Apparently we have developed a rite of passage at my house. It wasn’t intentional, it just kind of…happened. So what is this rite? No, it’s not getting to drive my truck to the recycling bin (necessary because I haven’t been successful in my role as a town councilman in articulating the need for individual bins for each residence), and no it has nothing to do with hunting. I don’t hunt, therefore neither do my children. I know in my neck of the woods that makes me just a little bit less of a man, but…I can live with that and apparently so can my kids.
No, the rite of passage is actually pretty benign. It simply consists of getting to watch The Dark Knight. That’s it. Not much to it.
But somehow it has become a big deal.
I think it has to do with the fact that it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Conversely, my wife absolutely hates it. And I have to admit, with good reason. By that I mean, her reasoning is sound. It’s incredibly DARK. And in the end, there is no sunshine or roses. Everything is mostly resolved, but it’s still so bleak. And it’s violent. But even more than its violence is the unsettling feeling that is left when it’s over. It shines a mirror on aspects of our society that we would rather not acknowledge. It addresses issues that have no positive resolution, if any resolution at all. In short, I get why she doesn’t like it.
But because of our differing views, my children hear about this movie, but are forbidden to watch it until they are “of age.” The problem is, we’ve struggled to adequately define what “of age” means. For my daughter, I think it meant 15. For my oldest son, he weedled his way into seeing at 13, but then didn’t like it. That is, he didn’t like it until he re-watched it again at 15. Now he is intrigued by the moral questions it raises.
Which brings us to this last weekend. My second son, aged 13, has been asking and asking to see it. We finally let him. He liked it. I don’t know what that says about him, me or anything else, but I think this movie is more about the individual than it is about what age they are.
Regardless, all of the above has little to do with what I really want to talk about other than, I sat down this past weekend and watched The Dark Knight for the first time in three years. It was just as good as I remembered. But what is truly caught my attention this time around is a line that Alfred says to Bruce Wayne early in the film. A line that after last night suddenly feels very profound.
Bruce is lamenting the fact that the mob has turned to a mad man who doesn’t play by the rules. In his words, they raised the stakes. To which Alfred reminds him, “Yes, but Master Wayne, you raised the stakes first.”
Well, last night, I believe the political stakes in our country may have just been raised. And Republicans everywhere had better get ready.
Whether she meant to or not (and I believe she probably meant to) last night Oprah Winfrey gave her speech as a political candidate. It may not have been as grandiose an entrance as say…I don’t know, a glide down a gilded escalator, but it was effective. And for the first time, I believe Democrats and liberals throughout the country have been given something they haven’t felt in months. Something beautiful and something dangerous. I speak of HOPE.
Two years ago, this would have seemed absurd, but not today. Republicans “raised the stakes” first by flouting the conventional wisdom and electing an outsider to the most powerful position in the land. A man who “told it like it is.” A man who would “drain the swamp.” A man, who despite multiple financial and moral failings, was deemed by his followers as the perfect person to take the reins of a party built upon financial conservatism and moral superiority. No one, including his biggest supporters, knew what he would say day to day, but they knew it would be entertaining and they knew it would likely be a big fat kick in the groin to the evil political establishment.
Never mind he had no experience governing. Never mind that his temperament seemed ill-fitted for interacting with foreign leaders. Never mind his facts seemed…illusive. Never mind any of it. He was change. He was the anti-Clinton, anti-Obama, anti-PC, anti-all that is wrong with Washington candidate.
Those of us who expressed reservations about him were told his immaturity and no-holds-barred-attack-everything-never-apologize-for-anything approach was an act. “Don’t worry,” we were told. “He will become more presidential when we reach the general election…I mean when he actually takes office…I mean, well…you kinda have to ignore all the twitter stuff and just look at all he’s accomplished.”
Uh-huh. A supreme court justice and a tax cut. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I got the exact same thing with George W. Bush during his first year and I didn’t even have to hear him allegorically compare his penis size with a North Korean dictator once.
Which brings me back to Oprah Winfrey.
If she runs for president, there will be endless mocking and ridiculing from conservative news outlets across the board. Fox News pundits will derisively demean her as a lightweight. Matt Drudge will discount her for being a friend of the Obamas and Hillary Clinton. Steve Bannon will subtly use words designed to remind his minions that she is 1. Black, and 2. Female. I mean really, what more does he need to say.
And they will forget everything they should have learned in 2016.
Because let me tell you what ought to have scared the living daylights out of Trump supporters everywhere last night. Despite what many on the right seem to believe, not everyone thrives on being angry. Not everyone lives to be reminded how mistreated they are. For certain there is a contingent on the left that fuels itself on anger, just as there is on the right, but most of us don’t want to stay there indefinitely.
Which is why it is so curious that Republicans everywhere have forgotten what it was that got Ronald Reagan elected. It wasn’t his promises of tax cuts or ending welfare. Yes, those issues resonated with some voters, but really it was his eloquent way of describing hope. It was his ability to talk about a shining city on the hill. It was his ability to connect with the ordinary joe and help him see the potential that lay just beyond the horizon despite the bleakness all around. That’s what got him elected. Jimmy Carter was talking about “a malaise” of the American people while Ronald Reagan was talking about the greatness of the American people.
Now, remind me, where else did we hear a successful campaign anchored in hope? Barack Obama won in 2008 for precisely the same reasons that Ronald Reagan won in 1980. He could articulate a better existence than what voters were currently experiencing. In short, he provided hope. Some suggest that he never provided any evidence, he just talked a good game. Which just proves my point. People aren’t interested in how. That’s one reason why Romney lost. He was so interested in trying to show people how, that he forgot to inspire them with the vision of what his “how” would produce.
Donald Trump, conversely, tapped into an anger in America. But hidden inside that angry rhetoric was the promise of hope. He promised hope to individuals who felt they had been forgotten.
However, hope encased in anger only gets so far. And let us not forget that Hillary Clinton was not an inspirational candidate. She made no effort in the general election to inspire hope. She simply scoffed at the idea of people voting for Donald Trump. She ran a smear campaign believing that there weren’t enough “deplorables” out there to elect such a hateful individual. And sadly, she’s spent the last year telling anyone who will listen that even though she was wrong, she really was right. Umm…Not inspirational!
But Oprah is no Hillary. And now that Republicans have let it be known that the White House is open to any billionaire American with enough celebrity to take it, the Queen of Everything might just be the worst case scenario for The Donald.
Think about it. Who were the Democrats going to run? Elizabeth Warren? Kirsten Gillibrand? Joe Biden? Bernie Sanders? (Sorry my Democrat friends for making you cringe just now.)
But Oprah? Oh boy, Oprah is everything they’re not. There would be no more man on the street interviews where ordinary citizens have no idea who their presidential candidates are. She’s beloved. For heaven’s sake, her charitable giving is more than the GDP of several South American countries. As opposed to Mr. Trump who promises to be charitable, but as is well-documented, often stiffs those he promises to help.
It would be the closest thing ever to seeing a presidential election that pitted Ebeneezer Scrooge against Mother Theresa.
But, but…she isn’t married to Steadman Graham. She’s living in sin.
Have you heard the TMZ tape that came out just weeks before the election? Voters don’t seem to care about that kind of stuff much anymore. I mean heck, wasn’t it the moral voters of the Christian right that ended up putting Trump over the top in spite of that tape?
Nope, Republicans made a choice in 2016 to turn our political system into a reality show. Now the stakes have been raised and it would seem that their decision might ultimately translate into facing the Queen of Television in the General Election of 2020. A woman who has, in her own way, provided hope to millions for more than three decades. That’s not what I would call an enviable position.
And I didn’t even bring up the wild idea of her naming Michelle Obama as her running mate. Oh my goodness, the entertainment possibilities are endless.
So buckle up, America. Have the stakes really been raised and is it truly #TIMESUP for the The Donald? Tune in to any cable news channel near you between now and November 2020 to find out.