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Authors: Mikael Carlson

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The iCongressman

BOOK: The iCongressman
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.

 
 
 
 

The

iCongressman

 
 
 
 
 

MIKAEL
CARLSON

 
 
 
 
 
 

Warrington
Publishing

New
York

 

The iCongressman

Copyright © 2014 by Mikael Carlson

 

Warrington Publishing

P.O. Box 2349

New York, NY 10163

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any
means—electronic, mechanical, photographic (photocopying), recording, or
otherwise—without prior permission in writing from the author. For such
requests, address Warrington Press, c/o Subsidiary Rights Department, P.O. Box
2349, New York, New York 10163.

 

Printed in the United States of America

First Edition

ISBN:
978-0-9897673-2-3

978-0-9897673-3-0
(E-Book)

Cover design by
Veselin
Milacic

 

This
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

.

 
 
 
 

Also by
Mikael Carlson:

 

- The
Michael Bennit Series -

The iCandidate

 

.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dedicated to all the risk-takers who have made bold sacrifices to
try to make the world a better place.

 
 
 
 
 

While the story of
Michael Bennit as the iCongressman can stand on its own, a reader will get far
more out of his story by starting with the beginning of his exploits. To that
end, I encourage anybody who purchased this book to read
The
iCandidate
beforehand.

 

.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Social media spark a revelation that we, the people,
have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once
again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.”

― Brian
Solis

 
 
 
 
 

“Social media is
the empowerment of the individual at the expense of the system.”

― David
Amerland

 
 
-PROLOGUE-
 

MICHAEL

 


I,
state your name, do solemnly swear,” the Speaker of the United States House of
Representatives announces in a formal and somber voice.

After a wild-roller coaster ride the past six months, it’s a
little overwhelming to be standing with my right hand raised in the Well of the
House Chamber, the large assembly room located in the center of the United
States Capitol’s south wing. Having won a special election while Congress is
already in session, I am taking the Oath of Office on the Floor in front of the
members. The Clerk of the House received the proper documentation from the
Connecticut Election Commission this morning.

“I, Michael Bennit, do solemnly
swear,” I repeat in a deep, confident voice I hope masks my jitters.

 
“That I will support and defend the
Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,”
the Speaker continues from the rostrum. I can’t help but notice the five words
carved across the front of the large, paneled wood structure: Union, Justice,
Tolerance, Liberty, and Peace.

“That I will support and defend
the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and
domestic,” I echo.

Behind the rostrum are two pairs of black marble Ionic
columns with white capitals. An American flag occupies the center with the
words “In God We Trust” spelled out in bronze letters above it. Despite being
the national motto since 1956, you know the inscription must drive the atheists
and secularists crazy.

“That I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion.”

I am completely lost in the
moment. I need to focus on what I’m saying before I commit the ultimate faux
pas and ask the Speaker to repeat himself. It is easier said than done under
the circumstances though.

“That I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion.” I actually have a lot of mental
reservations stemming from having no idea whether I belong here or not.

“And that I
will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about
to enter.”

On either side of the flag are two bronze fasces consisting
of an axe within a bundle of rods, bound together by a strap and
representing
a classical Roman symbol of civic authority.
The Founding Fathers referenced Republican Rome during the formation of the
nation, so now these icons symbolize the authority of Congress and the
philosophy of American democracy. Like those bound rods in the fasces, the
individual states achieve strength through their union under the federal
government. Yes, I’m a fountain of useless knowledge.

“And that I
will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about
to enter.”
At least, that’s the plan.

“So help me God.”

I take a moment to again look up
at the words spelled out in bronze. In God We Trust indeed.

“So help me God,” I repeat,
concluding an only slightly different version of an oath I uttered countless
times during my military service.

The members in the room break
into applause, as do the visitors filling the House Gallery located in the
balcony. As my swearing in is the last order of business before recessing for
the weekend, the chamber is sparsely populated. There is no assigned seating
here so it’s difficult to tell who bothered showing up for this occasion and
who didn’t.

The Speaker of House is here,
along with Majority Leader Harvey Stepanik and other distinguished Republicans
like Thomas Parker. The Democratic leadership is also present, including the
venerable Minority Leader Dennis Merrick. Outside of them, and a small
delegation from their parties, it looks like most of the membership got an
early jump on their weekend exodus.

It doesn’t matter because I’m
fully aware who is here. I gaze up at the
gallery to find a
collection of students applauding along the ledge. It
should surprise nobody that Vince, Peyton, Chelsea, Amanda, Emilee, Brian, and
Vanessa all made the trip down to Washington to share this moment with me. They
are the ones responsible for my being here.

How far we have come from that
day where we made a bet I never imagined losing. The entire American History
class had to all get
an A on a final exam, and if they did,
I had to run for Congress. I never would have made the deal if I thought I
would lose. My exams were incredibly hard, only they worked harder.

I convinced them to help run the
campaign over the summer, and although it was a bumpy ride, they stuck it out
in the bitter fight against the incumbent Democrat Winston Beaumont. In the
process, the race turned into a circus, my students into media darlings, and my
life upside down.

I lost the November election, but
apparently I was wrong when I spoke to them after the race. Getting me elected
may not have been the point of my decision to run for office after losing the bet,
but they managed to make it happen anyway. It took the incumbent getting
indicted and a special election, but the result is the same. Here I am.

I end my trip down memory lane to
refocus on the gallery. My parents have long since passed, so I have no immediate
family joining my students peering over the ledge. The only other person with
them is the woman who has changed my life in so many ways. Kylie Roberts was an
intrepid independent journalist who first became interested in my campaign to
seek revenge on Winston Beaumont. By the time the final votes were cast, she
had fully bought into what we were trying to do and became our most ardent
supporter. Who knew when I climbed into her car in the parking lot of the
Perkfect Buzz that not only would she achieve her goal, but end up dating me in
the aftermath?

The speaker raps the gavel to
announce the recess and people begin to mill around the room. A few
representatives come over to shake my hand, but my welcome to Washington has
been anything but warm. Most members simply slink out the door to head for the
airport and the flight back to their districts.

I give my former student campaign
staff a quick wave and thumbs-up, and then smile broadly at Kylie. Realizing
the need to stop and smell the roses, I take a moment to admire where I am
standing. You have to hand it to the architects of this building. Their
sense
of grandeur in designing the Capitol created an extraordinary physical space.
Like a Greek temple to Apollo, this room is ridiculously ornate, and conveys an
aura of importance of the history men and women create here.

The chamber’s lower walls are walnut paneled with light gray
marble pilasters, and the peacock blue and gold patterned carpet reflects the
electric lighting installed in the mid-twentieth century. It’s hard to imagine
skylights lit this magnificent room for the first one hundred twenty years of
its existence.

Outside of the Oval Office of the White House, the Hall of
the House of Representatives is the single most recognizable room in all of
Washington. This is the chamber seen by large numbers of Americans every year
during the president’s State of the Union address. I’m humbled to be standing
in the middle of it. You cannot ask for more grandeur and history out of a
place of employment.

“I apologize your swearing in was
so lightly attended,” a voice from behind me declares, breaking my nostalgic
moment. “Right before recessing for the weekend is the worst time to get
anything done around here. Johnston Albright,” he says, extending his hand.

“No apology necessary, Mister
Speaker,” I respond, meaning it. Given the circumstances of my election, I’m
surprised any of the members showed up at all.

“Well, let me congratulate you on
your victory. It had to be one of the biggest landslides in congressional
history.”

Ironically, that’s one historical
fact I don’t know. After losing to Winston Beaumont in November, he was
indicted on numerous counts of conspiracy and bribery and forced to resign his
seat. While the Republicans and Democrats held primary battles for who would
run to take his place, I was already campaigning.

Using the same students who ran
my original campaign, and the same social media platforms that gave me the
moniker
the ”
iCandidate,” we engaged the voters in the
district by talking about ideas
and
issues. Whereas I avoided taking a stand in my first race to prove a point, I
wasn’t bashful this time around. It made a decided difference.

The resulting election a few days
ago was not pretty for either the Republicans or the Democrats. We won
eighty-six percent of the vote, with the remaining fourteen percent split
between the two major parties. What must scare the party bosses the most was
the turnout. Special elections usually draw only a small fraction of eligible
voters to participate. My victory saw over half of the district cast a vote.

“Thank you, Mister Speaker, I
appreciate that.”

“I know this all must still be
somewhat overwhelming to you,” he observes, “but have you discussed joining a
caucus with any of the leadership?”

“No, I haven’t. It’s safe to
assume the Democrats won’t want me caucusing with them after what happened to
Beaumont,” I state truthfully.

“I can see where they might be a
little bitter about losing one of their most senior voices,” Speaker Albright says
with a laugh. “The problem is, I’m not sure if you fit with the Republicans
either. Some of our members have expressed concerns as well.”

“Concerns?”
I ask, trying to ascertain exactly where the leading
Republican in the House is going with this.

“Yes. Many consider you too
moderate in your views to become a valued member of our caucus. I tend to
disagree, but I am only one voice,” he adds somewhat theatrically. One
voice
my ass. Who is he kidding? He is
the
voice. Is this what I have to look forward to? I became an
official member of Congress five minutes ago and the political games are
already starting.

“Mister Speaker, without joining
a caucus, I don’t get a committee assignment,” I explain, as if he didn’t know
that. Nice job, Captain Obvious.

“I understand,” he says in the
best fake sympathetic voice I have ever heard. They really do play at a higher
level here. “But even if you do join us to caucus, I just don’t think we can
arrange for you to have a seat on a committee. You understand the difficulty of
the situation, don’t you?”

I grin, because it’s about all I
can do. I know their strategy now, and have no idea how to beat it. I may have
to get used to the fact that this is going to be a long year and a half.

“Michael, let me give you a piece
of advice from a guy who has been doing this far longer than you,” the Speaker
condescends. “There is a certain way things are done in Congress, especially
the House. We all know what the Constitution says, but the document never
specified
how
we do business. So over
the decades, norms, customs, and processes emerged to best enable us to … do
the work of the people.” I want to cough at the statement, but stay silent and
accept whatever little gem of advice I’m about to get.

“Learn those processes and abide
by them,” he continues smugly. “You may fancy yourself a rebel with a cause,
but there is no room for aberrant behavior in this building. The parties set
the rules here, and you’ll be expected to play by them.”

“And if I don’t?” I say, not as a
direct challenge to one of the most powerful figures in Washington, but more
out of curiosity. No room for aberrant behavior. What a joke. He smiles and
pats my arm once for effect.

“You have strong and determined
enemies in this building you don’t even know of yet. Don’t be quick to alienate
the people who aren’t.” With that, Speaker Albright heads up the aisle toward a
set of double doors in the rear of the chamber.

Chelsea, Kylie, Vince, and the
rest of the gang give me a series of “what was that about?” gestures and faces
from their spots along the ledge of the gallery. Despite the chamber being
close to empty now, I don’t want to shout, so I point for them to meet me in
the lobby so we can start the celebration.

As they climb the stairs to exit
the gallery, I survey the room a final time and then glance down at the
gold-colored lapel pin announcing my status as a member of Congress. I’m
overwhelmed with the pride and honor I feel being here, but I wonder how long
that will last. Something tells me I was right about needing to get used to
another feeling—that it is going to be a very long year and a half.

BOOK: The iCongressman
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