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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 BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears 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 TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident 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 WarrenYellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills' 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 SandersSanders has right goal, wrong target in fight to help low-wage workers Democrats in standoff over minimum wage Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack 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 ButtigiegSenate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary Biden to detail 'roadmap' for partnership with Canada in meeting with Trudeau Biden's infrastructure plan needs input from cities and regions MORE, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCollins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill Biden's immigration bill could wreck his majority, but Democrats have opportunity to do the right thing MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerMenendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line Garland commits to combatting systemic racism 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.