In which Terence’s surprisingly successful rise as a presidential candidate encounters the mother of all roadblocks when Farmer Ed, recruited by the slime-throwing opposition, outs Terence as a turkey. Here’s part three of New Haven novelist and playwright Allan Appel’s four-part serial.
- * * *
Not long afterwards Farmer Ed was given an important position on the strategy team of Terence’s opponent. Now a full-scale attack began. Although Terence tried to keep to the issues of the campaign and to avoid ad hominem controversies, the nation did not respond. The opposition’s message was lethally simple: Look, cried all their advertising, look hard and you will soon see with your own eyes that Terence M. Gallapavo is a turkey! Investigations began. Terence’s background and origins, which in the rush of his popularity had never been submitted to detailed public scrutiny before, now revealed mystery upon mystery, lacuna after lacuna. There were no birth records to establish his age, no church baptism, no fingerprints. “He doesn’t have prints,” Ed screamed on TV, “because he ain’t got fingers. He’s a bird, ladies and gentlemen. He’s got claws!” Gradually Terence’s supporters and, afterwards, his staff began to drift away from him. It was not so much that they believed the charges being made —”- they considered Ed almost an hysteric; it was rather Terence’s own growing silence that bothered them, especially his repeated refusals to clear the air in a face-to-face TV debate with the opposition and with Ed. Mysteriously, Terence began to order that TV no longer be part of his campaign strategy even in the crucial stretch run of the race. During the frenzied last weeks before the election no one pointed out, however, not even Terence’s remaining staff, how their candidate, in public statements, thoughtful white papers, in print advertising, and in direct mail was fashioning a national agenda of particular insight and brilliance. The onslaught of charges against Terence continued unabated. Just a week before the election Terence strangely reversed himself. With the last money left in the campaign’s treasury he booked air time. He gathered Talulah, Tess, Tom, and a small circle of loyal advisers in the TV studio and confided in them. “All right, if they want to know the truth, let it be told my way.” He told this stalwart group in capsule form what he was going to tell the nation, face to face. Yes, he would confess, I am who Ed says I am. Although born a turkey, I educated myself, I worked my way up in life, and every one of my achievements is my own, and no one else’s. Yes, Terence was going to say that he realized it must be a tremendous shock for the country to hear his words, but this after all was America, the United States, and could not the country find somewhere within its collective heart the breadth of vision and the willing suspension of stereotyping to elect a turkey president? Why, after all, did it have to be a man, if, as was abundantly clear from the campaign, a turkey was the superior candidate? Yes, he was going to explain it to them: I, Terence M. Gallapavo, am indeed a turkey, but had I not disguised myself as a man, I could have gotten nowhere in this life; I would have had zero opportunity. For, mind you, ladies and gentlemen, there still exist closed-mindedness and discrimination in this great land of ours. I ask you to consider: I am from a simple but law-abiding family, I am a member of the species, now alas extinct in the wilds of New England, that gave its last full measure of life so that your ancestors might survive the first cruel Pilgrim winters. It was on the flesh of my ancestors that the progenitors of the very founding fathers themselves sustained life. Yes, I am a turkey, a simple turkey, but an American. What, indeed, I ask you, is more American than a turkey? And, I ask you further, where is it written in our Constitution that I, a turkey, cannot become president of the United States?* * * *