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Chapter 44

Everywhere, the whirlwind.


A new nation would be born that winter. Three days later, the convention would ratify the new constitution—without amendments—by a seventy-eight percent majority. Mike would announce new elections with the same blow of the gavel with which he closed the convention. The election "season" would last through December, but it was more in the nature of a triumphal parade than a contest. With the franchise now extended to most of Grantville's German residents, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. After the way in which he had conducted his campaign against the constitution, Simpson had alienated every German in the area except the pure halfwits. Now, he even lost a large number of his American supporters. Sensing the tide, they bowed to the inevitable.


Mike's decision to allow weeks for the campaign proved to be a wise one. The conclusion was foregone, true—and had been from the first day. But Mike knew the difference between "winning" an election campaign and forging a political structure. The weeks of constant campaigning allowed him and his supporters time and opportunity to sink real roots in the new nation's budding growth.


The process proved complicated and contradictory, as these things do in the real world. The Fourth of July Party was really more of a coalition than a political party. Over the weeks, the different underlying factions had time to sort themselves out. Which, from Mike's point of view, was all to the good. "Unity" is a splendid word, but not when it comes at the price of clarity. That there would be political factions in the new United States, just as there had been in the one left behind in another universe, was as certain as the sunrise. Better to have them out in the open, where the public could gauge their programs, than hidden away in murky shadows.


His own position was somewhat peculiar, and more than a bit awkward. Mike now commanded a personal allegiance—especially from the "new" Americans—which would have allowed him, had he so chosen, to force through anything he wanted. Whatever else they disagreed on, Melissa Mailey and Quentin Underwood—the publicly recognized leaders of the Fourth of July Party's respective "left" and "right" factions—were both heard, on more than one occasion, to grumble about "Bonapartism." But not even Melissa or Quentin used the term seriously. No one who knew Mike Stearns was really worried about "a whiff of grapeshot." So, much like George Washington before him, Mike tried as far as possible to stay out of the immediate factional fray. And he accepted compromises, as a prospective president, that his younger persona would have sneered at.


At one point in the campaign, that brought him in serious collision with his own power base. The UMWA, now as always, formed the heart of Mike's support. Early in the campaign, the union voted overwhelmingly to demand that a law be passed requiring the unionization of all businesses employing more than ten workers—of which there were now quite a few, and obviously more to come.


Mike was initially inclined to agree, but Rebecca convinced him otherwise. "Most of our citizens are now Germans," she argued. "They do not understand what you mean by a 'trade union.' They think of it as a guild. And a guild is a very different thing altogether. It is very oppressive."


She was right, and Mike quickly saw the logic. He had noticed himself—and been uneasy about it—that the UMWA's support was coming entirely from the older, established German craftsmen. The young men—not to mention the young women—were implacably hostile to the proposal.


He tried to explain it to the UMWA at a local meeting. "Guys, our new people think of this idea as a way of imposing master-craftsman rule over the apprentices. That's why we've had so few young people knocking on our door. They want out. They're not looking at the thing from our perspective, they're—"


No use. Frank supported him. So, to his surprise, did Harry Lefferts and most of the younger miners. But it should not have surprised him. Unlike the middle-aged miners who formed the majority of the UMWA, Harry and the other young miners had made a lot of friends among young German workers and understood their viewpoint. But the local union was adamant, and Mike's public refusal to support their proposal produced a considerable strain in relations.


The strain lasted for months, until events proved Mike was right. Soon enough, the arrogance of some of the new "captains of industry" triggered off a rapid change in attitude among young Germans. Once again, the UMWA was back in full swing, organizing new shops like mad—and this time, with Mike's full support. Which, of course brought him into a clash with Underwood and his faction.


 


So be it. Such is the whirlwind which brings new societies onto the historical stage. Forging a nation does not happen in a test tube. It happens in the real world, sweeping real people into the political arena for the first time, bringing with them all the accumulated baggage of centuries. Turbulent, chaotic, confused—messy.


So be it. Mike was not dismayed. Not in the least. A basket full of puppies is messy too. Which is simply nature's way of saying: Alive and well.


 


Even the new political structure was messy. Half-formed, half-shaped, a thing of big paws and big ears and precious little in the way of real flesh.


The new constitution allowed for an upper and lower house—the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Like the original Senate, the upper house gave representation to states as such, regardless of comparative population. The only difference was that each state got one senator instead of two. But the "upper house" was more fiction than fact. The "United States" still contained only one state—Grantville.


So there was only one Senate seat open in this election, although, of course, everyone was hoping for a future expansion. If nothing else, it seemed almost certain that Badenburg would soon be adding another star to the flag. And the students in Jena—with the tacit support of the town's poor quarters—were already demonstrating in the streets. The students were even chanting the name of their future Senator: Jeff Higgins. The fact that Jeff did not technically reside in Jena, for all the frequency of his and Gretchen's visits, did not concern them in the least.


Nor did it need to. The convention had decided that apportioning seats by residence, in an area as geographically small but densely populated as Grantville and southern Thuringia, would be absurd—at least for the moment. So all elections, for all seats, were held "at large."


Mike came in with eighty-seven percent of the votes for president. Except for Rebecca, every single member of the emergency committee was elected to the House by a similar landslide. To her astonishment—and chagrin—Melissa got as many votes as anyone.


"So much for my standing as a rebel," she was heard to mutter. But she consoled herself with the thought that Quentin had gotten—by half a percentage point—a higher margin than she. So she was still the underdog, in a manner of speaking.


And Rebecca? Her contest was a moot point. Simpson and his followers didn't even try to run against her. She was elected unanimously, as the sole Senator of the United States.


 


But that night in his bedroom, weeks earlier, Mike had been swept up in a very different whirlwind. From the months of ever-growing physical intimacy, he and Rebecca had become quite familiar with each other's bodies. So there was little in the way of surprise or discovery, beyond the act of intercourse itself. Which, even for the virgin Rebecca, no longer held much mystery—and no fear at all. But their first night in bed was still a whirlwind.


Or just the wind itself. Beginning with a tornado, perhaps, but settling, as the hours passed, into something as steady and unvarying as the trade winds.


As dawn crept through the curtains in his window, Mike reflected that his grandfather had been right after all.


"Anticipation," he murmured. "God, that was great." He pressed Rebecca's nude form against him, reveling in the sensation.


"Hmm?" she murmured drowsily. Neither of them had gotten any sleep. Her eyes half-closed, Rebecca kissed him. Reveling herself, not so much in the sensation as the knowledge that it would be hers for a lifetime. "What did you say?"


"Anticipation," repeated Mike happily.


Rebecca's eyes opened all the way. "What nonsense!" she exclaimed. "You did not anticipate anything at all."


She rose on her elbow, grinning down at him. "It was so amusing, watching you rummaging through your dresser with such frantic abandon."


Mike's answering grin was embarrassed. "Well . . ." Justify, justify: "I wasn't expecting—you didn't give me any warning—I thought I might have some old ones lying around—"


"Oh, marvelous!" she laughed, slapping his chest playfully. "I have seen those things! They look grotesque enough even when they are new!"


Sheepishly, Mike shrugged. "I was just trying to protect you—"


She silenced him with a very passionate kiss. They weren't that tired. One thing quickly led to another.


 


"It does not matter, anyway," she whispered later. "Even if—" Happy chuckle. "In two months, nothing would show. And even if it did, I am sure I would not be the first bride in Grantville waddling down the aisle in a loosened wedding gown."


She laughed, very happily. "Hillbillies! You have no respect."


 


 


 


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