By Richard Moffett
May 7, 2012
The President of the United States is shot just days before the election for his second term begins, and suggestions of a lone gunman are shattered when the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is found dead in a restaurant a few blocks from the White House. A few hours later a well known (D) Senator from South Carolina is found shot and bleeding in his home and is in critical condition. This breathtaking scenario unfolds in just the first few pages of John Price’s novel, Second Term. Quite a way to begin, but the best part about this story is that the action and suspense never stop. The true intrigue of the novel is not found in assassination attempts, car chases, or heists, however. It is found in the situation of our government dissolving some of our most basic rights, and more importantly, the ease with which they do so. This first installment of Price’s trilogy proposes a scenario in which the American government uses fear and deception to rob its citizens of the rights our Founding Fathers fought so dearly to establish. In its pages we see a twisted and corrupt America that is truly frightening because it could very well become reality.
The basic premise of the novel is that after the failed assassination attempt of the President, who is never named in the narrative, he wins the election for a second term in a landslide. The author does not shy away from telling the reader that voter polls and public opinion were predicting the loss of the incumbent before the attempt on his life, setting the stage for a possible conspiracy that is only begun to be addressed in this first episode. After reelection the Head of State uses his unchecked power and the fear from the “Guns Against Government Conspiracy” to propose a new bill in honor of the deceased Director of the ATF, Lawrence McAlister, seeking to ban firearms and “hate speech” in America. At the time a large contingent of the liberal populace and media believe that this is a good idea, but they are oblivious to the ramifications it will bring in the future.
After Senator James R. Blivens recovers from his wounds and returns to D.C. he is put in charge of pushing the new bill which is entitled the “McAlister Hate Weapons and Hate Speech Elimination Bill”, or “McAlister Bill” for short. Proponents of the bill argue that the language in the Second Amendment is outdated and needs to be changed to suit modern needs. They use arguments of safety that many anti-gun activists use in real life but are augmented in the story by the attempt on the President’s life. To go along with the removal of “hate weapons,” the President also seeks to eliminate “hate speech” which he believes is the catalyst for most violence in the country. As the story unfolds the author weaves a web of government fear-mongering and corruption that causes Americans to forfeit the First and Second Amendment rights they hold so dearly.
I believe that the true allure of the book and talent of the author are found in the reality of the scenario; the reader sees the veritable possibility of events like these happening given the right circumstances. The way that Price accomplishes this is by creating a genuine “slippery slope” during the story. At the beginning of the book the government proposes banning all “hate weapons” but leaves open the possibility of private ownership of guns for hunters, sports-shooters, et cetera. By the end of the book any person owning a gun for any reason at all is punished by 10 years in federal prison. States that attempt to resist the federal law are threatened with economic crackdowns and even use of military force by the White House. The same events occur for the “hate speech” component of the bill. Lawmakers insist that it is not an infringement upon free speech because only speakers threatening elected officials or national security will be punished. It is pretty obvious to the reader where this is going; by the end of the narrative anyone caught saying anything negative about the government or its laws is considered a national threat and is severely punished. The government also employs a large organization of “speech police” which sends its members to attend public and private meetings and gatherings to make sure citizens are complying with the law. You will have to read the book to find out how the President ingeniously makes this contingent “legal.”
Price puts a very personal face on the issues discussed in the book by narrating from the point of view of characters from both sides of the debate. He details the thought processes behind the President and his “henchmen” of sorts, Senator Blivens. The reader sees the underlying sense behind the laws but also understands very clearly how the politicians were corrupted by power and greed. Price also tells the story of a few of the men who are imprisoned for either “treasonous statements” or refusing to give up their firearms. While reading you really feel the pain of these characters and their families as they are imprisoned for doing what they know is right. Most authors writing about this subject would probably get caught up in the “big picture,” but Price gives an excellent balance of national turmoil and individual injustice.
Probably the most suspenseful scene is when the McAlister Bill is up for a vote in the House of Representatives, where it is expected to come down to just a few ballots. As they are waiting for the final votes to be made, Senator Blivens realizes that the decision could very well go against his bill unless he does something to ensure the last few votes go his way. He has no jurisdiction over the workings of the House so he calls in his “ace in the hole”, Speaker of the House Pelham. Pelham calls the last undecided members into her office and announces, “I don’t have all night, so let’s just do this. Write down what it will take on the back of your Member business card, drop it on the desk, and I’ll call you back in individually.” This tactic brings the vote to 218 against and 217 for the bill, but fortunately for Pelham the vote cannot officially end until she as Speaker says so. She announces to her caucus leadership team that the first Representative who switches his/her vote will be able to choose: either an appointment to the Board of Directors of America’s third largest multi-national corporation or the ambassadorship to Italy, the second most sought after position of its kind after the United Kingdom. She warns that only the very first voter to switch will receive the reward and any after will receive nothing, so a decision must be made quickly. Her plan succeeds and the voting is closed with the McAlister Bill passing by only one vote.
The end of the book leaves the country in a state of utter turmoil and the reader on the edge of his seat. The country is on the brink of martial law and one of the main characters begins to realize that current events may have Biblical ramifications. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in politics and constitutional rights in America. The story is full of conspiracy, corruption, armed showdowns, and modern day heroes fighting for what is just. The novel can be somewhat dry and repetitive at times, but overall the story is extremely engaging and interesting. I applaud Mr. Price for writing a novel that is not only exciting and fun to read, but also opens the reader’s eyes to how quickly and easily the government can take away our constitutional rights under the right circumstances.
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN OLDSPEAK ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE.