pleasant sound. Was this man trying to bargain ministries with him? “It’s either Sarah’s or it’s mine.” he snarled. “Don’t bargain much with me, young man. I’m being gracious here. I’m not going to see this alliance break away and if we can’t agree on this- we won’t get anything done.”
Adam blinked again. Was Richard even a skilled politician? Why was he not softening up at the slightest with the people he really needed in order to be secure in government? His mind started spinning. He was not used with Richard and he started to seriously doubt the ability of this man. HIs ego must have overtook him, he thought. Adam shook his head. The alcohol in the wine was also starting to overtake him. He had never been a good drinker.
James, on the other hand, was still drinking and had no sign of stopping. Adam tapped James on the shoulder. “Don’t drink too much, friend. You’ll knock yourself out.”
James took no notice. “Sir, I’d like to be demanding bigger roles than this- but I’m also being gracious and I understand that your party has…many needs. But we’d still like the Natural Resources and Environment ministry.”
Adam whispered to James, “Why the hell are you demanding so much?”
James said: “God bless, don’t you know anything at all? Natural resources and environment. There’s a big chance of getting some real profit right there. I did quite a bit of vote buying. I’ve made investments that I want back.”
Richard had not heard the quiet side conversation. “Oh come on, James. Listen. I’m granting a budget of…”
“It’s not the budget, sir. It’s the possibilities.”
“Dear lord!” Adam whispered, slightly louder. “Why are you speaking your mind like this?”
“It’s the possibilities of what I can make!’ James cried out, gesturing up to the air. “I want the resources. The resources! I want control over the national park! I want the land, the gold, the oil! That’s what I’m here for, good sir!”
“James!” Adam shouted. “Are you drunk?” White stopped at that moment. He had not actually meant it- but he finally realized that yes, James had been drinking a lot. He was drunk.
“I promised the people good governance. I promised them hope. I promised them welfare. I promised much to them! I’m going to keep those promises- okay, maybe I’ll fail, but I’ll try at least, but in any case those were just marketing crap anyway- but I want profit. I want return. I want to make sure this is worth my investment. It’s like a business, good sir. Like banking. Like a stock market. And you’re my business partner! I’m giving you my MPs- and you give me the ministry I want. I could go invest in the Liberal Party! I could declare myself your enemy!”
Adam and Sarah were both horrified as they saw Richard thump on the table, sweeping away the glasses of wine that splashed onto the floor like purple blood. “What are you saying?” he exclaimed. “We’re here, trying to divide up our victory spoils between us- and you, sir, are trying to take more than your fair share!”
“It is my fair share!” James shouted. “I’m giving you thirty MPs- I should be getting something like Defense Minister! What you’re giving me is actually less than my fair share.”
“Retardation. Stupidness! What is this foolishness?”
“Richard, James…” Sarah started.
“Mind your own business, woman.” James said, before turning back to Monroe. “We’ve got the entire country up for grabs. We’ve got everything. We’ve done all we needed to do- bribed, bought votes, everything– and I’ve been helping you every step of the way. Can you not parcel out a part of this country that I would want? In return for my loyal support?”
“Greedy fool!” shouted Richard, a little more quietly. White could guess what he was thinking. James was being extraordinarily loud and they could easily be overheard by now, even though the room was locked shut.
Drunk politicians speaking their mind. Not a healthy thing for a government.
“Alright, let’s shut up now.” Richard said. “Fine, I’ll give you the Ministry of Natural Resources and-“
“No, I’ve changed my mind. I want the Ministry of Defense.” demanded James.
“James, be quiet.” Adam told him sternly. “Sober up. Come on- are you really that desperate? You could take any ministry here and it’ll give you loads of funds to divide up between you and your lieutenants.”
“Yeah, but I also want power. Power.” James kept drinking and drinking and his eyes were bloodshot red. Gazing at those scarlet eyes, Adam was starting to become scared now, and he looked at Sarah for help. She looked away.
“How about we come back and talk tomorrow-” started Richard.
“No, we’ll finish this tonight.”
“Young man, I hope you remember I’m still the most powerful man here. I still call the shots.”
“Come on, James.” Adam said. “Don’t be crazy. Remember when you were in school with me? When we talked about what would happen if we ran the country together? Yeah, we’re running the country together now. Remember all the policies we said we’d do, the ones that would help the country most-“
“I don’t give a crap about any of that idiotic stuff now.” James interjected. “Who the hell actually cares about policies? It’s the money-“
“No.” Adam interjected back. “We’ve got to care about the welfare of the people.”
“You are still a little idiot, just like you were in middle school.” James pointed his middle finger at me. I was becoming really offended, but I remembered that he was drunk and I kept my calmness. “Quit trying to be the clean politician, my friend. There’s no such thing. Go with the flow. Realize what the most important goal here is- to get rich.”
“You’re horribly drunk.” Adam said. With that, James stormed out of the room and Adam sat in silence with Richard and Sarah.
“He’s as drunk as hell.” commented Richard
“I can see that.” Sarah said.
“Seriously, though, Adam- you’re not telling me you actually believe in what you’re saying?”
Adam shrugged. “I sorta do, but I also do what he said sometimes- ‘go with the flow’. I mean, I believe in things like doing your best to run the country- and I guess having a bit of profit and ‘spoil division’ is fine, as long as you’re doing your job well. Just a personal belief. Where the hell did James go, anyway?”
The door opened. “I’m here.” James said. “So- Minister of Defense?”
“Power hungry fool.” Richard roared, standing up. “Money-sucking wretch. I’ve given you more than enough.”
“Power hungry fool? Money-sucking wretch?” James sneered. “Aren’t we all?” He staggered up to his feet lazily and nearly fell down backwards. He was extremely drunk.
“You’re out. Get lost.” Richard said coldly as he pointed at the door.
“It seems that you do not welcome a power-hungry money-sucking fool into a den of exactly the same style of people.” James said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun. “You get lost.” A shot was fired and Richard Monroe’s body tumbled onto the table in a tremendous crash.
James simply laughed at that while Adam and Sarah watched, completely horrified and paralyzed by what had just happened. The country’s next Prime Minister had been shot dead.
“Alright. I think that loud shot made me sober up a little. What the hell have I done?” James said with a confused expression. He looked at the gun in his hand at the body of the once powerful man lying on the table, on top of plates of food. He looked around the room. “What did I just do? What…what…”
“You’re mad.” Adam said weakly.
“I may be, but at least I’m not as mad as the politician who’s trying to pretend to be right and clean.” he said. James smiled at Adam and closed his bloodshot eyes, before aiming the gun at his head and pulling the trigger.
* * *
Writer’s note: Are politicians able to stay clean? Can they be moral? There’s an interesting quote, and it’s from Douglas Adams. He said:
Anyone who is able to get themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
Of course, politicians would never admit this- but perhaps they will if they were drunk.