When she was very young, the Velveteen Politician married a rising star, politically-speaking. Even though many people secretly suspected she was the brains of the operation, her husband was the main attraction and she spent a very long time in his shadow.
Like most politicians, The Velveteen Politician’s husband was kind of a phony but he could get real when it mattered: he jogged to McDonald’s in short-shorts and his enormous white legs made Americans feel uncannily good about themselves. And because of that the people made him President... twice.
Later, things got a little too real and the Velveteen Politician had to stand by her husband’s side as he was nearly impeached for almost having had sexual relations with a girl half his age. The cigar, as it turned out, didn’t count.
Eventually, when the Velveteen Politician’s husband was no longer President, she decided it was time to come out from under his shadow. “Maybe,” she said to herself, “the people will make me President, too?” And for a time it looked as though she might have a chance but, all of a sudden, an exciting young Senator with charisma came along.
He was also polished and poised and not entirely un-Velveteen but he was raised by a single mother, admitted to smoking pot, and got more real than any politician had ever gotten before. In no time at all, the young Senator had swept the country off its feet. And the people also made him President... twice.
The Velveteen Politician might have very nearly been forgotten—and anyone but her would have given up on politics—but the new President gave her an incredibly difficult job and she took it, saying, “I will bide my time as Secretary of State, but, someday, I will be President!”
The Velveteen Politician did her job pretty well, except for getting a little confused about what is or is not top secret vis a vis emails, and she eventually became post-menopausal and thereby fit to hold an even higher office in America. Still, many of the other politicians, and a whole lot of the people, snubbed and mocked her, saying, “So what if she’s tough and capable and experienced—she’ll never be real!”
Sometimes, when the Velveteen Politician was alone at night watching angry pundits eviscerate her on TV, she would—and only because it was absolutely necessary—have a good cry. With great balls of Kleenex strewn about her posh bed she railed, “Why are people so unfair to me?!”
After all, the Velveteen Politician wasn’t the first person of privilege to seek the Presidency. But the aura of pamperage never tainted her male rivals because, as men, the people could imagine them getting real: drinking beer, dropping ‘F-bombs,’ or scratching their balls when they thought no one was looking, and that made all the difference.
Then, one day, the Velveteen Politician drove to a campaign rally with The Dean of Congress, John Conyers, who had lived longer in the House of Representatives than anyone. John Conyers was wise, for he had won re-election 25 times and had seen a long succession of politicians arrive to boast and swagger and, by-and-by, lose their seats and drift away.
In the back of her limo the Velveteen Politician asked John Conyers, “How do I get real? Do I have to cry in public, high-five people or cook with cream of mushroom soup?”
“Getting real isn’t like that, exactly,” he replied, “You can’t plan to get real or strategize it. Your staff can’t do it for you. It’s a thing that just happens to you when you let your guard down.”
“But if I let my guard down, I’ll be naked and vulnerable” said the Velveteen Politician. “Precisely,” said Conyers, “but when you get real you don’t mind being vulnerable because it means people might actually vote for you.”
“Surely there must be another way” said the Velveteen Politician, “Can’t I just trim my bangs or have my husband show me a few tricks, the ones that don’t involve cigars?”
“You can’t force it,” said John Conyers, “You must practice getting real bit by bit. But if you can do it there will be no wall between you and the people; nothing standing in the way of you getting real.”
The Velveteen Politician sighed. She thought it would be a long time before this magic called getting real happened to her. She longed to know what it might feel like; and yet the idea of letting her guard down made her feel sick to her stomach.
She wished she could get real without having to do that.