Fran Shor: Michael Moore's Movie Also Turns Up the Heat on Democrats

Roundup: Historians' Take

Fran Shor, a teacher at Wayne State University, in an article sent to HNN (July 1, 2004):

Michael Moore’s powerful new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, certainly skewers Bush and his mendacious Administration. Starting with a critical retrospective of the hijacking of the 2000 Presidential election, the film reveals Bush’s ineptitude, cronyism, and callousness. It is hard to imagine how anyone, even an erstwhile Bush supporter, could defend the actions and inactions of this malingering and malicious occupant of the White House.

On the other hand, Moore’s documentary does not spare the Democrats from their moments of infamy. Reminding viewers that the Gore campaign and Democratic Party officials failed to successfully confront the Republican putsch in Florida, the film also highlights the valiant efforts of some of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the electoral results in the mandatory joint-session of Congress required to certify the electoral vote. Rep. Maxine Waters angrily acknowledges the lack of a single Senator, including the sainted Senator Paul Wellstone, who would sign-on to the electoral challenge and throw the final decision into the Senate.

If the Democratic Party herd refused to budge on electoral certification, they willingly joined the stampede to pass the repressive USA Patriot Act. While a few House Democrats and a single Democratic Senator (Russell Finegold of Wisconsin) did oppose this hastily proposed reactionary bill, the Democratic Party choose political expediency over political integrity.

It was, undoubtedly, expediency and opportunism that led many Democrats, including the presumptive presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, into supporting the Bush Administration’s lying arguments for its illegal preemptive war on Iraq. While Kerry now admits that the American people were misled and the Bush Administration has botched the war effort, he has not broken convincingly with this flawed interventionist policy in Iraq. Can he find the courage to confront the grieving parents of fallen U.S. soldiers, such as the film’s real protagonist, Lila Lipscomb, and denounce the flawed logic behind the war, as well as calling for removing U.S. troops from Iraq as quickly as possible?

Unfortunately, Kerry’s reliance on a so-called centrist foreign policy team may help him with the ruling elites in Washington, but it won’t respond to the cries and demands of parents, soldiers, and a majority of the American population who now say that it was a mistake to send troops into Iraq. Kerry’s reluctance to tap into the populist outrage over the war is further reflected in the resistance of senior members of the Democratic Party to impeach Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his Pentagon crew who are responsible for violating everything from the Geneva Convention to lying to Congress time and again. Perhaps, Senator Carl Levin, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, should listen to the soldier who bravely announces in Fahrenheit 9/11 that Rumsfeld should be fired, a position enunciated by many other members of the military.

That Moore’s film is able to tap into the profound disillusionment by soldiers and their families over their sacrifices for protecting the oil and geopolitical interests of the Bush Administration should raise a cautionary flag to Democrats who urge Kerry to move to the right. Neither Kerry nor the Democrats can neglect the desire of those in Fahrenheit 9/11 and those millions who will be seeing the film to end the war now. In addition, the film’s populist lambasting of secret deals, corporate greed, and political arrogance should remind the Democrats that they cannot just rely on the desire of “Anybody But Bush” to mobilize voters. Democrats who can’t demonstrate that they have the political backbone to break with politics-as-usual will not benefit from the righteous anger Moore’s moving and brilliant documentary taps into.

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