Frank ran for office with a spotless record. He was bright, educated, intelligent, committed to his fellow man–made for the job. He spoke well of all, was thought well of by all.
He was up against an old, cynical, alcoholic wreck of a man whose understanding of the electorate took him no further than an appeal to the pocketbook through the crudest kind of corruption and bribes, and whose record showed he held no political convictions at all except one–to retain power at all costs.
The campaign was dirty and rough. at one point troops were called out to quell an October crisis. In the riots that followed, even Old Wreck was shocked by the violence unleashed; but not shocked enough to forego the tactics that brought about the violence, nor to refrain from buying votes. I figured the outcome was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t. Frank lost.
The better man lost. The man who had everything going for him . . . the man the people liked and trusted . . . the man who would have helped them regain their self respect. Frank lost. The best, most intelligent candidate the country had to offer was rejected like a jilted suitor.
There was, of course, the usual winner-congratulates-loser ritual. I was so sick I could hardly attend. The people gathered round and watched Frank, more sombre than usual, take his lumps from the Old Wreck himself, a pustular adolescent 60 years old. But he surprised me.
“I want you to know I don’t take much comfort from winning,” he told the crowd.
Was this the man who had bought hundreds of votes to get elected, who used violence as a tool of intimidation? But there was more.
With a catch in his voice and the suspicion of tears in his eyes he said: “In case you don’t understand what I’m saying, that last was by way of an apology. I can’t change what I am, but I can say I’m sorry, and I’ll try to do better for you.”
Then he stepped forward and grasped the hand of the man next me, shook it vigorously. He knew me, was going to pass me by when I thrust out my hand, grasped his, and said: “You’re OK. You’re not a bad guy at all.”
He looked at me, suspecting a cut, then grinned and said: “I guess owe you a couple of belts of Irish whisky for that.”
I looked him right in the eye and said: “I hope you understand I am not unaffected by the emotion of the situation.”
Then everyone laughed, and I found myself embracing my neighbor, and the one next to him, men and women alike; old crones, wizened old men; thumping young ones; modest maidens; everyone alike saying, as I went round and round the circle: “I love you, I love you, I do love you.”
I woke up.
I tried to fathom my dream, but it kept repeating over and over like a parable on the turntable of my mind. It is what it is, a dream of transfiguration . . . a prayer for a world that might be. I knew Old Wreck would be just as bad as ever; would go on corrupting and clinging to power . . . yet he might not. I knew I should hate him for bringing about the unjust defeat of a decent man. Yet I could not. I knew we get the government we deserve . . . yet we may not. Is this another dream? I don know . . .