Strippers, 'Hustlers' and the Democratic debates

Strippers, 'Hustlers' and the Democratic debates
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What does the new movie “Hustlers” have to do with the Democratic debates? It seems that Jennifer Lopez and her crew accomplished something more than just talking and complaining, and actually punished Wall Street misdeeds. None of the Democratic candidates — except, arguably, Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE — appears to have accomplished anything like that. 

“Hustlers” is a movie based on a true story, documented in a New York Magazine article about a group of New York strippers who punished Wall Street brokers following the 2008 financial crash. Unfortunately, contrary to the hype and Rotten Tomatoes scores, although the movie makes its point, it is crass, uninspired and predictable. Of course, we could apply those same adjectives to some of the candidates in the Democratic debates, and contrast that to President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE who is crass, sometimes inspired and always unpredictable. What a choice the American voters face in the upcoming presidential election! 

As you watch the movie, you might certainly think about Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides Howard Kurtz: Kamala Harris 'getting walk on water coverage' by media after VP pick MORE (D-Mass.), the financial crisis, and Occupy Wall Street. Warren was elected to put Wall Street bankers in jail. She was on the warpath and a lot of Americans thought she had a point. She was buoyed by the progressive political surge reflected in the Occupy Wall Street movement that said greedy bankers destroyed the American economy and there must be something criminal about bankers shorting mortgage-backed securities from their personal portfolios while aggressively selling them to their banks’ customers. 

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But, both Warren and Occupy totally failed. 

Occupy went fully off the rails, running after every minor nudge of the billions of progressive grievance tripwires and “occupying” everything from Starbucks to Tucker Carlson’s front yard and replacing traffic cops in Portland as the rebranded Antifa.

Warren’s career followed the same arc; she has chased every radical left-wing rabbit that crossed her path and accomplished, literally, nothing. Although she rants like a cranky old woman who can’t figure out her television control box, she has prosecuted no bankers and put none in jail. She replaces lack of real accomplishment with that fist in the air, shouting pose that she is so fond of affecting.

All of this contrasts with “Hustlers.” Although unimaginative and vigilante, the movie and real-life strippers actually did something useful. They punished the Wall Street bankers and tipped the scales a small amount in favor of the working class. And the American system of justice seemed to have recognized that when it gave them mild punishment for their actions. It was also recognized in theaters as American movie critics gave their sad story an 87 percent score, audiences gave them a 67 percent score, and opening weekend box office brought in $33 million, a huge initial return on a $20 million production budget.

That is more than any candidate on the Democratic stage can say. As a group, the candidates (again, with the possible exception of Biden) have created no value with the political power Americans have given them to date. 

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Elizabeth Warren has accompanied her endless complaining with a series of proposals that no one supports and that never will be enacted. The same can be said for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll MORE (I-Vt.). If they've spent years — actually, decades — being “powerful senators” and gotten nothing done, why do they want to be president, and why should anyone want to vote for them?

The same can be said for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Obamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention MORE, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Booker hits back at Trump tweet, mocks misspelling of name MORE (D-N.J.) and all the rest. Buttigieg is, by some accounts, an average mayor of a small city with so little support that he couldn’t even get elected state treasurer of Indiana, a race nearly impossible to lose if you have anything in the bank with people who know you best. 

Harris and Booker, meanwhile, are so short on achievements that they invariably pivot to complaints or invoke a race card when directly confronted on defending their records, and then shift to attacking opponents or President Trump.

None of that gives American voters any sense that any of these candidates has any real governing skill or idea how to lead America and get anything done. 

So far, the campaign for president has been an over-hyped, dreary movie with a bad script and awful actors. This year, politics is rated R — children, please avert your gaze.

Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Nelson Rockefeller and as a staff economist for Secretary Elliott Richardson of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.