Lots of reporters, especially as they get older, long to break out into a new aspect of writing. Instead of covering a beat, they long to write a masterpiece unrelated to their life’s work. Like my friend, Mick.
He’s peddling an idea he thinks will make him a millionaire, as well as the toast of Hollywood and American entertainment. His idea: update the PBS Masterpiece Theater series Downton Abbey. Instead of rural, royal England from 1912 to 1926, it would be America today. For copyright purposes, it might be called Downton America. Or something catchy.
Instead of household and romantic intrigue involving a wealthy family and its loyal-crafty staff, the new series focus would be the struggle between ordinary Americans today and their “servants” in Congress and your state capital. It would show the complex interaction between stakeholders (ordinary people who pick the politicians) and the individuals who dedicate their lives to serving us.
Up to a point!
The new version, starring all of us, would focus on what we need and want, and how our elected servants whose primary purpose is to get reelected keep their jobs, which includes making us think we are actually in control of the household.
To spice it up, Mick starts out with modern state legislatures. They are supposed to represent all of us at the local level. In the new version, we elect these people and then the political party in control draws up congressional districts to favor, wait-for-it, the party in power in that state.
The idea that politicians may someday take over elections, deciding who can vote and from which “safe” district has been suggested before. Under such a dystopian system, the politicians would pick the people — via gerrymandering — that would be allowed to vote for them. Result: elections that are often pretty easy to call. In his storyline, to keep a bipartisan tone, Democratic Maryland and Republican North Carolina would be examples where politicians pick who gets to vote for them. Dystopian, right? Them deciding where, or if, we can vote? Silly. That would be an abuse of power. Which is the subject of one of his first episodes. In it, a powerful 2021 state governor is accused of using his influence to get COVID-19 tests for family and friends while the rest of the people, the voters who run the place (in theory), are dying to get tested. Literally. As an aside, the governor has his hands full fighting off allegations of misconduct from women, including some of his staff. His denials make for an extended series. Far-fetched to be sure, but good TV. In the spirit of bipartisanship, he makes this made-up person the governor from a large blue state. Like New York.
In another episode, and you are going to love this, a very wealthy senator from a red state (Mick randomly picked Georgia) is accused by his political enemies of using early insider information on the severity of the COVID-19 threat. His detractors, who want to replace him, say he sold a ton of pharma stocks at their peak, then when the drug market bottomed out, he repurchased them. He sold high and bought low, which for most of us is harder than it seems.
And it goes on and on. Maybe as long a run as Downton. With viewers slowly becoming aware that things have changed. That they are the lobsters in the pot.
Of course this is all science fiction and will probably never make it to Hollywood, or London. While many people like far-out scenarios, they can’t be too far out. Like us, the electorate, the people actually being run by those we elected to be our servants. I mean it can’t happen here, right?
Or could it.
Nearly Useless Factoid
By Alazar Moges
The Constitution of India is the longest constitution in the world of any sovereign nation with at least 145,000 words. While Monaco, the second-smallest country after Vatican City, has the shortest constitution with approximately 3,800 words.
Source: World Atlas