Chapter Five: The Vote
With nearly the entire Senate and Congress having been vaporized, it fell to Governors to appoint new representatives to fill these positions for the remainder of the elected term. However, these decisions were enormously complicated by the destruction of K Street. The institutional knowledge of how to legally bribe politicians had been dealt an enormous blow and companies all over the nation had been rushing attractive financiers with expressive eyebrows through video tutorials on how to “donate” to select politicians. Given the sheer number of bribes which needed to be placed, the pageantry needed to be performed around these bribes to make them legal, and the lack of qualified bribers, the bandwidth of the Lobbying Industry could not come close to the demand.
The mood of the nation was also dangerously unsettled. People were panicked and they demanded candidates who could soothe their worries. Melvin Sninkle had also created an unusual precedent and voters now expected their leaders to be able to explain their policy positions transparently and at length. Stability demanded choices that would engender the public trust. Against tradition and their better interests, Governors were often forced to select candidates based on merit. The era of the Podcast Politician arrived. War heroes were selected in droves, several uncharismatic policy experts finally had their moment in the sun, doctors and engineers for the first time rivaled the headcount of lawyers. Indeed, the situation became so widespread and unprecedented that for the first time in a hundred years, the Senate and the Congress collectively could field no more than half a dozen pedophiles between them -when the Forum integrated with the Intelligence Agencies a number of very poorly considered black-ops programs were discovered- and a mere four dementia patients.
The pork-laden infrastructure bill to rebuild the Capitol hit the Chambers of Congress -which had been temporarily moved to Cheyenne Mountain in the improbable event of another meteor strike but Congress could not be convinced that they were not being specifically targeted by space- with an additional twelve pages written by Melvin Sninkle himself.
Broadly, the twelve pages outlined the implementation of a website and smartphone application, which could be used to solicit feedback from the public on the reconstruction of the Capitol. Every person who signed-up for the Rebuild Washington Forum would become a Digital Citizen and control $1,000 of conditional Federal Funding -for those of us too young to remember dollars this was the equivalent of about 0.053 ZEN- to be used to rebuild the Capitol. Digital Citizens could form coalitions to group their funding toward certain initiatives, and most critically, defer their votes to another Digital Citizen who would receive $10 compensation for managing the funds of the other party. This could also be done by topic, with topics to gain official status based on votes to be counted in the Forum, with each topic being weighted with funds distributed from the original $10 proportionally. The vote to divide by topic could also be delegated. In the event that the website failed to gather greater than 50% participation of eligible voters, or failed to create a plan with the buy-in of greater than 70% of the Digital Citizens, or could not execute and begin construction on the Capitol within 18 months the funding would be canceled.
The funding and votes for the Rebuild Washington Forum would be tracked based on a distributed ledger Cryptocurrency -the nameless precursor to ZEN- and only exchanged for dollars in the event it was successful. The protocols for this would also be open-sourced so the same architecture could be used by anyone, anywhere in the world. Changes to the primary Rebuild Washington Forum base code could only be implemented if voted upon by the majority of the users or their delegates. Any surplus funding would be returned to the Federal government.
The amount of politicking that went into the placement of this was minimal. Melvin Sninkle promised to sign off on a truly wasteful amount of Pork in order to appease the newly appointed representatives who wanted a unanimous bill. He also agreed to several Cabinet appointments from both parties, his primary bargaining chip. With broad support, his signature was only a formality and no one thought that anyone could get over half of U.S. voters to do anything let alone voluntarily sign-up for a website and rebuild the Capitol themselves.
Later, when interviewed, one honest Senator said, “We knew he was up for reelection in eighteen months. People liked that he wasn’t a politician and wasn’t close with any party. They liked the way he explained the Columbus strike. Well, people may have liked it but party leaders didn’t like it at all. He said he wasn’t going to make an effort to campaign but people were free to vote for him and he would ensure his name was on the ballot, but no more. What else were we going to attack him on? He never expressed opinions except about things like computer models. People liked that they didn’t have to think about him. And it all seemed so complicated that none of us understood it. We knew the American people wouldn’t understand it. We thought we were giving him enough rope to hang himself. Honestly, we figured it was bound to fail. We didn’t know he was going to make arguing about things on the internet into one of the most productive activities in the history of mankind.”