At the Trump International Hotel Washington, a large group of red-faced men sat their doughy bodies in overstuffed winged chairs, drinking Scotch from crystal tumblers.
“What is the matter at hand?” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III asked, blowing blue plumes of cigar smoke out of the corners of his mouth. He tapped cigar ashes directly onto the Persian rug.
“National health care?” replied a voice to his right.
There was a brief pause before the group started to chuckle—the chuckles quickly turned into loud guffaws as the joke hit home. Certainly not national health care. Everyone knew that a healthy citizenry was the first step to the evils of socialism. After all, what else would keep people in their underpaid jobs? It was for the good of the nation, and more importantly, the nation’s economy to maintain stability in the workplace.
“Free college?” tittered another voice, edging on hysterical laughter.
“Let’s just have free water and free high-speed internet access while we’re at it,” replied another sarcastically. “Why not just make everything free?”
“Well, it’s a free country,” said another.
“Not for long if we give everything away for free,” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III said, putting his foot down. “Freedom isn’t free.”
“Freedom is an abstract noun,” suggested a timid voice.
Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III stood, facing God’s sunlight streaming through a window, making his alabaster skin all the more radiant. “Freedom is the ability to say, I cannot afford to pay for my children’s healthcare or college education, but in America, figurative bootstraps are free. And in America, our divine gift of rugged individualism requires stalwart bootstrap-pullers.”
“Well said, Harrison! Here here!” called a voice to his right. All joined in the toast, raising crystal tumblers full of amber liquid.
“What we need, my friends, is a new symbol. The eagle has been emasculated by tree huggers who’ve brought it back from the brink of extinction. I say if an animal can’t survive DDT and your basic environmental pollution, then that animal isn’t tough enough to represent the conservative movement.”
“Boy howdy,” came a voice from the far back. “Imma sure glad wez gettin’ to the impotant stuff first.”
“The chair recognizes—what did you say your name was?” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III questioned the room, peering over his bifocals.
“Billy. I’m Billy Hill from the Muskogee Chapter,” came the reply. The newest member spat the fruits of his tobacco chew into his Budwiser beer can. Brown rivulets dribbled down his chin, staining his coveralls.
“The chair recognizes William Hill.”
“Don’t call me William, you sonbitch. I’m just Billy Hill, a simple man from the heartland of America—Oklahoma. Call me Bubba if you want. That’s what I go by at the yard.”
“The tow yard. I earn my money the old fashion way. Sneaking around looking for cars iggily parked or not. And I don’t pay taxes since half of my money would go to the godless demoncrats and their devil worshippers.”
“That’s not quite how that works, but indeed, liberals are by definition devil worshippers. Anyone who’s ever eaten a pizza knows that.”
“May I speak, your Honor?”
“Very well, the chair recognizes Bubba. What do you have to add, my good man?”
“Well, ya see, when it comes to picking a new symbol to replace the iggle, it’s not so important what we choose as what we don’t choose.”
“How so, Wil… I mean Bubba?”
“It can’t be a panda, a zebra, or one of them Holstein cows. We may be forced to mix colors in schools, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it with our symbol of purity.”
“Agreed. No pandas,” added a voice from the right. “It’s clear that pandas started the fake COVID-19 epidemic. That’s just science.”
“That reminds me,” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III said, attempting to lighten the mood. “Are we all wearing our masks and socially distancing?”
The room roared with laughter.
“I’m socially distancing myself from social distancing!”
“Bill Gates’ nanotechnology can stay out of my body,” yelled another, “just like his ex-wife!”
“And zebras are out, too,” agreed a voice from the far right. “The country of Africa needs to be second to America. As God himself decreed on Mount Olympus, America First for American Families.”
“By God, that’s what we need! An animal that exhibits strong family values. Traditional family values. The family is the foundation and soul of this great nation,” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III declared. “One man. One woman. One marriage.”
The room went silent.
“Aren’t you divorced, Harrison?” a timid voice asked. “Like three times? And I think your current mistress is outside,” the man whispered, pointing to a twentysomething dressed in a very tight fuschia minidress, wildly waving at Harrison through the plate glass. Harrison blew her a kiss.
“One man. One woman at a time. One marriage at a time,” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III declared boldly, loud enough to echo through the room.
“Jeez—one woman at a time?” said one of the men to another. “That’s going to mess up my weekend in Florida.”
“It’s more of a guideline than a rule,” Harrison added. “We only need to follow rules, unless they become inconvenient.”
“Perhaps we should go over the definitive list of whom we should fraternize with,” added Preston Von Furstenburg Delacroix. “You know. To keep the pandas and zebras out of the proverbial zoo?”
“Guideline!” shouted the room.
“Doggone it,” Bubba interrupted. “Are there any rules to what you people won’t bang?”
“They have to be human,” replied Preston evenly.
“Human! Yes! Here here!” toasted the room, refilling crystal tumblers and cheering a consensus of opinion.
“Whew, I was ginnin’ to think there were only guidelines,” Bubba said, relieved.
“What about us lonely, God-fearing farmers out in the midwest?” asked Cletus, adjusting his MAGA hat and sticking his thumbs in the straps of his overalls. Cletus was fine voting against his own interests, but curtailing whom he could and could not love was another matter entirely.
“Well, all dem dere rules is just regional anyway,” assured Pierre Boudreaux, a shrimper from N’awlins. But everyone knew the Deep South had always had their own peculiar institutions and certain ways of doing things.
“Now that we have that settled,” Harrison said, trying to regain control of the meeting, “what animal shall we adopt as our new symbol?”
From all corners of the room suggestions started to ring out.
“Oh my,” Preston said as he furiously tried to write down each suggestion.
“I know it!” Bubba said in a voice so loud it quieted the entire room. “How about a sheep? Think about it. Sheep help you get to sleep. Sheep provide wool we use to pull over each other's eyes.”
“I like sheep,” Cletus added as he pulled out his wallet and showed the room a picture of his favorite one. “You could say, I really love sheep.”
“Fine, then. Sheep have been proposed as the symbol of the conservative movement,” Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III announced with authority.
“I second the emotion,” Bubba said, raising his grimy hand.
“Fine. Then we’ll vote. Those who say yea?”
The room exploded with resounding yea’s.
“Are there any nays or neighs?”
The room grew silent.
“Then, my sheeple, please join me in bleating your unquestioning support and cognitive dissonance in supporting without discussion or dissent the platform of the conservative movement.”
The room cheered as the poor conservatives slunk to the edges of the room and the rich lauded Harrison Jefferson Livingston, III for another successful policy meeting, leading the conservatives on to certain victory in the midterm elections.