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 BidenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren 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 TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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 Ann WarrenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Warren, Yang fight over automation divides experts Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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 SandersWarren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' Warren says she will unveil plan to finance 'Medicare for All' Ocasio-Cortez says endorsing Sanders early is 'the most authentic decision' she could make 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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Buttigieg says he wasn't comfortable with Clinton attack on Gabbard Buttigieg: Trump undermining US credibility 'is going to cost us for years and years' MORE, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren says she will unveil plan to finance 'Medicare for All' Kamala Harris reacts to supporter who got tattoo of her handwriting Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren says she will unveil plan to finance 'Medicare for All' Gabbard hits back at 'queen of warmongers' Clinton The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges 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.