* VOTE FOR CHASE *
– Four year old Chase runs for President –
It’s five days before the election, and Chase stands in front of an empty auditorium in Lowell, MA. He stuffs his hands in his dress pant pockets and exhales deeply. A reporter from the local paper is conducting a pre-debate interview. “If you’re elected, you’ll have some pretty big shoes to fill.” Chase pauses for a moment and glances down at his size 3 Buster Browns. “You know dynamite comes in small packages, right?”
Campaign trails can be long and arduous. Chase’s journey to the presidency started months ago in Sterling Heights, Michigan, where he kicked off his national journey to get in front of voters with his mom, his tutor, and an army of handlers.
In between shaking the hands of adoring supporters and kissing babies day in and day out, he’s rarely found a moment for pause.
“I relate to these babies because I was where they are now not too long ago,” Chase says. “I remember what it feels like to be tucked into a warm blanket. Safe. Protected. I want to swaddle our nation so everyone can feel that way.”
In four hours, the auditorium seats will be filled with townspeople and news crews, eager to watch the two candidates battle head-to-head. For now, Chase has retired backstage to run final debate prep with his trusted campaign manager, Erica. She’s the brains of the operation: a savvy, seasoned political veteran who reads at a third-grade level. An intellectual force feared by her opponents (legend has it that an electric, three-minute speech she once gave on economics caused her political nemesis to experience a “trickle down” effect in his Dockers), she reminds Chase to focus on their platform talking points. Where do they fall on required recess? Absolutely. And extra homework? Yuck.Chase begins practicing a response, loses it mid-thought, and starts to throw a tantrum. Thankfully, Erica always has a juice box at the ready.“Motts and Chase: stronger together,” she says as Chase eagerly slurps his juice. “That might have to be our new campaign slogan.”
The debate begins with both candidates being announced over the PA system of the auditorium. Photographers snap and the audience claps as Chase enters from behind the curtain, waving politely. He and David, his opponent, shake hands and walk behind their respective pulpits. Anderson, the moderator, lays out the ground rules: two-minute responses to each question, 8 p.m. curfew, and no name calling. The last rule is met with light laughter from the audience.
Chase turns to David, and they lock eyes in an epic staredown, silently daring the other to blink. Nostrils flare. Eyebrows raise. Thumbs are placed in ears and fingers are wiggled vigorously. Finally, David cannot contain himself and blinks.
And thus, the debate begins.
For the next ninety minutes, Anderson asks the candidates a number of hard-hitting questions on topical issues facing America. On the role of the federal government: “Where do you both fall on mandated nap times? And is it a state or a federal issue?” David, practiced and confident, says, “I love building a wall around myself with blankets when I nap for maximum privacy. Plus, my mom pays for everything!”
The crowd cheers loudly.
On the importance of infrastructure: “We need to be strategic in our efforts to build, block by block, from within,” says Chase. “I’ve met with union leaders from Somerville to Springfield. We’ve got great people with great ideas, but we have to be patient with our implementation timelines.”
“As you well know, Lego Land wasn’t built in a day.” His calm, measured delivery brings the crowd to its feet, and they applaud Chase over the admonishments of Anderson and well past the 8:00 p.m. curfew.
It’s election day, and Chase is nervous. “The race is closer than two knees on a tricycle,” he tells the throng of reporters gathered outside of Central School, where Chase will go and cast his vote for the President of the United States. “It’s really anyone’s game.”
He turns and stares directly into one of the cameras.“I wish my opponent well. And if he said the same thing about me, at the same time, then…jinx, David, buy me a Coke.”Chase walks into the building, passing his preschool classroom on his left, and down the hallway towards the gymnasium.
Seventy two weeks. Forty nine states (he didn’t make it to Alaska, but he did see the world’s largest potato in Idaho). One hundred and thirty six cities. Thousands of handshakes. Two cases of the sniffles, one during the first debate. (To his credit, he did not blame the microphone.)It’s been a long road leading up to this one day. This one hour. This one moment in time.Chase borrows a No. 2 pencil, steps into the voting booth, and fills in the bubble next to his name.
Dropping the ballot in the secure box, he turns to the people of Lowell and flashes an enthusiastic thumbs up, his boyish optimism fully on display.
“Now, there’s nothing to do but wait.”
Photographed by Ashley Pizzuti
Written by Adam Tokarz