"I can't believe I've met someone like you at the GOP convention," he said to her as they munched on kale and beans in official Trump salad bowls.
"I know," she replied, reaching out and touching his hand, "I can't tell you how many lonely nights I've cried wishing I had someone to watch O'Reilly with."
"We could do that, or we could do something else," he smiled.
"Like what?" she asked coyly.
"Watch Book TV on C-SPAN. I love Brian Lamb."
"What's Book TV?" she was genuinely confused, "And who's Brian Lamb?"
"Never mind that," he said, "How about we go get some dessert before the Gingrich speech?"
"Yes please," she winked.
Earlier that year...
Charlene was a clerical worker at a truck yard. Much of her day consisted of processing work orders while the rough and burly drivers loaded and unloaded their deliveries. A chance for a full college education had long since disappeared, and Charlene passed the time at work by listening to talk radio, her production slowing considerably when her favorite, Sean Hannity, came on to explain the day's news and politics with his trenchant analysis. She was amazed at Sean's ability to ask penetrating questions of his guests, and how he always managed to trap liberal callers with such poignant one-liners as, "You didn't answer my question." Charlene just couldn't fathom how well-intentioned liberals couldn't answer a simple query.
Unsurprisingly, Charlene had found her political heart's desire in the candidacy of Donald Trump, although her own desire for a strongman remained unabated. She dreamed of the day when a powerful man would take her in his arms and protect her from the barbarian hordes from down south, way, way, way down south.
For much of her life she'd been apolitical, but after a three week reading binge in which she covered O'Reilly's entire Killing... canon, not to mention Pinheads and Patriots, she determined to do everything she could to stop Obama from running a third term. Or were the Fox hosts just saying that metaphorically? She'd have to investigate that. In any case, now that she was a patriot, and a true outsider was running for the White House, maybe it wasn't too much to hope for true love to find her as well. She'd watched hours of footage of Trump rallies, searching the crowds for a face that might be the one. Only time would tell. If only something would just... happen.
And it did, on a shopping trip for unassuming work khakis. This would be her first meet-cute, and as unoriginal as it might be, it portended great things to come. She didn't know it, but a powerful man across the way would change her life forever. She was shopping at GAP, in search of replacements for the unflattering Dickies pants she wore to work every day. Corey Lewandowski, of all people, was apparently in the market for a V-neck sweater, and was perusing the clearance rack with a secret service agent. The secret service agent appeared interested in swimsuits, and he muttered something unintelligible about "Columbia." Corey was complaining to the agent about the lack of available statewide delegates, while rather violently tugging at the sweaters as he checked each for "durability."
For her part, Charlene had finally convinced herself to indulge in workpants without pleats, and her search brought her in close geographical proximity to Mr. Lewandowski. He was in a heated discussion with the secret service agent about upcoming delegate selections. The agent was barely listening.
"You know, we've got to start spending a little money on these things," Lewandowski pondered. "I've talked to every party player out there, and nothing. All I hear is Ted Cruz this, and Ted Cruz that. They're all infatuated with the logic of his arguments."
He rifled through more of the sweaters, "I just don't get it, if they want argumentative, I can give that to them in spades."
Charlene couldn't help but overhear the conversation. She tried not to listen, but glanced up at the pair anyway. And that's when it hit her. It was Trump's campaign manager, in this store, in this very mall!
Charlene couldn't help herself, "Are you that Trump guy?" she asked Lewandowski.
Corey paused his monologue and replied, "Indeed I am... And are you a resident of this great state of Pennsylvania?"
Charlene would later tell her neighbors all about this inauspicious start to her political career. For, as she learned that fateful day in GAP, she had the one defining characteristic required for political service: state residence. After perfunctory small talk, Corey Lewandowski gave her directions to the hall where the state Republican Party would choose delegates. She, he intimated, would be the Trump campaign's Pennsylvania ground game.
Charlene would also later tell her neighbors that it was her clerical skills which won her a seat as a delegate. In the midst of a heated discussion about something the Cruz people labeled negatively as "white nationalism," Charlene was able to quickly and simultaneously fill out three different forms, beating out a Kasich supporter who was intent on emulating the total false positivity of the campaign's namesake.
Charlene was headed to Cleveland.
That same evening, a man within a year's age of Charlene sat in the background, watching her clever clerical maneuver. It was an impressive move, that was for sure. The woman didn't seem to be all that familiar with these kinds of processes, and she was wearing those pleated dickies, nonetheless. Still he thought she was cute, and, he grudgingly admitted, the Trump campaign had brought out a whole new set to these kinds of events.
A white collar consultant by day, Jake was active in Pennsylvania politics by night. His first political memory was of Reagan uttering the memorable statement to "Tear down this wall," part of a speech which received a standing ovation in his family's living room. For as long as he could remember he had always loved politics. He still had four of his campaign t-shirts from Bush 43's first campaign.
After attending a liberal arts college and subsequently majoring in classical trumpet performance at the behest of his mother, he stumbled into administrative personnel work at a large company. Despite the difficulty his generic degree presented, he was able to turn his love of practice and instruction into a decent position in the corporation's training department, where he taught fellow coworkers the gospel of thinking outside the box and delivering compelling communication, which led to win-wins all around.
As for love, a few relationships had begun, flourished, and fizzled, with nothing permanent ever coming of it. For all his love of Russell Kirk's permanent things, he had just never found the one to which he would permanently commit.
And so he poured himself into local politics, campaigning for better looking and more successful friends, whose Christmas cards showing growing families adorned his small studio apartment during the holiday season. But through all those candidates and causes, protests outside the abortion clinics, and marching in a Blue Lives Matter parade, folks around started seeing that he was someone who could get things done while motivating others. Sometime early in the Obama administration, local conservative politicos started calling him "a real community organizer."
By now he was a veritable veteran of several GOP campaigns, but nothing he had experienced before could prepare him for the tenacious 2016 campaign. Unsure of who to endorse, he drove to New Hampshire, using up most of his hard-earned vacation to make the 6 1/2 hour, one-way trip to Manchester, to see all sixteen of his political heroes in the flesh.
His Facebook account showed that he had glad-handed all of them, from the ones with possibilities to the candidates everyone knew didn't have a shot, although Jake was more than happy to take pictures with Rick Santorum and Jim Gilmore. He couldn't wait until primary day arrived at his state, given the huge field of candidates and the robust nature of the conservative debate. He was even surprised at the mix of policies and braggadocio that Donald Trump brought to the table.
To his utter surprise, Donald Trump not only survived, but started leading the pack, and never let up. The man had a real staying power. Although Jake hadn't run into all but one or two Trump supporters in his political activities, there seemed to be a groundswell of popular support for the business mogul. Jake watched the meteoric rise of the GOP front runner, but despite an infatuation with political unity in previous campaigns, he couldn't quite commit to possibly supporting The Donald.
And so he now found himself watching proceedings as the state Republican Party went through its delegate machinations. Still unsure of whom to support for the nomination, and not wanting to offend the large crowd of bikers on hand to support "The Donald," Jake immediately relaxed when he found out he won one of the coveted, uncommitted delegate slots. Amidst hearty congratulations from a few party regulars, Jake looked for the young woman who had nabbed a delegate seat out of thin air, but alas, she had already disappeared. Aside from a stray salon.com intern who decided to pepper him with a couple questions about which "right-wing nut-job" he would support, he was able to leave the civic center with little fanfare.
The next day, while trying to think proactively during mandatory gender fluidity EEO training, he couldn't get the pleated pants girl off of his mind.
Jake arrived at the bus station ready for action. He was a little surprised at the chosen method of transportation. For one, they weren't even all traveling in a group. After a hastily arranged meeting with the state party chairman and an onsite "conductor," the bus terminal staff randomly handed out tickets to anyone claiming to be a delegate. This also explained why the homeless population of Cleveland rose by two sometime later that afternoon. The tickets at least got everyone east. One delegate ended up in Akron. He took a cab to Cleveland, but missed a speech by the original Apprentice winner, Bill Rancic.
Still, nothing could dampen Jake's spirits. He was going to the GOP convention! With a little luck he might see Steve Hayes, Scott Walker, and Willie Robertson!
He eagerly took his ticket from the attendant and trained his eyes to the bus. For a moment he wondered if he might run into the woman in pleated pants. Maybe he'd even sit beside her for the trip to Cleveland. Jake pushed the thought from his mind. Better to concentrate on the task at hand. And concentrate he did, until he arrived at his bus, and walking down the main aisle, found that his seat was listed besides the radiant delegate with the clerical skills.
"So I see you're also a delegate," he said as he sat down beside her. For her part, Charlene was visibly shaken by his appearance. He was different from anything she'd ever seen before. The rugged look was replaced by khakis and pastel polos, and if she wasn't mistaken he had mousse in his hair, a lot of mousse. Yet she found herself attracted to the clean-cut gentleman.
"I am.... It's my first time doing anything like this. I'm Charlene, by the way," she smiled warmly.
"And I'm Jake," he replied with a firm corporate handshake, "You'll get a kick out the convention. A lot of party bigwigs and other players from major conservative groups, like Heritage, AEI, and the NRA."
"I just hope they don't try to steal the election away from Trump," she said frowning.
"We'll, they really can't -- he has the requisite number of delegates to take the nomination on the first ballot," he added reassuringly, if still a little shocked that those particular words were coming out of his mouth.
"I won't be happy until he takes the stage as the candidate."
Charlene, Jake learned, was a very committed Trump delegate. Her many adulations about his ability to talk straight attested to this fact.
"Not to mention," she said, "he gets unanimous praise from all the conservative intellectuals."
"He does?" Jake almost choked on his latte, "Which ones?"
"Oh don't be silly," Charlene giggled, "the really important players - O'Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Ingraham, and Rush for the most part. They're the heart and soul of the conservative movement, unlike those establishment types in the DC-New York axis of evil."
It sounded ominous. Jake just sat silent, taking it all in. He hoped she couldn't see the Charles Krauthammer book poking out of his backpack below the chair in front of him. And he didn't want her to see it just to avoid an argument, for he sensed a feeling of attraction toward this most unlikely of creatures. He found her blue collar attitude and unassuming, unintellectual style very appealing, at total odds from most people he encountered at work or the Chamber of Commerce.
He had to admit that he enjoyed talking with her and listening to the sound of her voice, almost despite himself, like when she intoned that a secret Jewish cabal was getting ready to run a third party candidate. As they continued to talk, Jake realized the dark secret he held. Not only was he uncommitted as declared by the state Republican Party, but he was also personally uncommitted to Donald Trump. While normally something he brought up in conversations with fellow conservatives, his thoughts about the celebrity candidate would have to remain a secret throughout the convention. The Trump folks could never know that he questioned many of their basic assumptions. It was a secret, which in the wrong hands, could spell the end of his fledgling political career forever.