“I don’t have to play dirty anymore. I got Morris.”
Press secretary Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) says this early on in the new political thriller, “The Ides of March.” The film tells the story of a naïve campaign employee who has become enchanted by the governor he works for. The story resonates strongly today because of the obvious similarities between President Obama and the up-and-coming politician in the film.
George Clooney directed and stars in this film as Governor Mike Morris, a liberal politician who is fighting against a moderate candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. The story starts out showing Morris spewing liberal propaganda about how he wants to change the country. Morris believes in more governmental programs and says that terrorists and wars would disappear if America stopped importing foreign oil.
However, just when conservatives might feel inclined to leave the theater, the film takes a few surprising turns and Morris is revealed to be a calculating and cold politician.
If films reflect the political times in which they are made, “The Ides of March” speaks volumes about President Obama. The similarities between Morris and the 44th President are obvious to those who followed the 2008 campaign closely. For one, Morris doesn’t have supporters. He has disciples. His fans, including Myers, are so enamored with the candidate and his agenda that they can’t see that the whole campaign is selling a fantasy, not a candidate.
If Morris was elected in the real world, he would become what Obama now is: a disappointment to the naively idealistic campaign supporters who put him in the White House.
In addition to the undying devotion of their followers, Morris is similar to Obama in many other ways. Aside from the similarities in their political posters, both Obama and Morris are both liberals who are fighting against more moderate candidates. Also, in “The Ides of March,” conservative radio talk show hosts push for Republicans and moderates to vote in the Democratic primary so that they can weaken Morris. Sound familiar?
Myers’ political optimism eventually begins to fade when he realizes that Morris is an unethical politician who is willing to make political deals in order to win.
The film is based on the play “Farragut North,” which was loosely based on the 2004 Howard Dean campaign. Some may argue that Morris, a Democratic Governor, has more in common with the former Governor of Vermont than the former Senator from Illinois. However, one key difference comes to mind. Obama succeeded in the national political arena while Dean did not. Dean’s star began fading before the caucus-goers in Iowa chose their candidate. Obama, on the other hand, succeeded in early primaries and the caucuses and became a major force in politics. It goes without saying that Obama is a far more gifted orator than Dean ever was. Like Obama, Morris attracts hordes of young followers through his idealistic campaign promises.
Early on in “The Ides of March,” Myers declares that Governor Morris is “the one.” He openly admits that he drank the campaign Kool-Aid. When a New York Times reporter (played by an intensely powerful Marissa Tomei) tells Myers that Morris is just another politician, he simply doesn’t believe her.
In the same way, Obama’s political supporters now seem to realize that Obama isn’t the savior that they voted for.
The fact that “The Ides of March” is coming out now speaks to the obvious disenchantment that the left feels about President Obama. Clooney has even admitted that he shelved the project after Obama was elected. Now that the Obama luster has faded and even celebrities are becoming disenfranchised by the president, it seems like the perfect time to watch a movie about a candidate who turned out to be less of a hero than his supporters thought he was.