We’re going nowhere

I heard a political speech this weekend. I transcribed the end of it from a recording. If you didn’t hear it, too, I’d suggest you take the time to read through this brief section.

But I remember this: I remember my mom and dad went through the 1930s without welfare, without poverty programs. (Sarcastic)) None of us kids even had a social worker! [Laughter in crowd] How did we do it?

Well–ladies, excuse me–we worked our butts off [crowd cheers]. But I tell you this, good people: Crocker Jarmon still believes that individuals are responsible for themselves and so does the vast majority of the American people!

And that’s why were’s going to tell Big Brother to get lost!

The solution to welfare is not more welfare. It’s more enterprise. More industry and more jobs. Now, there are those that say to industry, “Don’t build, don’t develop, don’t cut a single tree or you’ll destroy our watershed,” and so on. But I know that when the time comes for building, we will build, because building means jobs.

And we’ll find a way to love Mother Nature and preserve her…without going to extremes.

You think I’m mean? [Crowd cheers, “No!”] Well, I am. I’ve spent the last 18 years in the Senate being a meanie, and if need be, I will spend another 18 years working to keep this country healthy, and growing, and booming into the future.

Frankly, it’s a speech that could’ve been given this weekend. It wasn’t, however. It came from the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate. The writer, Jeremy Larner, won an Oscar for best screenplay of that year.

Somehow my many years of film consumption had passed without me seeing The Candidate . I watched it this weekend and was struck by how…modern…it was. It not only spoke to 2010 politics 38 years later, it defined 2010 politics. I sat in my living room and marveled at how prescient Larner was, how before-his-time he must have felt! And then I realized that it probably wasn’t prescience at all.

This is modern politics.

It’s been this way since I was a baby. It was this way when I was younger (Dan Quayle once called the film an inspiration, to which Larner wrote “Mr. Quayle, this was not a how-to movie, it was a watch-out movie. And you are what we should be watching out for!”). It is this way today.

Worse, I don’t see any reason to believe it will change.

If you think I’m taking a swipe at the Grand Old Party here, you need to watch the movie first. It’s not a film about conservatives versus liberals as much as it is a film about the political machine and ways it operates. The movie speaks to the buzz words, endorsements, and personalities of politics that manipulate hearts and minds. Nearly 40 years ago Larner warned us to watch out. Instead, we watched the movie and then pretended it wasn’t talking about us. We as a electorate believed we were smarter than the sheep while lining up to be sheared…again.

I spent the early part of the weekend wondering how several hundred thousand people could stand in front of Glenn Beck and find inspiration–inspiration enough to donate $5 million, in fact–in his words and the words of Sarah Palin. I’m all for political discourse and open debate. I appreciate a political movement as much as anybody else. But, when you read THIS terrifying piece and combine it with what happened in Washington D.C. this weekend, it makes a guy wonder. That is, if legions of Tea Partiers can be so easily manipulated, how often am I being manipulated by the other side–my own side? The answer, I suspect, is often.

The point is, as cynical as it sounds, we exist as part of a democracy in name only. While my values haven’t changed and my beliefs about right and wrong remain the same, I remain exceptionally cynical about the state of affairs in America. That is a big softball to the people who know who I supported President Obama. They love the told-you-so game. My only response is that I supported someone I believed would change the country for the better instead of someone I was sure would make it worse. Inefficacy is not a crime or treason. It’s simply another in a series of disappointments.

While I won’t spoil the film for the few people who haven’t seen it, there is one climax spoiler in the following sentence, so stop reading if you want to go in fresh.

Robert Redford’s character goes off-script in his final debate with his incumbent and utters the line of the film (a clip of which you can watch at the end of this post). Here’s what he says:

“I think it’s important to note what subjects we haven’t discussed. We completely ignore the fact that this is a society divided by fear, hated, and violence. And until we talk about what this society really is, then I don’t know how we’re going to change it.”

It’s been nearly four decades since then, and I’m afraid we haven’t gotten around to that discussion yet.