Guest Submission by Hispanic Mom (Jasmine Velasco)
Chicago—July 23, 2011
It defied logic. But it happened: almost 200 people flocked to the belly of the Democratic-Progressive beast, otherwise known as Chicago, to see a film they thought was all about former Republican Governor & VP Candidate Sarah Palin. The contrast of movie and venue was striking. The Gene Siskel Theater in downtown Chicago– “Leningrad by the Lake,” the “Crony Capital of the Midwest,” the adopted home of one of the most liberal-big government Presidents, Barack Obama– playing host to one of the most vocal voices for small, transparent government and free markets? Really?
But halfway through the film, it’s apparent that The Undefeated, an historical documentary, is about so much more than Palin’s improbable rise fighting political corruption, cronyism, big government and Big Oil.
With barely three days advance notice and no marketing, people arrived up to an hour before the film’s 12 noon showing. Interrupting their kids Saturday baseball games and family gatherings, a diverse group of generations, races, and political persuasions attended the one-day screening. People traveled through a summer heat wave from as far as Woodstock and Springfield. One elderly Filipino woman came with her son.
Another man, a Democrat who happens to be African-American, came after a friend kept telling him about Palin. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 67-year old Eddie Bryant, who works for Union Pacific, was surprised to find he actually likes Palin. “People say this lady is brainless. She’s not only smart, she’s a clean-government person. I gained respect for her,” said Bryant.
Even film critic Roger Ebert, an Obama supporter, attended the film.
The film’s director, Stephen K. Bannon, fielded questions from the audience afterward. (“Did Palin hire you to make this film?” Short answer: no.)
But Ebert did not lob one question himself. Maybe he was busy trying to repress any feelings of admiration for Palin, because, unless you’re a rock, you can’t but walk away impressed that someone actually accomplished what she did in 2.5 years as Governor.
Yup, sweet revenge for Tea Partiers, Republicans, Independents and former Democrats who support the commonsense conservative Palin.
But the message of The Undefeated is bigger than Palin. As one who has voted Democratic, Republican and Independent, I was riveted by the story that was never told during the 2008 campaign: the battle of ordinary, hard-working people like single mom Marty Rutherford, and no-nonsense Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Irwin, who, like Sarah Palin, stood up to the corrupt ways of politics
in Alaska. When then-Gov. Murkowski fired Irwin because he questioned the unethical behavior of Murkowski’s administration with Big Oil, six others resigned in protest of Irwin’s firing, single mom Rutherford included.
These courageous people–known throughout Alaska as The Magnificent Seven, a reference to the famous Western film where 7 men protect a village from bandits— are impressive. In fact, it seems Bannon tells their story because they, too, are The Undefeated. Sarah Palin was merely smart enough to hire them back once she became Governor. With these “ordinary” folks, Palin’s administration was able to achieve “extraordinary” results. Working 15-hour days, seven days a week, Palin led this bi-partisan team in passing two major pieces of legislation, which to this day benefit the residents of Alaska: ACES & AGIA. Alaska’s Clear & Equitable Share gives the citizens of Alaska a fairer share in the profits reeled in by Big Oil. Alaska Gasline Inducement Act begins the largest private sector energy project in North American history, a pipeline
to get energy to Alaska and the Lower 48.
(In a review for the Sun-Times, Ebert omits this captivating storyline. Surely not on purpose.)
Ironically, the historical footage on the screen coincided with what was happening the same day in Washington, DC. By the time the audience saw a decisive Governor Palin using the power of a line item veto to cut $1-billion from Alaska’s $14-billion budget, President Obama and Congressional leaders were simultaneously meeting—yet again- -in DC, ineptly trying to cut a $14-trillion debt to avoid default. The President was blaming “corporate jet owners” and “billionaires” for the budget debt and deficits. Again, the contrast was striking: the President playing politics and demagoguery; the Governor on the screen taking action.
Bannon uses Palin’s leadership with the everyday citizens of Alaska –first as Mayor, then as Commissioner of the Alaska Oil & Conservation Commission (AOGCC) and Governor– as a natural prelude to the next chapter: the rise of The Tea Party. After a brief account of the 2008 presidential campaign, Bannon shows how a plethora of bogus ethics charges plagued her governorship, causing her to nearly go bankrupt, and paralyzing her administration with wasteful paperwork and exorbitant costs. It was an effort to shut her up and shut her down—a recurring theme in the film.
So it’s no wonder that the audience erupted in applause when footage of CNBC Correspondent Rick Santelli’s famous rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile against big government bail-outs appeared on-screen. His challenge to all Americans for a Chicago-style Tea Party protest was the spark that ignited people all across the country to stand up and speak out—hence the birth of The Tea Party.
Palin’s resignation allowed her the opportunity to fight for Alaskans and the country from a different plane—with The Tea Party at her back.
Bannon ties it all together with footage of Ronald Reagan during a 1976 Presidential Debate in New Hampshire.
In an attempt to shut him up, the moderator orders Reagan’s mic turned off. Reagan stands up, grabs the microphone and declares “I paid for this microphone!” They would not take down Reagan; they would not take down Palin; they won’t take down The Tea Party.
Bannon brings in unlikely Palin supporters: Sonnie Johnson, a single mom and Tea Partier who happens to be black, and whose young daughter asked, after seeing Palin, if a woman could be President. “Yeah, honey,” says Johnson, “ a woman can be President.”
He also interviews author Tammy Bruce, a former Democrat, former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW–Los Angeles), and a feminist activist who also happens to be a lesbian. Bruce recognizes in Palin a person of courage and conviction, similar to a Marine—one who is willing to take the dangerous assignment for the good of the whole.
As for the director, Bannon, his use of news and archival film from Palin’s childhood and various administrations, interspersed with dramatizations, are reminiscent of directors like the BBC’s Adrian Malone and PBS’s Sandra Bradley. His style is more dramatic at points, but they drive home the viciousness of the corrupt politicians, bloggers, commentators and pseudo-journalist types.
Some have wrongly assumed The Undefeated refers only to Sarah Palin. What they miss—or ignore—is that “the undefeated” is not simply singular. It is plural. The undefeated are those who don’t quit, those who refuse to stop fighting the corrupt, entrenched, cronyism of business and politics for the benefit of We The People. Yes, the undefeated is Sarah Palin. But the undefeated are also the Marty Rutherfords, the Tom Irwins of the world. The Undefeated are the people of all races, generations and political parties who long and fight for decency and honor in their government and lives.
Ultimately, the undefeated are the people of The Tea Party.