I just saw the movie--was vaguely aware of it when it first came out, but didn't have HBO. But after watching it, found this remarkable video of Steve Schmidt, one of McCain's key strategists in the 2008 campaign. Woody Harrelson plays him in the movie and Julianne Moore plays Palin. Well worth watching if you haven't seen it already:
Update: Really a postscript--After watching Game Change, I came across this article in Salon--"Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen". So I did. You can stream watch it here. It's a Danish TV series about about a woman politician, Birgitte Nyborg, who becomes prime minister, precisely because she doesn't listen to her handler. It's realistic without being depressingly cynical, as for instance, House of Cards is.
But despite my sympathy for Steve Schmidt's perceptions of Sarah Palin, I could understand why she chafed at being held so tightly on a leash. That's not how you treat grown up adults who should not be in the position they are in if they have to be so tightly controlled. I understand her detesting the people like Schmidt who were continuously trying to control her. But as Schmidt candidly admits, she should never have been put in a position where she was a 72-year old's heartbeat away from becoming president.
Other women in history were thrust into positions for which they were unprepared and yet rose to the occasion--Elizabeth I of England and Maria Theresa of Austria come to mind. And it would appear that Borgen's fictional Birgitte Nyborg is, too. But Palin is not one of them--not even close. She's the reductio ad absurdum of what our politics, especially our politics on the right, have become. As Schmidt describes her near the end of the interview. She's someone "filled with grievance, filled with anger, who has a divisive message for the national stage . . " And she feeds off the grievance of the angry crowds who cheer her on.
People in recent months have written and spoken about how the Republican/Tea Party Right is about old white people and that we are going to age out of it as they die out, and as younger, browner people begin to play a larger role in our culture and politics. Maybe, but I'm skeptical. I don't think that the far right is going away because the conditions that promote it are if anything becoming more intense. Educated cosmopolitan types can't understand why everyone can't be like they are. Well, some people just don't think for themselves and they need "society" to give them unambiguous cues about order and meaning. This is why the gay marriage thing is so unsettling for cultural conservatives. It shakes their ontological foundations, and that produces mega-levels of anxiety and anger that get directed at the forces they perceive as doing the shaking. But as I've often said here, they are wrong to blame liberals, because liberals are simply people who live in the West who have adapted to a world whose ontological foundations were destroyed by disruptions associated with technological change and market capitalism in the 19th Century.
And so as more people in the middle class get pushed into poverty and as their lives become increasingly disrupted by unrelenting economic and technological change, they become increasingly deracinated and unmoored from the traditional anchors that give them a sense of identity and meaning. Their anxiety level is going to increase, and because we do not now have the political or cultural resources to mitigate this increasing collective anxiety, people will turn increasingly to the demagogues of the Right. Its possible that demagogues on the Left could emerge, but it's hard at this point to imagine it. They just don't have the media megaphone that the Right has.
Anyway, that's why Sarah Palin is more an image of our future than Borgen's Birgitte Nyborg. They both chafed at being "handled", but one has the capability to deal with a complex world and to make mature moral choices while the other does not. She also lives in Denmark, which is about as big and powerful as any country should get. But for us Americans, House of Cards is closer to reality.