Liza Minnelli once sang that „life is a cabaret old chum, life is a cabaret.” It’s true that “all the world’s a stage.” Ancient Greek philosophers agreed that politics is a theatrical performance, played out before the large audience of mankind. Modern man is Virtual Man: much of what we think is the product of what we see. Take for example “the movies,” a multi-million (if not billion) dollar industry that, practically every week, turns out one film after another to an eager public waiting to, yet again, understand life through the oracle of Hollywood.
If politics is a film, I wonder what kind of movie the republicans are starring in. Some republicans are already stars. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney, for example, is frequently compared to Darth Vader of the Star Wars trilogy.
As a middle-aged man who likes newspapers and books more than the cinema, my film repertoire is admittedly limited. Nonetheless, I could think of a few cameo roles for today’s republican members of Congress. East of Eden comes to mind: Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do. Or perhaps they could play in a new version of Ben Hur—now there’s a film that’s makes every republican heart skip a beat. And if Charlton Heston flicks are a bit too ancient, surely any of the John Wayne films would do. Republicans love John Wayne so much that they’ve made his rough-‘n-ready approach to conflict resolution a central figure in their politics for years!
But my favourite would be Dr. No of the James Bond series. Released in 1962, Dr. No is about a mad scientist of the same name who, living on a remote Caribbean island, seeks to destroy the U.S. space program by blasting energy beams against rockets launched at Cape Canaveral. To foil James Bond’s attempts to reach the his command post located at the center of the island (an island, incidentally, contaminated by radiation), Dr. No, who also had an intimidating iron fist prosthesis, sends out tarantulas, a band of killers, and even a fire-breathing mechanical dragon to confound poor 007.
In some ways, Dr. No would be a great plot for Congressional republicans. They’re certainly iron-fisted enough: not a single republican, from the lowliest representative to the most influential senator, is willing to support Barack Obama—on anything. They’ve certainly beamed enough negative energy at Obama’s attempts to launch a few rockets full of hope for the American people, mainly through their rhetoric on the floor of Congress and by way of conservative media organs. And Barack Obama has been forced to navigate past enough republican tarantulas (a few come to mind immediately), policy assassins, and flame-throwing Congressmen. But more than anything else, the movie fits the bill simply because they are, as many call them today, the “Party of No.”
The conservative sci-fi horror film has been playing to audiences in theatres near you for decades, and although the actors have changed the script remains essentially the same. What Nancy Reagan was to drugs, Congressional republicans are to Barack Obama: “Just Say No.”
The same republican script said no to America’s participation in the League of Nations after World War One, a no vote that withdrew our country from the world stage and gave fascism in Europe room to grow; no to the hungry and downtrodden in America during the Hoover years; no to Social Security and the many programs of FDR during our nation’s darkest period; no to Medicare and Medicaid under President Johnson; no to enhanced school meal programs during the Reagan years—after all, said the Gipper, “ketchup is a vegetable”; no to President Clinton’s attempt to bring health care to Americans; no to the Kyoto treaty on global warming; no to our participation in the UN Human Rights Convention; no to President Clinton’s and President Obama’s health care reform; no to President Obama’s attempts to regulate the casino capitalism of our financial system.
But their script doesn’t fit our national story. Ours is a nation of yes. Ask any foreigner or immigrant and they will tell you the same: they admire America because we are a nation of hope. It was America’s “can do” and optimistic attitude that built a nation in the wilderness and saw us through countless dark days. “Yes We Can” was always our motto; “No We Can’t” or “No We Won’t” just doesn’t fit to Americans.
I can think of another film title for The Party of No: Gone with the Wind.