Mason Dixon Report
Chris Mason – 40s. The show’s host. A lifelong political junkie, he formerly served in the senatorial offices of Daniel Webster in the 1840s. He still reveres Webster, and sees him as the epitome of the great political figure. (Although he also can chuckle about Webster being a loser, having lost the presidency several times…) To him, all politics is a great game, and the theme of the day will always be “who won?” Who won the day, who won the election, who won the battle? Even the big issues of the day – slavery, for instance, comes down to a power struggle between slavers and abolitionists. He also is a great believer in bipartisanship or, as it’s called in the 1860s, compromise. To him, there are no two sides that can’t find a happy middle ground. He sees the Compromise of 1850 to be one of the nation’s great achievements, and views the partisans on either side as fanatics. Even this war could be settled quickly if people would just act like grown-ups. Which, of course, means if they would just do what he in his wisdom believes at the moment is the right thing to do, even if that directly contradicts what he thought they should do yesterday. He is always right, but more than that, he is always the one guy who is seeking the real truth in a sea of partisan spin, as evidence by his catchphrase “What does it mean? What does it mean?”
Melanie Cooper – 25. She comes out of a straight news background and is a true believer in the hard line between fact and opinion. Her mission in life is to present the full story, which by her training means finding out what person A says and then what person B says. If one is telling the truth and one is lying, it’s not her job to make that judgment. She’s always confident when she’s presenting her news stories, but she can get flustered when Chris presses her to express an opinion. It’s become a game for him. He wants her to say what she thinks, and she always answers with what one of her sources has said. She’s well aware of the game, and plays it her own way, refusing to give him what he wants. When the news isn’t too dire, the game can rise (or fall) to the level of flirtation, and we can all be glad that Chris and Melanie are inevitably separated by many miles…
Regular Guest Pundits:
Bart O’Horgan – 50s. A strong believer in the Confederacy. Served in a low level capacity in the William Henry Harrison administration. It was his idea to have that inaugural picture taken, making Harrison the first president ever photographed, and Chris teases him about that – admires the initiative, but humorously blames O’Horgan for the subsequent rise of personality-driven politics. Bart’s got a million reasons why the Confederacy is the way of the future, and unlike everyone else on the show, he’s willing to explain why slavery is not only good for the nation, but for the slaves. He loves the courtly manners and style of the South – it’s what the country was supposed to be. To him, Lincoln is the greatest villain the world has ever seen, and if it ever occurred to him to say the president was a Muslim born in Kenya, he would, and he’d argue it with great force.
Honus Winchell – 30s. He was the deputy communications director for the presidential campaign of John C. Fremont in 1850, and in fact claims to have coined the slogan “Free Soil, Free Men and Fremont.” The truth is that Winchell was always nervous about taking such a strong anti-slavery stand – or any stand, for that matter – in the first Republican campaign, and he actually came up with “Free Soil, Free Beer and Fremont,” but the candidate made the change and the rest is history. Winchell is a good guy all the way through – honest, fair, and with a strong belief in the union and the rights of man. But he lacks the courage of his convictions. He knows right from wrong, but he’s constantly aware that other people think differently, and he doesn’t want to risk offense by pushing his own views too hard.
Betsy Wallace – 20s or 30s. Leader of “Concerned Women for Liberty,” a pro-Confederacy think tank. She’s no “Southern Belle,” but a smart, hard Easterner. She’s less interested in the trappings of the Confederacy than Bart; she is an economic Calivinist who believes the rich and powerful have their wealth and power because they deserve them… and those who are less fortunate – even slaves – need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. She’s full of common sense solutions to thorny problems, although those solutions always boil down to “leave things as they are now.”
Gen. Osborne Mooney (ret.) – 50. A retired officer in the US army, Mooney is the show’s expert on all things and all people military. He’s a Northerner, and if he hadn’t retired due to an injury, he would be fighting for the Union. But he believes the Confederate army is better trained and better commanded, and he’s hard-pressed not to admire them as he talks about troop movements, strategy and battles.
Crispus Washington – Born into slavery, but his parents were freed before he was four years old when their owners moved to England and took Washington’s family with them. They stayed on as (paid) servants, and Crispus was able to get a great education. Returning to the states in his 20s, he wrote a book on the life of slaves, based on his early childhood memories, other books, and a lot of imagination. This has made him a hugely popular guest on shows like Mason Dixon as an articulate ex-slave who is able to speak of the terrible practice without making middle class whites feel uncomfortable. He is, of course, almost a complete fraud, but he’s good television.
Corwin Kennedy – 40. A ferociously anti-slavery journalist, he started out working for William Lloyd Garrison, then split off on his own to start his own newspaper, Truth. His passion is matched only by the sheer amount of facts he has at his fingertips. He believes the Confederacy should be wiped off the face of the Earth, and if God isn’t willing to do it, then the North must.
And more as we need them…