Playing Politics

November 02, 2004
A thought by James Berardinelli

And now I will proceed to piss of a certain percentage of my readers... For those who don't think a film critic has any business writing about politics or expressing a political viewpoint, I can safely say that today's ReelThoughts isn't for you. (Although I will be mentioning some film-related stuff near the very bottom - maybe you should skip ahead.)

Today is Election Day in the United States, and I can't remember the country being so divided since... the last time we elected a President. Have we as a country learned anything from the Bush/Gore fiasco of 2000? We'll know the answer to that in the short term. It would be nice, however, to know the identity of the 2005-2008 President before going to bed tonight. That's the way it always used to be.

My thoughts on the two candidates have been pretty well documented. The only worse choice than John Kerry is George Bush. It's pathetic that we end up with these two options, and have to play the game of "which one is likely to be less of a disaster." Elections are not meant to be Hobson's choices or Russian Roulette tournaments, yet that's what they are turning into. I haven't met many people, even Democrats, who are enthused about Kerry. Frankly, I think about 80% of those who select the Democrat are voting anti-Bush rather than pro-Kerry. And that's a bad sign.

By nature, I'm an optimistic cynic ("hope for the best; expect the worst"). So I look for the silver linings. If Kerry wins, at least we'll be rid of Bush. Change is often good, and Kerry can pronounce "nuclear" properly. I don't make enough to be excluded from the tax cuts, and I won't have to worry about Bush appointing four ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices. On the other hand, if Bush wins, things will be looking up for 2008. Four years from now, the Republicans will likely have a ticket of McCain/Guiliani. As some of you may know, I'm a huge McCain booster. I would love for him to be President. And his chances of ascending to that position improve greatly if he is following in Bush's footsteps rather than challenging a Democratic incumbent.

I view elections much like all-night sporting events, with the score changing every fifteen minutes or so. (That isn't always the case. Election nights for the Reagan and Clinton landslides of 1980, 1984, and 1996 were boring.) They're exciting, whether you have a rooting interest or not. Four years ago, I didn't go to bed until 4:00 in the morning, when I thought a winner had been declared. Much to my surprise, I awoke later to find out that Florida was still up for grabs.

My gut tells me Bush is going to win. Frankly, there are a lot more ways he can come out on top. For Kerry to take the prize, almost too many things have to go right, and a record turnout is needed. Of course, I could be wrong (and hope I am), but I'm usually more on-target when it comes to predicting the next President than predicting the Oscar winners.

And that brings us to Michael Moore. I have never liked the guy, but, over the course of the last year, he has become insufferable. I would jump for joy if a black hole swallowed him up (although it would likely suffer indigestion and spit him out again). I once said that the only thing to rival his girth is the size of his ego. By now, the ego is far larger.

My belief is that, despite all of his posturing, Moore has always been about self-promotion, and I wonder if anyone can doubt that in the wake of the past year's events. After Roger and Me and The Big One, Moore was pretty much a cult figure, known only to a handful of art-movie buffs. By the time Bowling for Columbine arrived, he was beginning to gain mainstream noteriety. But Fahrenheit 9/11 put his face and name in every major newspaper around the country. So Moore's objective has been achieved.

I have always contended that his latest film will have a minimal impact on the election, if it has any. But if Kerry wins, Moore will trumpet how he helped steer the election in the "right direction." (Or should that be "left direction?") Worse still, if Kerry wins, Fahrenheit 9/11 stands a pretty good chance of winning the Best Picture Oscar. If that's the way things stand in February, I may well not watch the telecast. I don't think I could deal with a Moore love-fest. Even if Kerry loses, I expect the film to be nominated. However, when the American public elects a new President today, they may also be voting for Best Picture.

So, on this Election Day, those are a few of my thoughts. Now it's time to go watch the game...