Imagine a smart and funny woman who is a kindergarten teacher, beloved by parents and children alike in a wealthy suburb of Dallas. Parents find themselves bringing their children's social problems -- birthday party, play date -- to her, which she solves with aplomb. Soon it's their own issues of etiquette and social issues -- and she continues to advise in ways that raise everyone up. One parent with an eye for talent suggests a side-line in the local news media conglomerate, where in both written columns and video snippets, she brings her advice, grounded deeply in learning theory and social sciences but communicated in clear and simple values, to the media market. She's a hit. She takes leave of the class room and moves up to the national market. If she's using "coded" language, it's language that calls one back to the shared experience of early schooling. The center loves her, the polarized wings are suspicious. Oprah adores her. Every time someone urges Oprah to run, Oprah continues to demur, but makes sure to introduce them to the kindergarten teacher. At very small gatherings Oprah helps her and her blue collar husband to develop just enough polish. The couple struggles a little with the attention: anger and frustration flares. They had both agreed to a life choice of simplicity, ignoring the brass rings that education pointed out for them but focusing on what would bring them both a life worth living. The media circus seems a horror. With help from friends who they knew long before the attention, they ground themselves in their authentic selves and trust that this quick rocket to national attention can only bring themselves back to their quiet life -- but now the student loans are paid off. They work through their feelings and come to some grudging acceptance that they are not chasing the attention, but being themselves.
The kindergarten teacher has been disciplined in not straying from "her lane:" plenty of opportunities to correct the failures of Trump are offered her, but she never addresses the behavior of the man: just advice on what the questioner's most authentic and graceful options are. Oprah arranges small dinners where potential advisors are brought to her to deepen her education in areas beyond her own graduate studies. When potential is realized, she shares some insight from teaching young people - which was not to teach but inspire. The subtlety of the distinction is hard for some of them to get, but they trust her and they honor her request not to talk about their discussions.
When the right contacts are made, Oprah finds the right people to suggest, "What if nations went back to kindergarten? Not comically, but..." and so CNN finds visiting segments for the kindergarten teacher to appear in. It's a challenge, but the same strong voice that could quell thirty shrieking and excited children manages to firmly speak through the combative behaviors. It's entertaining at first, but hosts struggle with her post show advice. It runs contrary to so many of their media advisor's suggestions. She's becomes a regular on a few shows, but eventually CNN clears a half hour and then an hour, where she and various journalists and policy makers discuss alternatives. All the while, her language is full of values that are familiar to most Americans, pulling to the center all the while pointing to justice and service. More and more often, her phrase, "in this classroom we welcome" or "we respect" or gets to be understood not as her old classroom, or her new media spot, but as the nation.
She's long been a figure of mockery. Her skewering on late night is affectionate after some clumsy and panned attempts that raised the anger of educators everywhere. The misogyny was so open that no one could mistake it, but so many people thought of her as almost family and a trusted advisor that they didn't immediately nod but instead noticed the nastiness and resisted. Trump tweets more and more about her, and her lack of reaction of him becomes more and more of a buzz.
Her contract comes up for renewal with CNN. She won't renew. The network executives are about to have a fit at such blatant negotiation tactics when news comes in: there's a blitz outside grocery stores, schools, movie theaters - people are asked, would they sign a petition to get the schoolteacher on the ballot as third party presidential candidate? People laugh and sign - data analysis having identified areas that would be most amenable. Network executives quickly check with legal to determine how soon they can have her as a guest and not an employee. She's pulled back to the rounds of media shows: what is she doing? Yes, she says, if enough people are willing to have her on their state's ballot, she'll run as a third party candidate. Consternation, but the timing is all on target.
Reporters look around at dates: the coordinated blitz, the campaign websites, the domain names, everything starting from the same date as the contract expiration -- but then a number of PACs are found with dates predating her appearances on news shows and her own show. The sleuths are about to go to the presses with their expose, but in her first appearance to announce the campaign she tells her story, dropping the names of the advisors, and Oprah, and yes, the questions they had very early on that had seemed like a humorous media conceit but was actually earnest: what if we all went back to kindergarten and paid attention to the lessons? She spoke about manipulation and about parents who had asked her about how to explain "Santa Claus." She knew that some people might feel betrayed, just as some children struggled with the lie of Santa Claus. She talked about the distinctions of common interest and using and being used, about parents who worried why their children were invited to some parties, and admitting that her campaign could be framed as her being used by powerful friends, it could also be framed as her and her friends sharing common interests and just because she wasn't as powerful as her friends were when she met them, didn't mean that she was a pawn.
The reporters redraft their story as confirmation, but continue to dig. Polls and surveys become clear. Finance limits were scrupulously observed, legal questions of how opinion surveys that were about her popularity and trust-worthiness as a tv show host were translated to political purposes were examined, measured, and found to be scrupulously accounted for in ways that met the law. The attention to detail and the transparency of preparation -- if only one was looking -- became a story in itself. The cast of advisors and consultants who had been freed to speak became another story -- no one had been coerced or asked to sign NDAs: they all had felt inspired to trust the teacher and felt their loyalty had been rewarded.
The comparisons screamed to be made: during her ascent to popularity, the teacher and her husband had had lifestyle interviews and tours of their modest home. Trump tower's gaudy gilt compared to the handcrafted details of her husband's cabinetry in their home, splashed through style magazines. The wealthy of the Dallas metro area, long aware of how oil money was depicted by the established wealth of the New York elites, couldn't be stopped from showing off the quality features in their mansions that had been constructed by the teacher's husband -- and then the stories of home repairs for free, or for dinner came from the less wealthy.
JEB & W called Condi Rice, who called Oprah, who helped with quiet introductions and negotiations. The Carters also were interested in a meet and greet with the teacher. Would they be willing to join the teacher in a visit to Atlanta? Ground rules around publicity and announcements are set. The gathering at the presidential library is out of the public eye. A few days later, the press is alerted to a press conference in Plains -- W and Jimmy both endorse the candidacy of the teacher. Within days the story breaks of how JEB had been questioned as to his motives and how his profanity laced anger at Trump intruded in the initial discussions and how he had been excused early on. JEB's quotes that dismissed the teacher as lightweight and not worthy of his time were balanced by a long interview with Laura Bush who allowed that if she and W hadn't known of White House life in advance, she too would have appreciated a chance to discuss the intimate details of White House life and demands with those who knew personally. Preparing and studying, she underscored with a librarian's nod, were what anyone responsible and wise would do.
The leading Democratic campaigns wrestle with the appearance of such a ... different ... third party run. The party leaders scream at their the Carters' staffers who allowed him to give a endorsement before there was a party candidate. Polling quickly shows the teacher is competitive with the leaders in the race: polling analysts cut through the cross tabs and declare the teacher is pulling support from everyone, including Trump. Candidates polling at the bottom of the Democratic party fold their cards. Buttigieg's campaign watches videos of the teacher's early engagement on combative news shows and send out feelers. News reports break that Harris's campaign will redirect energies to focus on Democrats taking the Senate in 2020, inside baseball is that the party fears what a third party candidate might do to the possibility of a blue wave and has brought pressure to bear to make that message clear.
"Whose collar is really blue?" asks the press, with an eye on Biden. Stories about higher education and blue collar work and the question of craft -- is a craftsman really blue collar? -- bring reporters to rural counties where highly skilled and trained artisans shrug, and turn the talk to traditions and craft and the value of something well made vs consumerism and disposable goods. The press finds millennials, lesbians running farms, finds as small and family agriculture groups to talk about advanced education and sustainability.
The teacher has been on facebook and twitter since she started teaching, that being a necessary way for her to interact with parents. She'd struggled on her own with online attacks when she became visible in Dallas, but had good advice from Oprah early on about staffing her account and managing attention. The press ask her about Trump and twitter, and of course she has well measured answers -- she's been getting these questions since he was elected, and about social media since before. Now her answers have a little more policy to them, it's a subtle change but she speaks of civic spaces and compares them to commercial spaces. Let me tell you a story, she says, and spins a quick parable of a couple at a sports event, wearing TV shirts for their favorite show, one having arranged to propose. There they are on the jumbotron and the national TV feed, but when they look at the recording a year later, they realize their shirts images have been replaced with the logo of the team. In a commercial space, the values are that of the commercial entity. Facebook and twitter are not civic spaces, trust them accordingly, she says.
and i don't know what happens next in my fantasy. I've spent far far too long on it. Sheer sheer fantasy . In the end ... my fantasy candidate is elected and we have four years of normalizing good behavior?