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Rules of Resistance: Imogen & Isaiah, #1

Rules of Resistance: Imogen & Isaiah, #1

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Rules of Resistance: Imogen & Isaiah, #1

312 pagine
4 ore
Feb 27, 2019


When Bay Area biotech wunderkind Iz Whitman discovers his Republican political consultant, Corey Strutsky, dead of a gunshot wound in the office of their political action committee, he becomes an immediate suspect. What the police don't know is that the PAC was a front.

Determined to help the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, Iz was secretly using Corey's racist messaging to scare swing voters in a Central Valley House of Representatives race back into the Democratic fold.

His volatile twin sister, Imogen, also plunges into the race as a key volunteer for the Democratic challenger, which results in very public run-ins with Corey – and in her predicament as another prime suspect in his death.

Rules of Resistance is a political mystery but also an investigation into the consequences of our political choices in these turbulent times.

Feb 27, 2019

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Rules of Resistance - I. M. Hunt-Logan



Guns Don’t Kill People . . .

Monday, November 5th, 2018, one day until the midterms

Corey Strutsky, my third-rate hack of a political consultant, is slumped sideways in my rented office chair, behind my rented office desk, in my sham political action committee’s rented office. His eyes at half mast, mouth slack, the small black hole in his temple dribbling red onto his white dress shirt and the arm of the rented chair. A little silver and black pistol lies on the gray carpet beside the chair.

My ex-political consultant. I fired Corey Thursday. He shouldn’t be here.

The office phone is shrilling, all the lines are lit up; so, standing in the bullpen, keeping an eye on Corey through the office door, I use my cell phone to call 911.

Back in the reception area, I wonder if I was mistaken, wonder if I should go check and make sure Corey is still there and still has a hole in his head. Approaching sirens drown out the office phone. Then the office is swarming with police and paramedics and crime scene techs.

A big guy who identifies himself as Detective Jennings says perhaps it would be easier if we got out of the way, herding me with his big body and outstretched arm towards the door. Into the sunlight for the two blocks to the police department, then Detective Jennings is ushering me past the Modesto Police Fallen Officer Memorial, through double glass doors, upstairs, down a corridor, and opening the door, showing me into a room labeled Interview Room A.

The interview room is a featureless space about eight feet by ten, painted off-white, with a mirrored wall. It’s empty except for a small table, three chairs, and a camera mounted in a corner above the mirrored wall. Jennings points me towards the seat facing the mirror and camera and asks if I’d like something to drink. Water, maybe, or coffee? I say yes to the water—water seems like a good idea.

As Detective Jennings exits the room I hear a decisive, metallic thunk. Was that a bolt turning in the lock?

I find myself facing off with my reflection in the one-way mirror and turn a few degrees sideways. The cuffs of my dress shirt—a custom-made Turnbull & Asser, pale blue, with the faintest white stripe—have ridden up a bit. Too fancy for Modesto, which runs towards off-the-rack button-downs or even plaid, but perhaps just as well, under the circumstances. I pull the cuffs down and rest my forearms on the table, hands loosely clasped, in a show of ease for whomever watches from behind the one-way glass. Will them to see this: Iz Whitman, just an upright citizen, businessman turned political activist, patiently waiting for Detective Jennings of the Modesto Police Department, who wants to ask a few questions. In an interview room, not a holding cell. Here of my own volition, no Miranda rights articulated, no charges made.

Corey fucking Strutsky. Jesus, I hate that guy. I mean, I hate him.

Hated. Past tense.

Corey exploited the worst of people; that was his gift. He camouflaged the forbidden inclinations of racism and sexism, allowing them back out into the light. Congressman Reed is an unapologetic Evangelical, and as sexist as they come. But it was Corey who was the proselytizer. It was Corey who cloaked racism in a gospel of security and small government and jobs, who cloaked misogyny in the gospel of pro-life and pro-family. And I gave him a platform, a pulpit for that gospel. I thought I was using Corey, but what if he was using me? Did Corey play me?

Corey, slumping sideways in my office chair.

Stray details float to the surface in my mind’s eye. Corey’s shirt rumpled and straining across his gut, the shirttail pulled halfway out on his left side. His dress pants rucked up a bit, creased where his beefy hams meet his body. Corey’s salt-and-pepper hair, on which he liked to use more than a bit of product, tousled, where it is usually slicked into place. And also this: the tidy pile of papers I left on the desk now strewn on the floor.

There’s an irritating tapping noise. It takes me a moment to identify its source. My knee, pumping like a jackhammer beneath the table. I will my knee into stillness even as my mind skitters among all the things I could have done to keep us from arriving at this place.


Holy Cows

Thursday, July 5th, 2018, 124 days until the midterms

The fight erupts without warning.

It’s late in the evening, and we’re hanging out in my home office at the house in Woodside. I’m finally getting around to unpacking the stuff that adorned my ChemTemex office before the acquisition, stuff that’s been in boxes for over a month. The picture of me and Obama grinning at the camera from a 2012 fundraiser, a framed copy of the cover of the Silicon Valley Business Journal featuring a photo of me and a bunch of other guys, for their 40 under 40 Rising Stars in Silicon Valley issue. I’m hanging pictures, while relaying to Imogen a top-line of the op-eds I’ve been reading, suggesting that economic insecurity drove non–college educated whites who voted for Obama in 2012 to defect to Trump in 2016. The takeaway is that non–college educated whites and their worries about jobs were the key to 2016 and will be the key to the upcoming midterm elections.

Imogen interrupts. Are you joking? Tell me you’re joking, Isaiah.

I turn to see if she’s joking. Apparently not.

Have you met twins who are peas in a pod, can complete each other’s sentences? Get that image out of your mind. That has never been Imogen and me. We are freaks, mixed-race genetic anomalies. Of our eight great-grandparents, five were of European descent, one of African descent, one from China, and the last a Native American of the Zuni tribe. In the crap-shoot that is sexual reproduction, I got all the pasty bits and Imogen got all the colorful bits. Sure, there are physical similarities like the leggy height; the long straight nose; the shape of the mouth, wide with a full lower lip. But Imogen is female and looks like the United Nations got together and had a baby: corkscrew hair; doe-shaped, hematite eyes; skin that is a warm sepia in summer, a cooler terra-cotta in the winter. Whereas I’m fair-haired and hazel-eyed. I am not, as Imogen sometimes says, melanin-challenged. I tan and can get a deep, tawny gold in the summertime. But I’ve never been taken for anything but Caucasian.

Our real differences have to do with temperament and perspective. Where Imogen is hyperbolic and sees a world in black and white, I’m even-keeled and live in a world shaded in gray. I don’t remember it being this way when we were little. Our lives diverged after Mom died; maybe our perspectives did too. There is no one else on earth I would do just about anything for. But for all that, no one on the planet can push my buttons like Imogen.

When I don’t respond immediately, Imogen withdraws her hands from the laptop she has perched on the edge of the big mahogany desk and leans back in her chair to stare at me.

You think non–college educated whites’ concerns about jobs and the economy were the reason Donald Trump won, and you think Democrats should target them in the midterm?

That’s what I just said.

And since more women than men go to college, what you mean is that Democrats should target uneducated white men. Forget women and people of color—you want to focus on uneducated white men.

Her voice is flat, which, if you know Mo, you know means that you’re on the warning track.

I lead with the data; Imogen is a self-described empiricist, so she’s supposed to listen to data.

"Hillary won women, African Americans, and Latinos.¹ Those groups voted pretty much the way they have for the last decade, which is to say, they didn’t swing the election. What swung the election was non-college whites, and in particular, non-college white men. Non-college whites went for Trump by thirty-nine points. Obama only lost them by twenty-five points.² Among the men? Trump won non-college white men by a landslide. Non-college whites and, yes, the men in particular, are the key."

Imogen traces the rim of a mug of tea with her index finger. She watches the steam rising in a spiral. I can tell she’s chewing at the inside of her cheek.

Without looking up, she says, Is this your way of saying that you think Democrats should abandon planks in the progressive agenda like abortion and immigration reform?

"Jesus, Mo. How do you get from talking uneducated whites to talking about abortion and immigration? But you know what? Democrats should talk about abortion and immigration. We should talk about the entire agenda because obviously it didn’t work. We need to be open to jettisoning some of the special interest holy cows in the platform. Like that idiot in Menlo Park the other night who wouldn’t shut up about how a carbon tax had to be ‘revenue neutral.’ Like voters even know what revenue neutral means."

Are you equating abortion with a revenue-neutral carbon tax?

Her tone is icy. I choose to ignore it.

The point is, Democrats can’t be held hostage to special interests.

"How is abortion a special interest? Wait, are you saying women are a special interest group? We’re more than half the fucking population, more than half the electorate.³ But who cares? Fuck women, fuck black and brown people. Let’s talk about white men. Of course, white men are only 30 percent of the population, but white men are never a special interest group. White men have to always be the center of the universe. Otherwise the whole fucking world has to suffer."

Imogen is never shy about busting out the f-bomb, but even for her, she’s gotten heated fast. Perhaps I shouldn’t have ignored the ice.

Imogen. C’mon now, I say, in my ‘be reasonable’ voice.

"You think Trump’s bullshit about bringing back mining jobs won him votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania? There are twice as many used-car dealership jobs in America as coal-mining jobs. Arby’s employs more people than the entire mining industry."

Is this how Imogen has been using her time since she left her law firm? Pushing her own buttons surfing the internet? Memorizing employment trivia?

Don’t be ridiculous. Trump talked about other jobs, like manufacturing jobs impacted by trade agreements.

"Manufacturing? Which has been in decline since before we were born?⁵ Over which period, US manufacturing output has nearly doubled?⁶ That’s productivity, Iz, not unfair trade practices, and jobs lost to productivity improvements aren’t coming back."


"But let’s talk about trade. Trump’s steel tariffs will destroy more jobs than the entire steel industry employs. That’s what happened in 2002 when Bush tried it: 200,000 lost jobs and four billion dollars in lost wages.⁷ And that is nothing compared to what Trump’s trade war with China is gonna do to farmers in the Midwest. If you think jobs are why stupid white men voted for Trump, then you must think they are really stupid."

Imogen is making zero effort to match my ‘be reasonable’ tone. Still, I persevere.

"Well, why do you think white men voted for Trump?"

Because they’re racist misogynists.

She says it fast, without thinking, in that ‘it’s obvious’ tone of voice that is kryptonite to productive debate.

Whoa, I say. You can’t know that.

I know anybody who voted for Trump got themselves right with ‘Mexicans are rapists,’ ‘Muslims are terrorists,’ and pussy grabbing.

"There’s a difference between ‘getting right with,’ maybe holding your nose and casting the vote, and outright endorsing the racism."

"And you think it was Trump’s detailed proposal to put the country back to work in mining jobs that won the election? Trump is a dramatically more credible racist than he is a job-creating trade negotiator, and anybody who claims to believe otherwise is delusional or a liar. Probably both."

Imogen is up and out of her seat, laptop tucked under her arm, mug in hand, radiating frustration from the doorway. You know what? I can’t even talk to you about this!

The door slams behind her, aided by what looked like a healthy push.

Imogen gave up Catholicism a long time ago, and like I said, she considers herself an empiricist. But in the absence of evidence, she’s pretty quick to follow the knee-jerk lefty Way, the Truth and the Light. Imogen is actually proud that there is very little gray in her black and white world. She says I use gray as an excuse not to take action or responsibility. In actuality, I think it’s my ability not to jump to conclusions, my willingness to consider different perspectives that has enabled me to succeed professionally. I suspect Imogen’s tendency to jump to strident conclusions hasn’t smoothed her path, at work or in life generally. Her take on uneducated white voters is a case in point.


Weimar Moment

Fall 2016, two years until the midterms

In November of 2016, Imogen and I went to Reno, Nevada to serve as poll monitors. Poll monitors are usually lawyers. Imogen has a JD, I have an MBA, but it doesn’t really matter. The one-hour training largely comes down to whom to call if Republicans show up at your assigned polling place and get up in the faces of young people, people of color, young people of color (you get the idea), to try to intimidate likely Democrats out of voting.

We drove in the night before, checked into the Eldorado and caught a couple hours of sleep, then rolled out before dawn. Armed with coffee and cell phones into which we’d programmed all the emergency contact numbers, we dutifully made our way to Sparks Middle School. We arrived fifteen minutes before the polls opened at 7 a.m. and already there was a line snaking through the parking lot.

That was the extent of the drama: good turnout. If Republicans were trying to intimidate voters, they weren’t doing it at Sparks Middle School. After a twelve-hour day of absolutely stupefying boredom, the clock finally crawled around to 7 p.m. and the polls closed at last. We followed the last two poll workers, a science teacher and her husband, around the auditorium, listening to them read off the machine vote tallies. We took down the numbers as we surreptitiously checked the election returns on our cell phones. The Associated Press called swing state after swing state for Donald Trump. When the machine tallies were done, we said subdued goodbyes, and the teacher locked the school’s double doors behind us.

With the temperature dropping like a stone, we made our way to Imogen’s Mini, the second-to-last car in the darkened parking lot. Imogen had devoted the Mini’s precious trunk space to a cooler filled with ice and a magnum of Krug champagne; that’s how certain she was that we’d be toasting a Madame President for the first time in US history that evening.

So it came to pass that it was in a deserted middle school parking lot, the Mini lit only by the glow of our cell phones, that we watched the 2016 presidential election slip away.

I awoke to find Imogen shaking my leg and muttering about missing the noon checkout. I knew immediately that something really bad had happened, and because a voice from the television was droning on about exit polls, I quickly realized what the bad thing was.

Neither of us had had the stomach for the ‘Victory Party’ at the Atlantis. Instead we had returned to the Eldorado, turned on CNN in Imogen’s room, and when the Krug ran out, worked our way through Imogen’s minibar. I never made it back to my room. By the feel of it, the bottle count had been high.

We winced our way through showers and checkout, piled back into the Mini, and headed west. Imogen drove hunched over the wheel, periodically jabbing at her sunglasses when they rode down to the tip of her nose. The silence in the car was broken by Imogen’s sporadic outbursts, which generally began with, Do you know what this means?

For example: Do you know what this means? This means Trump will pull out of the Paris climate accord—it means the planet is going to cook. Collapse of food systems, famine, drought, flooding, martial law.

She ranted about the implications of Trump’s election for the Supreme Court, minimum wage, abortion, race relations, LGBT rights, gun control, and women’s rights, among many, many other things. I let her words wash over me.

She excoriated friends who had told her they weren’t volunteering, as they ‘just weren’t that excited about Hillary.’ She said, I hope they’re excited now.

She lamented that she had only devoted ten hours a week to going down to the Democratic Volunteer Center on El Camino in Mountain View. She could have, should have done more! She did everything but rend her cheeks.

I couldn’t decide if I felt guilty.

As I watched I-80 pass by, I probed the idea in my mind the way you probe the space where you’ve lost a tooth with your tongue when you’re a kid. Secretary Clinton, who handily won the national popular vote, lost the Electoral College vote and therefore the presidency because Mr. Trump defeated her by less than a combined 80,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Green Party nominee Jill Stein captured enough votes to make up the difference between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

But California went for Clinton. My vote for Jill Stein hadn’t mattered. I decided I felt a bit raw, but no, I didn’t feel guilty. Not exactly. Still, it didn’t seem the time to mention it to Imogen.

We spent more time together in the month following the election than we’d spent together in the previous year. Perhaps because things had been a little rough between us before the election, there was a luxurious quality to our unity. Or maybe it’s just always good to have your strongest emotions mirrored back at you. When your own mind is running on a loop, saying, Jesus. How did this happen? Jesus . . . it is a sweet relief to have someone pour you another drink as she says, Jesus. How did this happen?

It was an unseasonably warm November and mornings found us wrapped in fleece, sipping cappuccinos on the back deck overlooking the redwood- and fir-covered slopes down to the coast, the Pacific winking through the gaps in the trees. We read each other op-eds from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, anything that might help us make sense of the election of a self-proclaimed sexual predator and racist to succeed the admirable Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of the United States. Work was uncharacteristically quiet, serving simply as the interregnum between morning coffee and evening cocktails. We reconvened in the evening by the fire, the cocktail shaker getting a near-daily workout: martinis, or dark and stormies, or paper planes. We binge-watched Dexter, The Killing, Breaking Bad, and Luther. (I recommend them all.)

It was somewhere between a wake and a staycation.

By the end of the year, with the inauguration looming, it was becoming clear that we had exhausted ethanol’s ability to self-medicate away the horror of the impending Trump presidency. This was our Weimar moment. It was time to take action. We bought plane tickets to Washington for the Women’s March. We went to any meeting of any fledgling activist group in the area—Swing Left, Sister District, Indivisible, I can’t even remember them all—in search of answers, volunteer opportunities, and a path back to the nation we thought we knew.

I want to be clear: I didn’t have to be talked into joining the resistance. I was not reluctantly opposed to Trump. From the start, my opposition was wholehearted and visceral.


Just the Ticket

Thursday, July 5th, 2018, 124 days until the midterms

Staring at the door Imogen slammed behind her, I wonder what happened to that shared commitment? That energy?

Sure, we went to the Women’s March. We’ve gone to subsequent marches too. But the marches are largely symbolic. Without follow-through, they mean about as much as Occupy Wall Street. If that is the sum total of our contribution to the Resistance, then we’re gonna end up like those Germans who spent their post–World War II years claiming they thought their Jewish neighbors were off vacationing somewhere, or that they had absolutely no idea what that smell coming from Bergen-Belsen was.

The sale of my start-up, ChemTemex, distracted me, to say the least. It was my first. Not my first start-up, but the first to succeed, the first to get acquired by Big Pharma, and my first serious payday. But we celebrated the closing of that deal months ago.

Imogen has been at liberty much longer. The sexual harassment and discrimination dust-up with Kaplan and Stone, her old law firm, settled before the 2016 election. She calls it ‘consulting,’ but she’s been licking her wounds ever since.

For very different reasons, we both have time on our hands. Maybe too much. Maybe it’s time to put our money and our time where our mouths are.

Not here in Silicon Valley. Our Democratic congresswoman wins her elections by forty to fifty points. Silicon Valley is so dark blue,

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