States of Rebellion
The nightmare was more intense this time. It seemed to get worse as Duke's stress level rose. He bolted upright in bed, ripping the covers off Becky. She was already awake. In fact, she had been watching and listening to his agony. She tried to calm him.
"It's okay, honey," she said, taking hold of his sweaty hand. He wiped the tears from his face with his other hand.
"It's okay. You're okay."
She gently rubbed his back as he transitioned from that dark place to the present. A present that itself was growing darker by the day.
"I'm sorry," he said. He was always embarrassed when this happened, even though the counselors told him not to be ashamed—this is all very normal for post-trauma survivors. But he felt bad for waking up Becky in the middle of the night.
"You mind if I turn on the TV?" he asked, reaching for the remote.
"Sure. But it might give you more nightmares," Becky said with a smile. They had watched the election returns until past midnight. It was historically bad news for Duke and his fellow Republicans.
Duke knew that people would always remember where they were on the night that AOC was elected president. In terms of transformational change in America, the closest thing to resemble it may be FDR's triumph over Herbert Hoover in 1932. Not only did she take the White House, but the wave of sympathy in the wake of Biden's stroke resulted in Democrat control of both the House and the Senate. AOC completely owned Washington, DC.
The youthful and photogenic president-elect, who turned thirty-five on October 13, 2024, was barely old enough to meet the constitutional age requirement to serve as president. Other than a brief tenure as a bartender, she had never worked in the private sector. Yet, bolstered by the enthusiasm of her woke Millennial supporters, she swept into power and was poised to enact her radical agenda over the first one hundred days of her administration.
In the presidential race, she had pulled together a coalition of underrepresented minorities (URMs)—blacks, Hispanics, LGBTQ, pro-choice women, and the like—along with public employee unions and other left-wing stalwarts who turned out in droves to honor President Biden's legacy. The Democrats in every Blue state pulled out all the stops to maximize her vote count, with millions of dubious mail-in ballots, outdated voter registration rolls that included thousands of dead voters, ballot harvesting, and other dirty tricks. AOC claimed a majority of both the popular vote and the Electoral College (which she hoped to eliminate soon) to defeat Donald Trump, who weeks before appeared to be a sure bet to win.
Duke watched the replay of Trump's concession speech. Unlike the aftermath of the 2020 election, this time Trump saw no option but to concede right away in spite of the same allegations of widespread voter fraud. It was not unexpected, but it still hurt. Like losing a loved one after a prolonged illness.
While most of the American electorate selects their candidate based upon policy issues and experience, the swing voters—those without strong political convictions and usually without adequate information—often choose the president as if it were a high school popularity contest. Who is better looking, better dressed, more in tune with pop culture, who's funnier on the late-night TV circuit—those are the determining factors for swing voters. The triumph of style over substance.
And AOC had it all in the eyes of those swing voters. In contrast to the seventy-eight-year-old, overweight Trump—who nonetheless continued to generate enormous enthusiasm from his base—AOC had the "it" factor, much like Obama, at least among the younger voters. Trump's bare-knuckled broadsides against AOC's platform took their toll on her. But in the end, her charisma—combined with the Biden sympathy factor and millions of questionable Blue state votes—pushed her over the top.
Duke turned off the TV and leaned over to kiss Becky. She had already dozed off. Thank God, he thought. At least one of us will get some sleep tonight.
The day after the election, Duke and Becky watched the news as millions of AOC's joyous supporters flooded the streets of every major city in America. School children were given the day off so that they could join the historic celebration.
"Damn," Duke said. "She's like a goddess of her own cult. They're practically worshipping her."
"They should beware of false prophets," Becky said, paraphrasing the biblical passage. "She's a wolf in sheep's clothing."
"Pretty stylish sheep, I gotta admit," Duke said. "But it's only a matter of time before she bares her fangs."
Duke conceded that AOC was a rock star of sorts––good-looking, youthful, affable if not outright bubbly. AOC had undeniable charisma. On top of all that, as a female and a person of color, she ranked high on the intersectional hierarchy of political correctness. She occupied the PC moral high ground from which she could denounce her opponents and—safely behind her shield of victimhood—deflect any criticism from "haters."
AOC appeared on the screen. She had a mothlike attraction to the lights of the television cameras and could not resist another opportunity to speak. Duke turned up the volume on the TV.
"The people have spoken!" AOC proclaimed. "And you made a choice between a rich, white billionaire and a former waitress Latina who's still paying off her student loans. You made a choice between turning our backs on climate reform or embracing the Green New Deal. A choice between throwing kids in cages or treating them with dignity and human rights."
The crowd ate it up. Duke turned down the volume. He had seen enough. He knew that while the crowds were rejoicing, AOC's hard-core Socialist team was busy working in her downtown DC campaign headquarters. They had been chafing under Trump and/or the Republican Congress for years. From Election Day to Inauguration Day—about seventy-five days—they pledged to make every minute count. They would hit the ground running on January 20.