Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

What would you do if the presidential race came down to your vote?

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Originally published on on Fri, 08/01/2008 – 9:01am

It can be fun going through the video store, especially in the summertime, and check out cool classic political movies. At Oscar time last February, we asked you to name your all-time favorite political movie.

The one political movie this summer has an interesting story line, but from the reviews, doesn’t shape up to be one of the all-time classics. But it could help pass 90 to 120 minutes of your life in a cool theatre on a hot summer day.

I am speaking of course about “Swing Vote,” starring Kevin Costner. As tell us:

Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, an apathetic, beer slinging, lovable loser, who is coasting through a life that has passed him by, except for the one bright spot in his mundane existence, his precocious, over achieving twelve-year old daughter, Molly. She takes care of them both, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the presidential election coming down to one vote, her dad’s.

Suddenly, Bud Johnson, the nobody, becomes the voice for everybody when the world realizes that his vote will be the one that elects the next president. Politicians invade the small town of Texico, New Mexico and its unwitting inhabitants, waging war for Bud’s vote.

The world of “Swing Vote” according to Wikipedia:

Swing Vote deals with the story of an election set somewhere in the near future where Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), a lovable loser, who is coasting through a life and has not a political thought in his head, is thrust into an improbable dilemma. Coaxed on by his 12-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) to take more of a serious approach to life. Molly runs the household and sees an opportunity on election day to energize her father. The election is a “dead heat” with the winning ballot in the hands of a mystified Bud, who is being wooed by candidates from both sides.

It’s tempting to have a process where the two major party candidates personally court one voter in the hopes of getting that person’s support. But it also implies a scenario, a fake scenario, not so much based on the race in 2000, but on the premise of similarities between Bush and Gore. Some had that scenario based on apathetic, biased, and misleading coverage of the campaign.

Kelsey Grammar (the Republican incumbent) and Dennis Hopper (the Democratic challenger) are portrayed in the previews, at least, as being fairly similar. A choice between vanilla ice cream and French vanilla ice cream can be difficult. But Bush-Gore, Bush-Kerry, and now McCain-Obama, in the eyes of those who are knowledgeable, is a choice between custard (extra-rich ice cream) and a dry popsicle stick.

But if it takes a movie, especially a Kevin Costner movie, to show the American people the importance of one single vote, then this Hollywood exercise could be worthwhile. The daughter in this story, played by newcomer Madeline Carroll, is the true hero: she registers him to vote and drags him to the polls.

The plot twist question that confused me in the previews: doesn’t Costner know who he was going to vote for when his vote doesn’t count. I won’t spoil it for you – I haven’t seen the movie, but I read how they work around that. But it does mean that he goes into the crux of the movie with a completely open mind.

Now assumingly Grammar’s character has been president for at least 4 years, so there must be some impact on the life of Costner’s character during that time. Apparently not. And perhaps Hopper’s character didn’t come out of nowhere, so Costner might have some idea, even if it’s a false impression. Apparently not.

Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci play the campaign advisors. And they seem to be crucial in the courting process – or so it seems from the previews. But Grammar or Hopper will be president, not Lane or Tucci.

A true political thriller would also offer other presidential candidates as an option, giving Costner’s character a chance to vote for a third-party candidate or a write-in candidate, and throw the race into the House of Representatives. Or send a message but voting for himself or writing in “None of the Above.” But this is Hollywood, and I can assure you that won’t be an option in the movie.

As a journalism exercise, and because it might be fun, I will sacrifice 90-120 minutes of my weekend so I can come back on Monday and tell you what I thought.


Written by democracysoup

August 1, 2008 at 9:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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