When I first learned that Stephen Bannon was hosting an exclusive screening of ‘The Undefeated’ in my hometown of Chicago I was pleasantly surprised. I was surprised because when I think of Chicago politics my mind is flooded with imagery of back room deals, payoffs, crime, corruption and a crony system of government. I think of Al Capone, imprisoned governors, Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers and President Obama. The way Chicago is run is the antithesis to everything the Tea Party stands for, so I had to wonder, how well would this film about the ‘anti-Illinois’ politician be received? Would people even show up? Lets start from the beginning…
The screening was held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. As I approached the building I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the marquee on the Chicago theatre just across the street:
The marquee reads: “An evening with Bill Maher: Sold Out!”
Though it is disappointing to me that someone who is so objectionable and inappropriate could sell out the nearly 4,000-seat theatre, one has to appreciate the fact that the two events could peacefully coexist on opposite sides of the same street, but I digress.
I arrived at the theatre a few minutes early so that I could scope it out and prepare to hand out Organize4Palin palm cards and sign up those interested in volunteering. As people began to line up a few O4P volunteers and I began talking with everyone in line. Some people were already a part of the grassroots movement, many others joined and some just weren’t sure they supported Governor Palin. (I was actually happiest when I got this response because I knew they were in the right place- this movie is for them!). The theatre held 197 people and it looked to be about eighty-percent full. I’d consider this a success given that it was announced just three days earlier and advertised only through social media and word-of-mouth.
Bill Kelly of the ‘Kelly Truth Squad’ introduced the film saying, “Mayor Emanuel only gave us a two hour permit to tell the truth, so we better get started.” And so it began. The film was very well received! Everyone there (including Roger Ebert) seemed very enthralled with the film. There were quite a few instances of applause as well, most notably during the scene where Rick Santelli calls for the Chicago tea party on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange.
Admittedly, this film was not made for me. Going into the theatre I knew about Governor Palin’s strong record. I knew about AGIA and ACES, I knew about her pragmatic approach to spending the taxpayer dollars and I knew of her unprecedented approval ratings. I knew that Governor Palin focused almost all of her time and resources solving economic and energy related problems, rarely focusing on the social issues. I knew she was a constitutional leader and a center-right pragmatist. Surprisingly, what I did learn is that ‘The Undefeated’ is not about Sarah Palin at all. Governor Palin’s record in public service just happens to be the perfect embodiment of the American spirit- and that is what ‘The Undefeated’ is all about.
To me, the American spirit is the idea that a free people, unconstrained by the taxation and regulation of the federal government, can set goals and achieve them. They can take a desolate frontier and transform it into a prosperous and charitable country. And most importantly, you don’t have to come from money, have a powerful spouse, a well-connected father, etc. in order to effect change. ‘The Undefeated’ very effectively portrays the magnitude and speed of Palin’s rise to power. Power that she had to earn solely on her own merits, and against the will of the GOP elite.
In the question and answer session following the film Stephen Bannon said, in reference to the hate the media spews toward Palin, “It’s not Sarah Palin they are trying to shut up. It’s you they are trying to shut up.” and that we were going to have to “get out of our comfort zone” if we are going to take grassroots politics to the next level. I couldn’t agree more. Especially as outspoken students and young conservatives, we are often going to be put in uncomfortable situations where our ideas are far from popular amongst our peers. I am reminded though of a quote from Governor Palin’s speech in Dayton, Ohio, where she was first announced as John McCain’s VP pick, “A ship in harbor is safe, but thats not why the ship is built.”
As this speech, and when many others, were shown in film there was great applause and hollering from the crowd… A crowd in Liberal Chicago! I couldn’t believe it! It made me realize that we are everywhere. WE are ‘The Undefeated’. Washington better watch out!