1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 38:
Sublimed with mineral fury
“When you agreed to delay the national election, Prime Minister,” said Francisco Nasi, “I think you played into Wilhelm Wettin’s hands. We would have done better to insist on the earliest election possible.”
Frank Jackson, sitting in another chair in Mike Stearns’ office, nodded his head. “He’s right, Mike. I told you at the time that coming right off our victory at Ahrensbök would be the best time to have the election. Instead, you gave Wettin months to start working on peoples’ fears and insecurities again. Months, dammit. Now, Ahrensbök is half a year in the past. These days, that’s not much different from a decade. Nobody remembers.”
Being one of Mike’s oldest and closest friends, Frank was blunter and cruder than Francisco would have been. But everything he said was true, in Nasi’s opinion.
Stearns simply looked patient. Almost serene, even.
“And I told both of you at the time—I was right then, and I’m right now—that you were missing the forest for the trees. Sure, I know that a lot of people straddling the fence, and even some of Wettin’s supporters, think I make a better war president that he will. Who knows? If I’d pushed it, and insisted on a quick election, we might even have won. Gotten a big enough plurality, anyway, and then we could have formed a coalition government with one or another of the smaller parties.” Mike smiled thinly. “Now that would’ve been a barrel of laughs, wouldn’t it? Spend half our waking hours squabbling over crossing t’s and dotting i’s.”
Nasi couldn’t help but wince. None of the small political parties in the USE was inclined in the least toward political practicality and they all viewed the term “compromise” as being a synonym for “treason.”
That was one of the reasons they were small, of course.
He looked out the window. Since he wasn’t sitting near it and the Prime Minister’s office was in the palace’s top floor, there was nothing to see but sky.
Gray sky. What you’d expect, of course, in November. That dull, sullen, somber month. The battle of Ahrensbök, where the USE army under Torstensson’s command had won its great victory over the French, had taken place in May.
Bright, sunny, cheerful May. As Frank Jackson said, though, that might as well have been a decade in the past. In the six months since, Wilhelm Wettin and his Crown Loyalist party—coalition, rather; as a “party” the CLs were ramshackle—had spent every waking hour working on every fear and doubt and insecurity that any German might have concerning Mike Stearns and his Fourth of July Party—which was also a coalition, being honest, if not as ramshackle—and their supposed “radicalism.”
Well. His actual radicalism, in the case of Stearns himself if not every member of his party. By the standards of the seventeenth century, certainly.
The end result…
Stearns said it aloud. “Look, guys, face it. We’re going to lose the election. I’ve always known we would”—here he leaned forward in his chair and his tone hardened—“just as I knew at the time that winning the election by taking advantage of Ahrensbök would be a fool’s paradise. Once the glow wore off, the fact is that the majority of people in the United States of Europe simply aren’t ready—not yet—for my political program. And a politician who tries to obtain office for any reason other than carrying through his program is either a scoundrel or a fool. Often enough, both.”
He leaned back in his seat and clasped his hands over his belly. It was a belly which was perhaps a bit larger than the one he’d carried into the office of Prime Minister a little over a year ago, but not much. Even with his incredibly heavy work load, Stearns always managed to exercise for at least a half hour each day.
“Here’s what would have happened,” he continued. “At best. We might have won, although we’d almost certainly not have won an outright majority. That means a government that can’t rule very effectively. Then, squabbling and bickering all the while, we’d have tried to shove a program down the throats of a nation that really wasn’t ready for it. Not enough of its people, at any rate. The result? Sooner or later, Wilhelm forces a vote of confidence, there’s another election, and we’re out and he’s in anyway. Only, this time, after having discredited ourselves.”
He unclasped his hands and sat up straight again. “No, gentlemen, there are times when taking the high road is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. So we lose an election. Big deal. In the meantime—swords have two edges, don’t forget—we’ve been able to take advantage of this long election campaign to solidify our own political base and clarify our own political program. You both know as well as I do what the realities are in the seventeenth century, when it comes to political activity. Most people are farmers and they work like dogs nine months out of the year. They have very little time for politics, and when they do they just want to get something done, not sit around and jabber. That means that winter is the only time of year you can talk to most people about politics—not to mention listen to them—and really hammer out a solid program that your electorate understands. Politics is education, before it’s anything else.”
Frank Jackson’s scowl had never left his face. By temperament, Jackson was simply not given to patient explanation and elucidation.
Nasi looked at the window again. Neither was he, really. But at least he could understand clearly what Stearns was saying.
And… the man might very well be right, after all. If there was one thing Francisco Nasi had learned very thoroughly in the many months since he’d become the head of USE intelligence and one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisers, it was not to underestimate the political acumen and shrewdness of Mike Stearns. A “radical,” the man might be—well, surely was—but he did not have a trace of the airy impracticality of so many political radicals.