A Stranger with Charisma

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The surprising thing about HBO’s ‘Game Change’ is that even four years after the 2008 election it still brought in the network’s highest ratings in eight years. On March 10, the film’s premiere attracted 2.1 million viewers, and a total 3.6 million for the weekend. The made-for TV- film was based on the 2010 book by the same name and followed the inner workings of the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign.

The Sarah Palin effect is clearly still alive. Even four years after the McCain-Palin ticket, the former vice-presidential nominee’s popularity has not faltered. She currently has a 68 percent favorability among Republican voters, more than all four of the current GOP candidates, according to a recent survey by Public Policy Polling.

This unyielding love has caused many Palin supporters to write unfavorable online reviews of the film. Many have called it left-wing with an inaccurate, distorted narrative to attract viewers. Palin said she would not watch the film because “being in the good graces of Hollywood’s ‘Team Obama’” isn’t on the top of her priority list. But what Palin and her supporters fail to realize is that this film is not about her. She is merely a character in a larger story.

“Game Change” shows the rise of Sarah Palin. The former governor of Alaska and mother of five who was thrown onto the international stage to bring excitement into a dwindling campaign. With little foreign policy knowledge, she struggled to stay afloat yet managed to rise above the circumstance and arguably become a larger political figure than her running mate. The campaign, which proved to have a losing strategy, did not do a background check on the vice-presidential nominee, nor quiz her foreign policy knowledge. They knew things that could be found through a simple Google search: she was a woman, she was pro-life, she had a son deployed in Iraq and she had an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska. In other words, she was a stranger with charisma.

This movie is a testament of today’s political culture, a by-any-means-necessary-strategy to win an election. A political system that has clearly lost its way. It’s about the decision making process that average Americans don’t see. And most importantly, it’s is about the hypocrisy of a campaign that put an unprepared candidate on the ticket under the slogan “Country First.”

After seeing the film, Steve Schmidit, John McCain’s 2008 senior campaign strategist, said the film was very accurate. He described Palin as someone who had an ability to connect with Americans, but also had a lot of flaws. She publicly went against a number of McCain’s policies, lied about her husband’s membership in the Alaskan Impendence Party, and by the end of the campaign, had turned into a diva who was unable to take responsibility for her own failures. For example, her famous Katie Couric interview, where she blamed her on-screen ignorance on editing and Couric asking got-cha questions.

Palin herself even admitted she had been misunderstood and mishandled by the McCain staffers in her 2009 book “Going Rouge.” She said staffers didn’t allow her to be herself. But again, whether Palin or the McCain campaign created the problems is irrelevant. Americans should not look at this story through a left or right wing lens, but rather as a testament to the vainness that has become of American politics. Schmidit repeatedly called Palin a “star” throughout the film. Both democrat and republican campaigns choose candidates based on their star-power.

This theme is reiterated in the final scene of the movie, an reenactment of the 2010 60 Minute interview with Anderson Cooper. “For you picking Sarah Palin was about winning an election, not necessary about who’s going to be best as vice president?” Cooper asked. “Without Palin on the ticket,” Schmidit replied, “our margin of defeat would have been greater than otherwise.”

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