I was getting used to the three o’clock feedings by now. We would get the baby up, Emma would feed him, I would burp and swallow him, and we would all try to go back to sleep. Then I would wake up at six in the morning, and drink all the coffee in the world.
Occasionally, I will go back, and read old blog posts, like the one I did when Starbucks did that thing they were doing about talking to baristas about racial healing, and I was drinking organic soy milk lattes with fair trade nutmeg. I look back on that now and I laugh at myself, or at any rate I would laugh at myself if I wasn’t drinking great big lukewarm cups of Kirkland Signature with both hands. And yes, I realize how bad this is, that I am drinking wrong-coffee, but I don’t care. You hear me, left-leaning readers? I. Do. Not. Care. You can criticize me all you want in the comment section for falling into the caffeine-stained hands of Big Coffee, but there is no way on the face of this overpopulated and warming planet that I am going to get through this campaign without a steady supply of the industrial-strength stuff.
This meant, though, that when I made it into the campaign headquarters, I would feel kind of shaky and out-of-it, and maybe not be quite as observant as I could be, which is why I walked right past Florence Lawrence at the reception desk without noticing that she was crying her eyes out. I didn’t notice until twenty minutes later, when I went to make a WaWa break, and she was still crying. My parental instincts told me to go over to her and say, “there, there, it’s okay,” but I honestly didn’t think that was entirely appropriate.
So I went over to Polly’s office. “Why is Florence crying?” I asked.
“You don’t know?” she said.
I had a stunning cold frisson down my back that it may have been something I had done, which seemed unlikely, but similar things had happened before. “No,” I said.
“She’s upset because Bernie is supposed to endorse Hillary today,” Polly said. “Half the volunteer staff called out sick today. They’re all distraught.”
“They’re what?” I asked. “That makes no sense. Bernie was only in the race to make Hillary look more like a centrist. He wasn’t ever going to win.”
“Yeah? Tell Florence and the Bernie bros that. They were all convinced he was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat and walk away with the nomination in Philadelphia.”
I had no idea about this, but I had not been following the presidential race all that closely. The only Bernie supporter that I knew was upset about the endorsement was my mother, and she had endorsed Hillary after the California primary.
“So what do we do about it?” I asked.
“The logical thing,” Polly said, “is to convince them that you’re the true successor to Bernie, in so far as you’re going to fight for socialist values. The problem with that is that you’re the scion of an influential hedge-fund family, and your dad’s already given millions to Hillary already. So it’s going to be that much harder to motivate them.”
“So what do we do?” I asked.
“We bribe them, of course.”
*
We put the word out on all the pro-Bernie Facebook pages that we were having a “listening session” — we couldn’t figure out what else to call it — at the campaign headquarters. We scheduled it for two hours after we figured the endorsement would be over, but of course it didn’t start until two hours after that. And a half-hour of that was devoted to explaining to the drum circle participants that having a drum circle was contrary to the concept of the listening session. They finally agreed to have the drum circle out in the parking lot, where participants could follow the listening session on Periscope.
Florence started out the session. “I just have two things to say,” she said. “First is that I am just so disappointed that Bernie would endorse Hillary. He spent so much time attacking her as a lackey to the New York investment banks, how could he turn around and endorse her? It’s like a personal betrayal.”
“Okay,” Polly said, “and the other thing?”
“Those vegetarian sliders in the back? Are the Portobello mushrooms locally-sourced?”
“Yes, they are,” I said. “But the buns aren’t. It was the only way to get them gluten-free.”
The next speaker also expressed his disappointment and anger at Bernie for betraying the principles of the international socialist revolution, and argued that “gluten-free” was just a big marketing campaign.
The next speaker expressed his anger at Hillary Clinton for accepting Bernie’s endorsement, and explained that gluten-free wasn’t just a marketing tool but an alternative lifestyle, and then they both accused each other of microaggressions. I had to convince them both to go outside and join the drum circle to get them to shut up.
“Okay, look,” Polly said. “We get that you’re disappointed in Hillary. The question is, what do you do about it? Can we harness that energy into positive action on behalf of Justin?”
“He’s not one of us,” one of the Bernie Bros said. “He belongs to the one percent.”
“I can’t deny that,” I said. “But, you know, I am not sitting on the deck of my yacht or anything like that.” Nor would I, the Bahamas are terribly hot and humid this time of year, but I didn’t mention that.
“I’m here, listening to you. And what I want to know is what you’re really upset about?”
“The international socialist revolution!” someone said.
“That’s an inevitable historical process,” I explained. “You know that as well as I do. What’s specifically making you upset today?”
The room was silent for a long moment; you couldn’t hear anything but the muted sounds of the seriously traumatized people in the back who were still sobbing and watching Wishenpoof episodes on their Amazon Video apps.
“Student loans,” Florence said. “Bernie said he’d make college free, and pay off our student loans.”
“Hillary says that,” I said.
“And you believe her?”
“I do, because I’ll support that legislation in Congress when I’m elected. But I’ll need all of you to help me do that.”
“But we need help now,” Florence said. “More than that, we need hope now.”
“I can give you some hope,” I said. “Everyone in this room who continues volunteering for this campaign will be eligible”–Polly and I had a big fight over that word eligible, which she had won–“for a scholarship from the Fairchild Foundation. Up to a thousand dollars.”
The room went silent, by which I mean everyone stopped crying and turned off their phones for a minute.
“Are you serious?” the largest of the Bernie Bros said.
“Yes, of course I’m serious,” I said. I was a Fairchild Foundation board member, and I had limited authority to give out some small grants, or at least I thought I did, and if I was wrong I didn’t think Dad would complain too much about it.
“You can’t possibly be serious,” he said.
“It’s just my little way of giving back to you for all you do,” I said.
“Little is the key word. The Fairchild Foundation has a three-billion dollar endowment, and you’re promising us the chance at maybe getting a thousand dollars?”
“That’s not true!” I said. “The endowment is something like two-point-four billion.”
“Ten thousand dollars,” the Bernie Bro said. “Or we walk.”
I counted up the people in the room, and multiplied that by ten thousand in my head, which came out to a lot more zeroes than I was expecting. “Well, that’s unreasonable. I can maybe do two thousand.”
“Eight thousand, guaranteed for everyone, now, or we walk.”
“Then walk,” Polly said. “Justin is being incredibly generous here, and you’re taking advantage of him.”
“Eight thousand dollars means less than nothing to a Fairchild,” he said. “And it would just cover ten percent of my student loans, anyway. Either he pays up, or he’s going to feel the Bern.”
I was torn. I didn’t want to be perceived as not being as progressive as anyone else. But I knew that the trustees of the Fairchild Foundation, especially my dad, would blow a gasket if I gave away that much to a bunch of Bernie Bros, and I suspected that the FEC would have something to say about it, too.
“You guys need to grow up, you know that? I’ve been involved in the socialist revolution since I could walk. And there are always setbacks. Dukakis. Gore. Kerry. All those guys lost, and I don’t want Hillary to lose, and she’s going to lose if we don’t all say that we’re with her. You guys need to pull your pants up, get out there, and get to work in November, or Donald Trump is going to win, and you’re going to spend the next four years sucking your thumbs and watching Wishenpoof on your phones.”
“We’re actually watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” one of the girls in the back said. “And you’re hurting our feelings.”
“Listening session is over,” I said. “I expect to see all of you here tomorrow, ready to do door-to-doors, because we’re going to campaign like hell for the next five months, and I need you with me. If you’re not going to be with us, then stay home, because we’re better off without you. Got it?”
One by one, they quietly shuffled out of the room, and I spotted the big Bernie Bro shoving half the vegetarian sliders into his backpack.
“Justin, what got into you?” Polly said. “That was unlike you. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but this time last year, you would have been down on the floor with them, eating chocolate pudding and singing Kum Bay Yah.”
“Parenthood changes people,” I said. And it was true, but it wasn’t complete. I was going to go the distance, I knew that, but I was going to go as my own person, not as the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat. This was going to be my campaign from here on out, and I was in it to win it.
****
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two:The 3AM Feeding
Week Twenty-Three: The Stuffed Elephant