Volume 2 of Steven Nemerovski’s Third Party series could have easily been titled “The Empires Strike Back.”
That’s because in the final sentences of Volume 1, Starting in the Middle, we learn E Party candidate Tom Robinson surprises everyone by unexpectedly winning the governor’s race in Illinois. In short order, both the Democrat and Republican parties launch campaigns to both challenge the win and resist the E Party’s legislative agenda. They begin legal challenges to force a recount of the votes in some 50 precincts and delight in the E Party’s early rookie mistakes, based on their collective political inexperience. While the election is being contested, the new governor has his hands tied in terms of offering high-level posts to skilled operators who wouldn’t know if Robinson will still be in power after the recount process goes through the courts.
At the same time, lobbyists, super-PACs, and unions are recruited to block Robinson’s education reform agenda claiming his program overreaches constitutional restrictions. Both major parties are more interested in redrawing voting districts based on new census numbers than proposing any useful legislation on any issue. The entrenched and ineffective bureaucracy is only interested in maintaining their positions and pensions. In short, business as usual as political self-interest trumps any progressive moves forward.
Like volume one, Strange Bedfellows presents us a large cast of power brokers in all three parties facing or creating the hurdles to block any accomplishments that could be credited to the E Party. But the story isn’t just a three party chess match, especially with the different agendas of Democrat State Speaker of the House David Kennedy and that of Eddie Cobb, the ruthless chair of the Democratic National Committee. Kennedy is willing to work with the Third Party, Cobb wants it discredited and wiped out before it spreads. To say much more would veer into the realm of spoilers, but I will note tainted ballots complicate the stew in a scandal called “Floodgate.”
This is a case where I urge potential readers to first experience Volume One to get an appreciation of the characters, motivations, and goals of all the participants. If you jump into round two without such preparation, understanding what the foundations of the E Party are will not be especially clear. Since the scope of the E Party in this volume is strictly on politics in Illinois, demonstrating how they could potentially play a significant role in national politics isn’t established in book two beyond showcasing the power plays of national parties fighting to retain the status quo at whatever cost. As with volume 1, the second book is another very believable and depressing reminder of what matters to our alleged leaders and that ain’t us.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com Sun. Dec. 4, 2016: