Thursday, October 22, 2009

...So Goes the Nation (2006) (Exploitation of Evangelicals, Hypocrisy)

In great detail, the film recounts the 2004 presidential election, and explains how George W. Bush narrowly beat John Kerry. The film’s title refers to the political truism: As Ohio goes, so goes the nation. Ohio has long been a bellwether state reflecting the political sentiment of the nation. In 2004, the state was critical to Bush’s reelection. He narrowly won Ohio, which gave him the requisite number of electoral votes to beat Kerry.

The filmmakers interviewed a number of people—famous and not—who were involved in the 2004 presidential election. The film particularly documents the election via the contrasting experiences of several campaign workers in Ohio. Leslie Ghiz was a charming, well-heeled middle-aged woman with a drawl, who described the influence of her late father in drawing her to the GOP, as well as her admiration for George W. Bush as a “father figure.” By contrast, Kerry supporter, Evan Hutchison, was a very amiable, grungy-looking twenty something from Brooklyn whose beat-up car had only one functioning door. They both worked around the clock for months in Ohio to bring victory to their respective candidates. Ghiz worked directly for the Bush-Cheney campaign; Hutchison worked for Votemob, a 527 organization.

Also in Kerry’s camp was Miles Gerety, a Connecticut baby boomer public interest lawyer who came to Ohio for a few days before the election to serve as a legal advisor to the campaign. He noted the parallels between the presidential elections of 1968 and 2004. He characterized them as pivotal because in both years the decision about the next president was going to determine the direction the country would go while it was quagmired in a misguided war. Gerety worked largely in minority neighborhoods in Ohio where the Democrats were concerned about potential efforts to disenfranchise new voters. Amidst the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gerety asked with incredulity whether we as a nation were seeking to spread democracy abroad while trying to stop it at home.

Early in the film, there was a brief visit to rural Ohio. Among others, small business man, Larry Hawkins, was interviewed. He shared that when he was a child his grandfather had explained the differences between the two major political parties: Republicans were for the rich and the Democrats were for the working man. As Hawkins himself never got rich, he had aligned with the Democrats. The film interviewed a few other small town residents before shifting to the highly organized campaigns in the major urban centers of Ohio.

The climatic moments of the film showed the election night parties in the urban centers. The Kerry campaigners were jubilant; the whole election had come down to Ohio and Kerry was doing very well. Meanwhile, the mood amongst the Bush supporters was very tense and worried; things did not look good for their candidate. Late in the evening, however, everything shifted as results poured in from rural Ohio. It became apparent that Bush had actually won. The film explained that rural Christians had come out in great numbers for Bush. The filmmakers went back to talk to Larry Hawkins; he and his wife had just voted for Bush. The couple explained that the election had come down to a choice between a “full wallet or a live child.” Hawkins elaborated that God was not going to bless an “immoral country.” Meanwhile, back at the urban GOP campaign party, Ghiz confessed to having consumed “a bottle of wine,” expressed disappointment that there was no cabernet, and insisted on a new glass for her merlot.

The end of the film describes how the election came down to rural people who felt their values were threatened. Intriguingly, earlier in the film, Ghiz had noted the Bush campaign’s exploitation of the gay marriage issue and its promise of an amendment to the Constitution to “protect marriage.” She noted Gavin Newsom’s granting of marriage licenses to same sex couples in San Francisco had really spurred a backlash across the nation, and she rhetorically asked what his goal had been in trying to advance gay rights in one of the most liberal parts of the country. Speaking well after the 2004 election, she said:

Notice there’s no marriage amendment. I mean, where is that now? This is all about strategy. It’s how you win people over. This has nothing to do about right and wrong. And you know, it’s all about how you keep a Republican in the White House. And that doesn’t make it right, unfortunately. But politics just isn’t fair.

Psalm 34:12-14 (New International Version)

Whoever of you loves life

and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

Proverbs 6:16-19 (New International Version)

There are six things the LORD hates,

seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,

hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,

feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies

and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Matthew 12:33-37 (New International Version)

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

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