The Hope and the Change: A Review
Citizens United's latest cinematic political commentary for this election year of 2012 is The Hope and the Change. Available on DVD and also appearing on various cable and broadcast television channels in the weeks before the November 6 presidential election (check schedule here), the film is highly relevant viewing for all voters contemplating their choice of the country's chief executive for the next four years. The Hope and the Change presents an hour-long montage of clips from filmed interviews of 16 independent and 24 Democratic-leaning voters from seven swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) interspersed with television footage from President Barack Obama's first term. The 40 voters describe why they voted for Obama's proclaimed hope and change in 2008 but, disappointed by the subsequent four years of Obama's first term, will not vote for him again.
The film begins with images from the 2008 election year, now seemingly so distant: Obama declaring to adoring crowds that "we are the ones we have been waiting for," along with his breathtaking claims that "generations from now" will see his administration as the "moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Americans, moreover, will have "restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth." Media commentators subsequently appear in the film discussing, amidst Marilyn Monroe flashbacks, an elected Obama as the "next Kennedy" in a new "Obamalot," with Michelle Obama reprising Jackie Kennedy's flair.
Corresponding to this mood, the 40 profiled voters recall the enthusiasm created by Obama in 2008. They speak of Obama as a "savior" for "desperate" people, a "knight in shining armor," and someone for whom they were "excited to vote." Obama was simply the "hands down" winner of a popularity contest who could "make you happy." His electoral victory left the voters "jumping up and down" with a "great" and "proud" feeling. The voters expressed confidence that, among other things, "gas prices would go down," and there would be "better jobs" and "better income" under Obama. One voter wanted to "get this hope and change thing moving."
Yet one Obama term later, some of these voters express how "we all got fooled" and "made a mistake." Others concur that they have "buyer's remorse" and feelings of wanting to "get your money back." Obama's "god-forsaken phrase" of "hope and change" evokes "bait and switch" trickery. One voter in the film compares Obama to a callous seducer while another calls him a "great con artist."
In place of their previous enthusiasm for Obama, the voters describe how the "American Dream has been destroyed." These voters "struggling" in tough economic times describe how they have eliminated from their lives "all extras" such as cable television, cell phones, and vacations in response to budgetary constraints. One voter discusses how, along with his wife and baby, he lives with his mother-in-law.
Bailouts under Obama for banks and companies like General Motors all appear to these individuals going without such largesse as a "complete hustle." Individuals living off welfare instead of taking any available work also raise concerns among voters. While the film shows Obama repeatedly speaking of "shovel-ready" stimulus spending jobs, the voters complain of "shocking" price rises.
The "deficit shooting off like a rocket" under Obama is yet another concern for the voters. "Where did all that money go?" one voter asks with respect to Obama's federal spending, something another voter sees as bringing not "one ounce of benefit." The film reminds us in one clip, meanwhile, that Obama once called the national debt amassed under his predecessor, George W. Bush, "unpatriotic," even though Obama has piled up more national debt in one term than Bush did in two terms. One worried voter simply demands that the federal government "stop spending; it's just basic."
Another complementary concern is the size and nature of the federal government under Obama. The "unconstitutional" ObamaCare law with its individual mandate raises the concern with respect to government power -- "where will it end?" -- from one voter. Another talks of "Big Brother coming in the front door." One voter hailing originally from Eastern Europe finds that Obama reminds him of life under Communism. Among the voters rejecting "socialized medicine" in the film is one man who experienced "primitive" health care under Canada's single-payer system. Adding insult to injury, Obama's health care overhaul occurred in violation of his pledge to have "no more secrecy" in the legislative process.
For these voters, Obama's golfing and vacations in places like Aspen, Hawaii, and Martha's Vineyard merely reveal how "out of touch" he is. One voter currently unable to afford any vacation says of Obama's vacations that "it sucks to see him like that." Obama's support from entertainment celebrities such as Bill Maher, George Clooney, and Tom Hanks, along with numerous Obama appearances on talk shows and Saturday Night Live, further strengthen the image of him as an aloof "rock star" and "more of a celebrity than a politician."
For all of Obama's once-vaunted oratory as a "very good public speaker," the voters in the film "don't want to listen to him anymore." As one voter states, Obama "is really, really repetitive," and a compilation of Obama speeches through the years proves the point. Without a teleprompter, which Obama at one speaking engagement publicly directs be accelerated after he speaks faster than anticipated, Obama is less impressive. Anticipating Obama's widely panned first presidential debate performance, Obama stumbles in one unscripted public appearance shown in the film, awkwardly repeating words such as "treatment." Irrespective of Obama's speaking qualities, one voter declares that Obama's "actions are often different."
In all, the voters in The Hope and the Change see Obama "in over his head" as president. Despite Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, widely seen as undeserved, one voter worries about America being "less respected" abroad under Obama. Elaborating on this point, the film shows Obama explaining on April 4, 2009, in Strasbourg, France, his not-so-exceptional understanding of American exceptionalism. At home, another voter laments that Americans under Obama "are more divided now than we have ever been." Obama's "class warfare," a "very shocking" evolution on homosexual "marriage," and ObamaCare's inclusion of publicly financed contraception, irrespective of objections from religious entities like the Catholic Church, all "drove people apart."
For Americans considering their coming choice in the presidential election, Citizens United's one-hour stroll down Obama's memory lane is time well spent. It is instructive to reflect upon Obama's record in light of his high-flying campaign rhetoric and surrounding public passions in 2008. As one voter in the film states concerning Obama, "I'm not interested anymore in what he says; I'm interested in what he has done."
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