July 10, 2018

Writing Political Suspense, No Holds Barred

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Having worked in the Arkansas State Senate during the years of Governor Bill Clinton’s administrations I don’t surprise easily when it comes to politics. Clinton waltzed into the Governor’s office with a large margin of votes only to be voted out of office at his re-election bid. That was a surprise! After his loss I overheard a respected member of his party make the statement, “Clinton’s days in politics are over. He will never be re-elected for anything again.” I don’t need to tell you the next surprise was he was re-elected Governor, served several more terms as such and went on to be elected as a two term President. Are you surprised? If so I must add this response, “I am surprised you are surprised!”

Political suspense is full of twist and turns and many times the purpose behind it all, the end results or the reasons for them may never be revealed. Looking back on the choices Presidential Candidates have made for their Vice Presidential running mates there have been surprises. To mention a few there was Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle, Ross Perot and James Stockdale and last but not least John McCain and Sarah Palin. One can only imagine the back room negotiating that took place to get to these pairings.

One pairing we have been privileged to get an inside peek of was Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan’s advisors had recommended former President Gerald Ford and the rumors on the Convention floor were Ford would be introduced as Reagan’s running mate that night. Behind the scenes the negotiations were in full swing and Ford and his advisors were demanding more than Reagan was willing to give up. During the last hours before the introduction was to be made George H.W. Bush had confirmed he would endorse the Party’s Platform in its entirety. This account was written about in detail by Richard B Allen in The New York Times on July 30th,2000. This is a great read which reflects political wheeling and dealing.

As for the reasons things are done, there can be a lot of reasons and many other than the true one may be given. When politicians are up for re-election and have at their power many amazing tools they are willing to use a lot can happen. The one that comes to mind was a political move made by then Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus. In September 1957 Faubus was up for re-election and it was not looking good for him. It was rumored that the “powers at be” decided he needed to make a power play to win the voters over. The decision was to stand on the steps of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas and not let those 9 African-American children, known today as the Little Rock 9, in to attend classes. He did this knowing he would lose the battle because desegregation was the law. The image of the Governor standing on the steps of Central High worked. He was re-elected and remained in office until 1967.  On June 11th 1963 Governor George Wallace of Alabama did the same thing at the University of Alabama.  It makes you wonder.

There are no bounds with political suspense. The popular Netflix series House of Cards has shown us that by embracing every known sin to man. The ends justify the means seems to be the rule of thumb in the world of politics. If this genre is of interest you may want to try your hand at writing Political Suspense. No holds barred.       

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