By Ben Cohen: The HBO movie detailing the rise and fall of Sarah Palin, ‘Game Change’, should be required watching for anyone with a passing interest in politics. The script was apparently vetted extremely thoroughly and is very accurate. Knowing that, it should strike the fear of God into every citizen of the world. While it has been almost 4 years since the election, the film is most certainly well timed. As the next batch of GOP hopefuls jump through the hoops, there was never a better time to remind everyone just how flawed the US election machine really is.
Regarding the film itself, Julianne Moore’s physical depiction of Palin is uncanny. It is her portrayal of the former Alaskan Governor’s bizarre personality that makes for the most compelling watching. Moore nails Palin’s strange speech pattern, her deeply flawed psyche, and alarming vulnerability. Coupled with a brilliant script, the movie works as a great piece of historical storytelling. It leaves the viewer with the lasting impression that the poor woman really had no idea what she had gotten herself in to. Despite her cattiness, her relentless and unnecessary assaults on Obama, you are left feeling sorry for her. Palin comes across as a pretty decent person who tried her best to cope with a completely unwinnable situation. She had just given birth to a disabled child, had a pregnant teenage daughter and another child in Iraq, then was thrust into a national campaign where her severely limited intellectual capabilities were tested to the extreme. She should never have accepted the position as a running mate to McCain, but in fairness, she didn’t really understand what it meant to begin with.
The movie rams home the reality of modern politics – that substance, experience and qualifications count for nothing while image, advertising and stage craft means everything. ‘Game Change’ should act as a lesson in how dangerous modern politics can be. A woman who thought that the Queen of England made military decisions and had no idea what the Federal Reserve did was almost propelled into the most important office on the planet. While Palin comes off badly in the movie, the people around her (campaign manager Steve Schmidt in particular) are the real criminals. They allowed an incredibly dangerous situation to arise, and in the process changed the nature of the Republican party for good. Palin’s faux populism and incredibly nastiness at times was encouraged by the campaign team, paving the way for the Rick Perrys, Herman Cains and Michele Bachmanns of Presidential politics. They didn’t bother to vet her properly, then didn’t kick her out once they discovered she knew absolutely nothing about politics on a national or international level. Their behavior was truly atrocious and anyone involved with her selection should be barred from having anything to do with politics ever again. Sadly, we’re seeing the same process repeated again, and thanks to the rise of Sarah Palin, we still face the prospect of a candidate with no business in running for office come close to the White House.
‘Game Change’ is an important piece of film making as it brings back to life a critical point in Presidential political history. It works as a reminder and a warning – this happened once, and it can happen again.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.