Elections Have Consequences(?)

Moshe Sipper, Ph.D.
The Haven
Published in
4 min readSep 21, 2023

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Well, at least actions do.

I wrote this a few years ago, thinking of Damocles and his sword

AI-generated image (craiyon)

A short story, excerpt from my book Fredric.

The Sword

“Back in the day, I was an aide to President Clinton,” said Julian Baxter with pride as he reclined on the sofa.

“I know, Grandpa,” replied Jenny Baxter patiently. Although she’d heard all the stories many times over, she never tired of them — a happy state of affairs that pleased both the eighty-one-year-old gentleman and his fourteen-year-old granddaughter.

“There’s the presidential limousine,” said Julian, pointing to the wall-mounted television screen.

“Yup,” said Jenny, her eyes glued to the TV.

The long, snakelike motorcade was slowly advancing toward the President’s rural home, as per her request.

“President Clinton was a great president,” said Julian forcefully. “This never would have happened to him, even if they’d had the McLeary Act back then.”

“Of course, Grandpa,” smiled Jenny. “Clinton was great.”

President Clinton,” said Julian admonishingly. For a moment he stared sternly at his granddaughter, only to burst into laughter, in which Jenny eagerly joined.

Then the motorcade came to a stop and the gravity of the situation quickly descended upon them, stopping the laughter cold. A hunched, haggard-looking President stepped out of the largest limousine.

“She looks so old!” cried Jenny.

“Well,” said Julian quietly, “who can blame her, given the situation?”

The images emanating from the TV were accompanied by an eerie silence. No music was being played, nor was there any of the usual babbling commentary. Slowly, surrounded by her Secret Service detail, the President entered her home.

“Things must have been pretty weird before the McLeary Act, huh Grandpa?” Jenny said after several moments of silence. Though in no need of a history lesson, she was aching to break the austere ambiance, and she knew how her grandfather loved talking about old times.

Julian was not fooled by his granddaughter’s feigned ignorance, but he too wished to engage in conversation, to hear their voices — anything to diminish the bleakness of the moment.

“I wouldn’t define the state of affairs back then as ‘weird’,” he began. “I’d say ‘bad’ — and getting worse. You see, the problem was that politics held no real consequences for the politicians.”

“But even President Clinton was impeached!” exclaimed Jenny.

“You know your history,” smiled Julian, with pride in his eyes. “Yes, but that was a very rare occurrence, and besides, at most he’d have been kicked out of office.” He gazed deeply into Jenny’s eyes. “But at least he did a good job as president! His only fault was an inability to keep his … His …” Julian’s face took on a crimson hue.

“It’s OK, Grandpa, I’m fourteen,” said Jenny teasingly.

“Yeah … Um … Well … In any case, politicians became more and more selfish and amoral. They could wreak havoc during their term of office and then leave nonchalantly with impunity, getting on with their blessed lives, while leaving their constituents in cursed shambles. And the president has the most power to do good — or harm.

“Then Senator McLeary came along,” said Jenny quietly.

“Indeed,” agreed Julian somberly, regarding the screen on which the president could be seen reclining in a threadbare yet comfortable-looking couch. “McLeary realized that a politician could do a horrible job and at most, they’d get voted out of office. But there was no real personal price to be paid. In fact, more often than not, even the bad ones ended up being sought-after lecturers and fortune-five-hundred company directors.”

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Jenny said impishly.

“I love it when you quote Spider-Man movies,” laughed Julian. Then he turned serious, “Or, as Senator McLeary said — ”

“Power comes with a hefty price,” completed Jenny.

“Power comes with a hefty price,” Julian echoed those now-immortalized words. “She realized that until politicians were made to pay a personal price for their failures, they would simply run amok, carefree and wanton, knowing that however badly they performed, they’d still come out of the game ahead. Because that’s all it was to them: a game.”

Jenny looked at him solemnly. “That’s how McLeary came up with the idea that a political office must come with a price tag.”

“Right you are. She came to realize that you had to balance all that raw power with a personal price to be paid in case of failure because politicians needed to understand that playing with people’s lives was no game. It took a while to set up the entire system: monetary fines for lowly offices, incarceration for higher offices, and, of course, the special presidential clause.”

“Of course,” said Jenny, “After all, you can’t have a president ruining the country and then simply going back to her lush home and her cushy life.”

“No,” Julian said firmly. “You most definitely cannot. To quote McLeary, ‘Those who seek the highest office must be willing to pay the highest price should they fail’.”

On the screen, the Secret Service agents were gone now, and only a white-coated doctor remained. He was done hooking up the drip.

Jenny and Julian became silent, riveted by the final moments.

With a slight nod of his head, the doctor acknowledged someone off the screen. He turned toward the President, who sat ashen-faced on the couch.

And began her execution.

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Moshe Sipper, Ph.D.
The Haven

Swashbuckling Buccaneer of Oceanus Verborum 🌊 4x Boosted Writer 🚀