PROLOGUE - Once upon a time there were two little girls who grew up as friends and classmates in the country of Auzmania. Despite their close friendship,the girls were very much unalike. Alicia was caring, cooperative and a loyal friend to all who knew her. Snow, on the other hand, was devious, manipulative and her friendship was shallow. Both were very bright and they were the most attractive girls their age in the town where they grew up. Alicia was popular because of her genuine relationship with everyone she met. Snow would have won the contest for "most hated" if one were held.
Her skillful efforts to manipulate people, however, allowed Snow to be elected class president. It won her the title of class valedictorian at junior high graduation when her knowledge of an indiscretion by the principal forced him to find a way to break the grade point average tie with Alicia. And the richest boys in town would ask Snow for dates because they found her "loose" as opposed to Alicia's reserved attitude regarding matters that will not be discussed here.
One day Alicia and Snow went camping, [pretending they were pioneers, lost in the forest, and had to fend for themselves, living off the fat of the land. They gathered berries, caught fish, dug up edible roots, took eggs from a wild turkey nest and collected what other food nature could provide. That night, sitting at the campfire, Snow said that she was still hungry.
"I need some red meat. We didn't have any f that."
"But," said Alicia, "we had more than we usually eat when I'm a dinner guest at your house, and that's always more than I can consume."
"Nevertheless, I'm still hungry."
At that moment a very, very little white rabbit, barely able to walk and not yet trained by his mother to avoid humans, was attracted to the campfire. On his little legs he hopped closer, and closer, and finally sat down in front of Snow, looking up at her with his little eyes.
At that moment, to the surprise of Alicia, who was deeply shocked by what was about to happen, Snow grabbed the little rabbit, broke his neck, skinned him with a knife, cut off his claws, and ran a skewer for toasting marshmallows through him. she then put the speared rabbit over the fire and quickly cooked the meat. Within a moment she had swallowed the rabbit in one large gulp, followed by a disgusting belch. With an evil grin on her face, Snow said:
"Now I'm full and ready for bed."
As they crawled into their sleeping bags, Alicia pondered what she had just witnessed. She wasn't entirely sure that what Snow had done was so cruel or unusual. After all, they were pretending to be pioneers.
"Maybe some day I'll catch a little baby rabbit and, like Snow," thought Alicia, as into sleep she fell, "Down the rabbit whole."
The Auzmanian presidential race shaped up as a head to head encounter between two life-long friends, Alicia and Snow. Despite their close friendship, they couldn't be farther apart in their political views or their relationship with others.
Alicia gained prominence as a successful community organizer, fighting to replace slums with modern low-income housing. Her efforts in support of Munchkins, formerly called dwarfs, resulted in passage of the federal Auzmanians with Disabilities Act, which included provisions for outlawing discrimination against any citizen. She led the movement for a minimum wage, paid vacations and government health insurance for all. Alicia's followers were largely from minorities, the poor, the working class and the more educated members of the middle class.
Snow's supporters were a different breed. If that term had to be used, the Snowites would say they were pure bred - old line families that dated back to pioneer days, hard-working and thrifty Auzmanians who had struggled into the middle class and were determined to stay there. Old Money families who may have not had 'first family' status as an hereditary condition but had bought their way into the company of blue blood or blue book members. To win the vote of these groups, Snow had risen politically on a platform of free enterprise, low taxes, non regulation, strictly traditional moral values and the right to bear arms. Her election to the senate, and her repeated re-elections, testified to the strength of her appeal.
While Alicia grew up in a close-knit, traditional family with a father who taught at the local university and a stay-at-home Mom who raised their only child, Snow had the disadvantage of a dysfunctional environment. Her mother left when Snow was only eight and her father remarried a woman with two daughters several years younger than Snow. The step-sisters, Dotty and Cindy, were charming youngsters with lots of friends. Dotty brought smiles from everyone who saw her because, whether at home or on the street, she always had her pet bird, Dodo, on her right shoulder. Cindy made folks giggle because when she left the house her ragged dress was nearly always bedecked with cinders from the fireplace that Snow made her clean nightly.
But evil sister Snow was not amused by the antics or dress of either good step-sister, and she forced them to scrub floors for hours, make beds, wash dishes, pull weeds and do all the other chores that Snow would otherwise have been required to do herself. Snow delighted in tormenting her step-sisters and that pleasure seemed to be evident in the way that the adult Snow treated others.
Snow's evil character was evident in her performance during several terms as a senator. She had led the opposition to the national health insurance law that Alicia's adherents had pushed through over Snow's objection. Once passed, the law had to face a supreme court challenge raised, unsuccessfully, by Snow. A bill authored by Snow, calling for relocation of all Munchkins to a reservation, ostensibly for their own protection, was narrowly defeated when it became apparent that the only protection the Munchkins needed was from Snow's hateful supporters. And Snow voted against every budget bill that came before the senate during her many terms.
It is not surprising that when Snow hosted a tea, at $10,000 a cup, both Old and New Money showed up in droves. But an additional element was there, outside the elegant tea room where the event was held. Racists, anti-Munchkinites, Libertarians, small government, and those who considered themselves outsiders in politics, assembled for a Tea Party of their own on the street. They would have been inside but none of them could afford the price of a single cup at the Snow affair. But they did not vent their anger against the wealthy inside. No, their voices were raised against all the forces they hated with every breath they inhaled: the fores that supported candidate Alicia. Thus was born the Auzmanian Tea Party, which would become a major factor in the country's politics.
At one of her first presidential campaign rallies, Snow's principal speaker was a leading Tea Party agitator, known for his hateful, fear-mongering tirades against Munchkins, illegal immigrants, the idle poor and those drawing welfare checks. With what could have been venom expelled with nearly every word, or it could have been spit, he urged Snow supporters to rally behind a move to take away the right to vote from those who drew welfare checks, retired government workers who drew pensions from the federal treasury, and others of that ilk. Frothing at the mouth, he insisted that all illegal immigrants be jailed, their property confiscated and that following their release from prison they be immediately deported. In his nearly insane rant against the Munchkins and with his animosity literally dripping from his mouth, he demonstrated why he had earned the nickname of The Mad Hater.
>From the other side of the economic spectrum came Snow's richest contributor, Adolfo Sobotino, a self-made billionaire whose fortune was based on the manufacture of tin cans. He had acquired a monopoly on their production years ago and at one time was among the five richest men in the world. His surname was often mispronounced So-bo-TEEN-O. He insisted it was So-bo-TIN-O. To be safe, most people simply referred to him as "the Tin Man."
And "Tin Man" he was, as far as his workers were concerned. Sobotino blocked the formation of a union by firing anyone who dared join. His spies knew instantly of any new members and they received a dismissal notice before the end of the day. Collective bargaining was unheard of at the can factory. Workers took whatever pay the company desired to give on any pay day, and the amount might vary considerable from paycheck to paycheck. A limitation of hours was unheard of at the plant, which ran two ten-hour shifts each day, with a four hour shutdown to clean and oil the machines and do other necessary tasks before the next shift began.
Only a company picnic broke the monotony of the work year, and attendance was required. Workers and their families provided the food and entertainment, and were responsible for funding a major charitable gift made in honor of Mr. Sobotino. It was rumored that he then deducted the amount of the gift from his already inconsequential income tax.
Although speaking ill of the Tin Man was dangerous, among the workers he was best described as heartless because of his uncaring attitude toward his workers. His heartlessness was also a matter of gossip among the women he dated. Sobotino was no longer young but he still thought of himself as the best catch among the rich bachelors of Auzmania. The young ladies he wooed, however, tittered among themselves about his amorless courting, summed up in a comment on his kissing technique that also included another complaint about him: "Your lips may be near but where is your heart?"
The Tin Man wasn't the only unsavory backer of Snow. Since the president would appoint heads of agencies that regulated transportation, shady operators ponied up funds for her campaign to assure that inspectors would look the other way once she was president. The most prominent underworld character in this group was the head of the ferry monopoly, controlling most of the ferry boats in Auzmania. His contributions to the Snow campaign were more than generous and he asked for no special treatment, but it was expected to be there after the election. This mobster was usually referred to as The Ferry Godfather.
Snow's campaign may have had great wealth behind it, but there was money on Alicia's side as well. Her counterpart to the Tin Man was a wealthy ne'er do well who thought it chic to bankroll a presidential candidate. He wasn't interested in any business or financial favors. His reward was thinking of himself as a potential king, or in this case queen, maker. His name was rarely, if ever, mentioned during the campaign and Snow's spies were never able to fully pinpoint the source of Alicia's campaign funds, but insiders knew. Whereas Snow's money came from tin, Alicia's came from a matchbox. Her angel was heir to a fortune, not quite as big as the Sobotino holdings, but substantial. Those in the know were aware that the cash derived from profits made from the sale of matches. Privately, they referred to the donor as The Match Heir.
Early in the campaign Alicia hired a photographer to produce appropriate pictures for the press, for posters and for news releases. Unbeknown to her campaign directors, the photographer was actually an ally of Snow. Days passed and the needed photos had not arrived despite repeated promises of "they're almost ready." Days turned into weeks as the campaign official responsible for the pictures moaned: "Some day my prints will come." Eventually they turned to a pro-Alicia shop and the photos were ready immediately.
Each morning Snow stood before a full length mirror in her bedroom and asked: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, which candidate will take it all?" Dutifully, the mirror responded with the answer Snow wanted to hear: "You'll lead them all to the presidential ball." Elated, Snow then went out and campaigned even more vigorously... and deviously.
One of Alicia's efforts concerned passage of anti-sword legislation. The number of children killed inadvertently in unsupervised sword play and an increasing number of violent attacks involving swords brought forth a growing public demand for restrictions, if not an outright ban, on swords. Snow led the opposition in the senate to any anti-sword bills.
In the midst of the campaign a horrifying incident in a passenger coach by a sword-wielding lunatic left several passengers dead or wounded. The culprit was a former insane asylum inmate who had been released to outpatient care as a result of Alicia's effort to end the prolonged incarceration of mentally ill patients. In press conferences, media interviews and campaign advertising Snow insisted that Alicia's misguided do-goodism was responsible for the slaughter on the van. Furthermore, instead of banning swords, all citizens should carry them at all times. "Had there been even one sword-carrying rider on that coach the slaughter could have been stopped immediately." Banning swords was wrong-headed. "Let every citizen be armed with a sword!" became a Snow campaign slogan, one that met with strong support from her followers.
At this point Snow's step-sisters could no longer remain silent. They had refrain from expressing their views on the race for president out of fear of Snow, but Snow's increasingly disgusting campaign tactics were more than they could bear. Both now joined Alicia's campaign. Dotty taught Dodo to say "Alicia for President," and everywhere Dotty went, Dodo, perched on her shoulder, voiced her choice in the coming election. Not to be outdone, Cindy put her Cheshire cat, Chessy, into the campaign as well. When out of the house, Chessy courageously wore a sandwich board proclaiming, "I'm for Alicia." For the first time in their lives, the two step-sisters were free!
The step-sisters were not the only ones who had been afraid to speak out. Prominent politicians like Senator Lyon had also remained silent although their views were more consistent with those of Alicia than with Snow. Demands from the press for Lyon to commit himself to Alicia publicly were ignored although reporters pressed him repeatedly on the subject. Even an editorial referring to him as "the cowardly Lyon" failed to end his intransigence.
A month before Auzmanians were to go to the polls, Snow found a new way to attack Alicia. A minor aide in Alicia's campaign was arrested, accused of watching pornography in the public library. Snow immediately elevated this low echelon campaign worker to the post of 'primary adviser' to Alicia, creating a straw man who became fodder for the Snow campaign. For several days the Snow press room issued releases implying that the suspect was the Alicia guru who had shaped her views on sentencing reform, which was why Alicia had urged reductions in the intolerant "three strikes" law. Even when the prosecutor dropped all charges against the aide - he had been watching a youtube parody of a Biblical epic - Snow's campaign continued to refer to the "indicted pornographer."
Even Snow's mirror couldn't take the dirty tricks Snow resorted to. One day the mirror truthfully reported that Alicia would be the next president. Snow broke the mirror and at that point decided to do in Alicia. She challenged Alicia to a race on Auzmania's highest lake, which had frozen over early. Alicia, who didn't know how to ice skate, reluctantly agreed since Snow said it would show the nation that, despite the heat of the election, the relationship between the two candidates was not cool. Snow, in what seemed to be an act of good sportsmanship, offered Alicia a pair of fancy skates, said to be the fastest in the land... or on the lake. Alicia accepted them, not knowing that the blades were so sharp that when they reached thinner ice in the race they would cut through and Alicia would fall through and drown before rescuers arrived. The two racers were in lanes, marked on the ice with yellow paint, but Alicia's lane was painted deliberately over the thinnest ice.
The inevitable happened. Alicia was pulled bedraggled from the icy water and pronounced dead. The anti-sword crowd, supporters of Alicia, were dejected. At her funeral, famous and unknown admirers intermingled. Cowardly politicians, such as Senator Lyon, who had been afraid to speak out for her before now did so. Having found some courage, Lyon took a jeweled sword and broke it in half above Alicia's clear plastic casket, then placed the broken halves on the dormant Alicia. Miraculously she awoke from a death-like coma and arose, rejuvenated, ready to carry on the campaign. Dodo, sitting on Dotty's shoulder, rejoiced, shouting "Alicia for President." Chessy, still wearing the sandwich board,grinned in response.
With voter sentiment quickly turning in favor of Alicia as sports reporters, investigating the accident, determined that the race had been rigged so that Alicia would fall through the ice, Snow resorted to even more evil tactics. The dwarfs working at the tin mill - still called dwarfs, not Munchkins, by Snow's supporters - were ordered to register to vote by mail and were told to bring their blank ballots to work, unmarked, and turn them into management, who would mail them in prior to the election. The dwarfs were told that if they mailed in their ballots themselves the votes would probably not be counted because corrupt election workers would discard ballots for a candidate the official did not support. But mailing them in collectively, the officials would not be likely to do their evil deed. Reluctantly, the dwarfs obeyed because they were told that those not bringing in ballots would be fired.
On election day voters awoke to an ominous sky. Heavy rain and wind buffeted much of the country. Pundits speculated on the effect weather would have on the outcome of the election. That would depend upon which parts of Auzmania were most affected by the storm. A deluge in the east would be favorable to Alicia, whose voting strength lay in the west. Tornadoes out that way, however, would give an edge to Snow.
As it turned out, heavy rains in the east did keep many voters home. Local officials tried to make up for that by keeping the polls open beyond the normal hours. Snow demanded that voters be allowed to cast their ballots the following day, but the supreme court rejected that request.
While voting in the west was less impacted by the weather, a series of tornadoes hit the Midwest during midday, causing much damage and temporarily disrupting the voting. It was not the election that was on the minds of residents, however. The possibility of loss of life was their main concern. With the early warning system out of service due to loss of power, Alicia dispatched a car to search for tornadoes, dashing ahead of them to warn residents of the impending doom. It was perhaps the best campaigning Alicia could have done on election day because newscasters referred to her heralds as Alicia's Cyclone Racers.
As the vote count started Alicia's opponents, who conducted the vote counting in numerous precincts, filled in unmarked ballots with votes for Snow, erased penciled votes for Alicia and change them to votes for their candidate, or destroyed Alicia ballots. This was done mostly in western precincts, which were generally comprised of Alicia voters. When this vote corruption was discovered, having thrown that part of the country into Snow's column, the press denounced the fraudulent count, dubbing it the 'crooked switch of the west."
The final tally took several days to complete and was replete with court challenges, which eventually reached the supreme court. By a 5-4 decision on almost all contested ballots, with one justice swinging back and forth, the result was that massive numbers of ballots that would have gone to Snow or to Alicia were disqualified. The voter turnout had not been heavy, despite the bitter campaign, because of the storms. With the ballots discarded by the court, the total qualified votes cast was the smallest in decades.
The result was stunning. The number of votes for each of the two was far below expectations. Their totals were within a few votes of each other. With some ballots still in dispute, who had more was in question.
But that didn't matter. In the rural regions of Auzmania a third candidate did very well and his votes were not in dispute. Earl Henry, country and western music composer and performer, known mainly for his sad songs of lost love, ran up an unexpectedly high vote count. Even in urban areas where younger voters were drawn by his contemporary lyrics and beat, Henry did surprisingly well. His sole platform plank had been a parody of that oft-heard slogan of so many candidates: "Take our country back." Henry's slogan was a winning "Take us back to country." He made no speeches. He just sang, mostly his songs, which were a blend of traditional country mixed with his new songs that were country with a rock and roll beat.
The day after the election, one headline read: "No sad songs for Auzmania; It's Henry."
Alicia and Snow sat before their campfire that aides had prepared, along with comfortable sleeping quarters, a mosquito-proof sitting area, and a luxurious motorhome equipped with all the latest technological gear. The aides had departed, leaving the camp to the two elderly friends. For octogenarians, they were still a little spry.
"Remember when we camped here so many years ago?" Alicia said to Snow. "You caught that rabbit, skinned him, roasted him over the fire and ate him in one big bite?"
"Alicia, did you really think that I ate that rabbit?"
"Sure, I saw you swallow him whole.... You mean, you didn't?" she asked in a disbelieving voice.
"Of course I didn't," replied Snow. "A little sleight of hand was all it was. You thought I was going to eat him when my hand brought the bunny to my mouth, and because you thought that, that's what you saw. No, I didn't eat the rabbit."
"Then this whole story was a fairy tale, wasn't it?"
"I'm afraid so, Alicia. But it was sure a fun one."
At that moment another very young bunny hopped up close to them, this time nearer to Alicia. Since the bunny seemed unafraid, Alicia reached out her hands, the bunny licked them, and Alicia picked him up.
"My goodness, his fur feels like fluff," she said with surprise.
"Yes. I hate to mention it but some Auzmanians raise rabbits just for the fluff, which they stuff in pillows because it's so soft, the rabbit's equivalent of goose down. Only this particular breed of rabbit has that quality, which is why it is considered sacred in some Auzmanian religions."
"I can certainly see why," replied Alicia as she felt down on the holy rabbit.
Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poiy Pomona. email@example.com