In November, the Liberty Party headquarters was buzzing with activity. It was election day, and not one person on staff had a clue of how that night would go; all they knew is that they were desperately attempting to avoid an embarrassing first-round result in the face of Panem’s first runoff elections that would be inevitably held in December. Katniss Everdeen, then chair of the Liberty National Committee while serving as wife to the President, closely watched the screen as the results from the districts poured in.
The final three districts were called around two o’clock in the morning. Peeta Mellark and Rebecca Tarson won District 14 to no one’s surprise, while Julie Roydon and Matthias Christian of the Centre Party scored wins in District 15 and the Capitol. Everdeen grimaced at the Centre Party wins, which further cemented the fact that the party had suffered massive electoral blows that day. The Liberty ticket would be heading to a runoff; these wins simply determined their opponents.
Everdeen called her staff together to discuss the next course of action. The LibNC was prepared for a runoff as it was considered a fairly likely scenario in the last few weeks due to the tightening polls. Everdeen promptly put that plan into action before the President and Vice President spoke that night, intending to preempt the Jones and Christian campaigns.
In December, the plan barely worked. While Mellark and Tarson were reelected to a second term, Mellark barely won in a squeaker, and Tarson won due to the popular vote percentage in the scenario of an unlikely electoral tie. The two were sworn in on January 1st along with Congress, bringing a prompt reminder that Liberty was at its lowest point in years. The party had lost a majority in the House and was forced to seek a governing coalition with the Conservatives, something that appeared easy but in actuality was quite difficult to negotiate. Upon the inauguration of Mellark and Tarson to a second term, Everdeen presented her husband with her resignation as chair of the LibNC. She personally felt responsible for the severe losses incurred during the election cycle, and she felt that it was time for a change.
Following Everdeen’s resignation, the gears began to turn in the Capitol. The Liberty Party began to move in a new direction, rejecting the party’s previous image and qualities and reshaping into a more modern and competitive party.
After Everdeen, Mellark chose his Secretary of State, Celine Oswald, to lead the party’s top committee. Oswald had already notified the President she would not return as the top diplomat, but Mellark’s offer to chair the party intrigued the political heavyweight. While never a perfect campaigner, Oswald is undoubtedly skilled with political strategy and diplomacy, making her an ideal fit. This move was the first major move to reshape the party, as Oswald immediately scrapped the plans of Everdeen’s administration of the committee in favor of newer plans to rebrand Liberty as a party that was forward-thinking and representative of the common man.
Then came the changes in the House of Representatives. Constantin Richelieu triggered what may have been a generational change in Panem politics with his resignation as Speaker, causing a leadership election between majority leader Miranda O’Neal and young upstart Wes Summerfield. Despite the entrenched O’Neal being considered essentially Speaker-in-waiting, Summerfield convinced the members of the Liberty caucus that the way forward for their party was not through a rehashing of the same type of politics. Summerfield insisted to his colleagues that Richelieu and O’Neal were exactly what caused a crisis of confidence with Liberty and swing voters in the past election cycle and pledged to set forth a new agenda to determine exactly how to regain the party’s lost majority. Until then, he informed the members, he would seek a governing majority with the Conservatives that was stronger and more solvent than Richelieu’s failed coalition was. He accomplished this through providing the majority whip position to the Conservative leader, Kari Lyles, and through higher committee assignments for the Conservative members of the coalition. While the deal was not what many wished for, it certainly has ensured a working majority; Richelieu never achieved such a majority, which was the cause of his resignation.
The Senate changes came last and were deeply planned between Stonehaven and the Senate leadership. Michael Debroff, the majority leader, had already been planning his retirement from politics due to an illustrious career that spanned decades. His retirement was destined to trigger a competitive open election during the midterms that could have resulted in a gain for the Centre or Conservative Parties if the conditions were right. Furthermore, it would have caused a major Senate leadership shakeup right after the midterm elections. Instead of postponing the inevitable Senate leadership battle and to ensure that Liberty had the upper hand in the election for Debroff’s seat, Mellark decided to move Debroff to his Cabinet to the open position at the Department of International Trade. Debroff’s Senate credentials would provide no issue on his confirmation, and it would be the pinnacle of the senator’s lengthy career. It also provided a chance to keep the seat; Oswald cheered when the decision was made as the incumbency of Debroff’s replacement was sure to help in keeping the seat in a special election and in the midterms.
However, the vacancy for majority leader in the Senate caused an internal rift, which was beginning to seem fairly common for the Liberty Party in this era. Wendy Oppenheim stepped up almost immediately to run for the position, but Wesley Benson made it clear that he had intentions of governing the Senate. The two had been whipping votes in preparation for Debroff’s expected retirement, but following his ascension to the Cabinet, the whipping only intensified. The rift grew wider, and allies of Oppenheim and Benson quickly recognized the damage that the two could cause by being at odds with each other. As such, the two sides brokered an agreement; the two would essentially co-govern the Senate with Oppenheim as the official leader, while Benson would select nearly all of the remaining leadership.
Oswald and Mellark felt a sense of accomplishment in the new leadership. It was no secret that Mellark’s relationship with Richelieu was always cordial at best and that the former was always discontent with the lack of energy and the complacency of the old guard. By reforming the leadership in the legislative branch, the pair of political pros essentially cleared the path for a pro-Mellark Congressional agenda. Oswald was particularly pleased with the response that she was seeing from the polls taken following the changes. Overwhelmingly the Liberty Party electorate was pleased with the new leadership and with the Mellark administration’s agenda. The President’s approval ratings rose from a paltry 43 percent on inauguration day to 58 percent following the passage and signing of the ethics legislation that he championed. The generic congressional ballots indicated that voters were trending towards Liberty in the midterms, rather than away, for the first time in four years. In addition to these short term successes, Oswald also saw a future for the party past Mellark. The ever-consistent talk of the next executive elections now featured names that were not simply old news; voters were becoming accustomed to Wes Summerfield, Jacqueline Warner, Jacob Ellsworth, and Celeste Armstrong. For once, the Liberty Party didn’t seem to be in decline.
Will the party remain that way? There’s certainly no way to predict the fortunes of a political party. Future missteps could endanger the Liberty Party further, but at the current moment, the party seems well positioned for the upcoming midterms. It’s clear to see that the rebranding of the party has worked masterfully; the voters believe the changes are real and palpable, and certainly a new leadership of the party has emerged at the behest of Mellark and Oswald. While the old guard was clearly successful in its day, that day has passed and the voters responded as such. With the new, young leadership of the party, voters seem to be willing to give Liberty a second chance- one that, if capitalized on correctly, will restore their majority in the House and ensure that the next election will be Liberty’s to lose, regardless of who runs.