Conservatives & Republicans Win This Oscar Night – No Matter What

By Kevin Williams

Originally Published on Politisite, Feb 24, 2013

This Sunday night, members of the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts & Sciences will gather together (along with many of their business representatives, families, agents and ex-spouses) to bestow its annual award – “The Oscar”- to the best artists, technicians and films this same Academy saw fit to nominate for said award earlier this year.  The biggest Oscar award comes at the end of the night, when an Oscar is given to the Best Picture of the past year – again, determined by the Academy’s voting members.

This year, there are three Best Picture Nominees that should interest Conservatives and Republicans.  LINCOLN, ARGO and ZERO DARK THIRTY are all excellent films and each of these film’s filmmakers and acting talent were at the top of their game for sure.  The idea that three such films should be nominated all at the same time in this day and age is to me – flabbergasting.

LINCOLN Poster                       Argo2012Poster 2 22 2013                        Large Movie Poster Maya ZERO DARK THIRTY

In ARGO (directed by Ben Affleck), we get to experience or re-live the amazing, harrowing times of one President James Earl Carter and the tragic debacle of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  In LINCOLN (directed by Steven Spielberg), the tortuous process by which President Abraham Lincoln forced through the Passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery is re-told in painstaking detail.  In ZERO DARK THIRTY (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow) tells the incredible story of the Central Intelligence Agency’s search for Osama Bin Laden and the Navy Seal Team 6 raid that thankfully ended his life.  Can anyone tell me of another Oscar year with films showing a beloved Republican President in the best of lights; a failing and flailing Democratic President being saved by the Central Intelligence Agency’s greatest ruse; and an at-the-time maligned (but now considered forward-thinking) Republican President setting up his Democratic successor’s greatest achievement?


LINCOLN Director Steven Spielberg

Based on his past films, we would expect Steven Spielberg to be fair towards President Lincoln and for Daniel-Day-Lewis to give a consummate performance in playing “Honest Abe.”  The fact that the Party of Lincoln should have such a wonderful portrayal of its scion on the silver screen (and one which will play in many U.S. schools and libraries for many years) should help greatly it to explain the history and founding of the Republican Party.  Having traveled to the Little White Schoolhouse in Ripon, WI to see where Alvan Bovay and the Abolitionists first founded the Republican Party for FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN… I can assure you that many Americans do not know the Party’s early history or that Lincoln was a Republican.  Now, they will.  A win for the Republicans!

Ben Affleck 2009

ARGO Director Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck (who was snubbed for a Best Director nomination) did a masterful job mixing story-telling with history and played no partisan favorites even though he is a big left-wing Democrat who many right-wingers expected to excuse Jimmy Carter for his poor performance as President.  The film clearly shows us two important things that we did not learn much from before September 11th:  One, that we must never underestimate what our enemies or their mobs might do.  Our Tehran Embassy staff did not think that the Iranian student mob would attempt to takeover our Embassy before it happened. Two, the lengths that Iran’s Mullah-controlled government would go to in trying to find the missing six embassy staffers (and find sensitive documents) indicated that we were going to be in a “war mode” with them, whether we knew it or not.  ARGO’s scene of the schoolchildren taping together all of the Embassy’s and CIA’s shredded documents is jarring and impressive.  How many of these kids grew up to be the I.E.D. makers or leaders of today’s Iran?  That Mr. Affleck spared himself and the audience from the usual Hollywood Playbook is commendable and a sign that he will be a Director we should enjoy as he approaches serious material in the future.

Kathryn Bigelow at 82nd Academy Awards

ZERO DARK THIRTY Director Kathryn Bigelow

The final movie that has a serious shot at Best Picture is ZERO DARK THIRTY.  Director Kathryn Bigelow (also snubbed for Best Director) and her Writer/Producing Partner Mark Boal put together a film that tells us the harsh, unflattering history of our Central Intelligence Agency’s battle and hunt to find Osama Bin Laden.  While the film ultimately ends in triumph with the historically-accurate killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist, we as an audience earn the ending we see.  Just as in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, there is a certain amount of “earning” the rest of the film if you make it past the first twenty minutes or so.  If audience members start the film and make it through the first Enhanced Interrogation scene, they will enjoy the rest of the film and get to see the Best Actress of this year in the form of Jessica Chastain as “Maya.”  Republicans and Conservatives can take heart that some filmmakers took a chance to just tell a story, get it as right as they legally could and didn’t take any pot-shots at President Bush.  That fact and because President Obama doesn’t come off as well, might explain Sony Pictures pushing ZERO DARK THIRTY’s release to after the Election.  But, that is just my speculation.

Sadly, some of the more Left-Wing types in Hollywood and our Main-Stream Media have decided that any version of ZERO DARK THIRTY that doesn’t openly condemn the Bush Administration for its success constitutes betrayal.  Venerable actors such as Ed Asner and Martin Sheen (who starred in APOCALYPSE NOW) have called for a boycott by Oscar voters from awarding any Awards to ZERO DARK THIRTY, even in the technical categories, because they feel it positively portrays torture.  What is interesting and ironic about this new Black List is that many of these same critics have consistently condemned the anti-Communist Hollywood Black List of the 1940s/50s.  Mr. Asner, et al. are very worried that ZERO DARK THIRTY might influence people to believe that torture in some way helped us find and kill Osama Bin Laden and influencing people in such a way is bad.  Well, what has Hollywood been trying to do for the last fifty years or so?  Influence people into new cultural and social mores while entertaining them.  Shamefully, some Academy Voters will see things as Mr. Asner does and will not vote for ZERO DARK THIRTY as Best Picture.  They’ll likely vote for LINCOLN or ARGO instead and consider doing so to be the lesser of three evils.

To these Oscar voters, all I can say is why did you go into filmmaking in the first place?  If it was to tell a story, tell it well, enhance your craft, make some money and entertain an audience… then Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and the Cast and Crew of ZERO DARK THIRTY did their job.  As did the filmmakers of LINCOLN and ARGO.  It is hard enough to make a film, let along release it to the world.  If you haven’t seen ZERO DARK THIRTY, treat yourself and do so.  And while you are at it, make sure to see LINCOLN and ARGO and show all three films to anyone nearing voting age and above.  For you may not see films like these in the same year any time soon.

As a filmmaker, if I could vote…. my pick for this year’s Best Picture would be:

Academy Award of Merit, popularly known as the "Oscar" statuette

RNC winter meeting: GOP must chart a path to win back urban America

By Kevin Williams
Originally published online on the Wahington Post 1/24/2013

The 168  members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) have officially started their winter meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they will elect  the party’s chairman and co-chairman.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tries to keep a smile as Ron Paul supporters boo him during the Republican National Convention

TAMPA, FL – AUGUST 28: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tries to keep a smile as Ron Paul supporters boo him during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post) (Toni L. Sandys – THE WASHINGTON POST)

Indeed, many Republicans and  conservatives around the country are sure to be nervously glued to C-SPAN or  their desktop computers over the next two days, hoping for clear indications of  the party’s future.

While many of their fellow Americans may be tuned out or  turned off from politics after our past election, those of us who continue to pay  close attention to national politics realize that this RNC chairman election  will be important to the country’s political future.

Why? Because while the RNC’s winter meeting will be full of politicking for positions, prestige and networking for  its members, it is also being held to set the party’s agenda. And after a second  loss to Barack Obama, what course the party sets now could determine its long  term future.

Whether this agenda  includes any thought to the Republican Party’s lack of support in urban areas  and minority communities remains to be seen.  Since losing the White House again  to President Barack Obama and losing seats in the House and Senate,  rank-and-file Republicans have gotten little sense that any lessons were learned  from the past election or if their party leaders know how bad things really are  out there.   After spending over six years examining my own Republican Party’s  lack of success in urban America for my film FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN, I know  what many African Americans know: President Obama’s two election wins were not  flukes. I hope the party leadership understands this, too.

Here are some sobering statistics: On Election Day,  President Obama received 81 percent of the vote in New York City, according to Bloomberg.  This is the  largest vote share of any Presidential candidate in more than 100 years in that city.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles County, CA (mostly made up  of the City of Los Angeles), President Obama received nearly 69 percent  of  votes, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mitt Romney received 29 percent the paper reported.  These kinds of numbers and results can  be found in many urban areas and cities around the country.  What this  illustrates is that the GOP is losing a major constituency of modern America.   Sadly, the Republican Party has not done anything to publicly acknowledge that  it fundamentally understands the basics of its failures to win in  minority-dominated locales or in districts with non-rural population density.

It will be the RNC’s current  chairman, Reince Priebus, to figure out this growing problem. Priebus, who’s  expected to win another term this week, will have to come up with a strategy to  woo back  the  millions of Americans who want to have both major political  parties, Democratic and Republican, asking for and working for their votes.   These Americans may live in tightly-packed cities or may not look like our most  recent Republican Presidential ticket, but they deserve to have their votes  wanted and campaigned for.  And the Republican Party deserves to have a chance  to win these voters over.  Without changes in leadership or campaign strategy,  the Republican Party will never meet these voters or give itself its best chance  at survival.

Here are my recommendations  which  Priebus and the Republican Party can use immediately if they are to be  serious about reaching out and winning the votes of Urban and Minority  voters:

1.        Reach out to the African American and urban voters already  in the districts the GOP represents to get an idea of how bad things actually  are.  Listen, don’t talk much.  Know where “ground zero” is for real.

2.        Require that all State and County GOPs, as well as their funded  candidates spend at least 5 percent of their advertising budget on Black,  Hispanic or Urban Media/Radio.  Their comparative costs to Major Talk  Radio/Major Newspapers, etc. are a bargain.

3.        Require all State  Republican Committees to organize and implement outreach campaigns (a “Meet the  Grandmas” Campaign) geared towards areas where the Republican Party is already  under-represented.  This should be a going concern by July 4, 2013.  Listening,  then talking is the key.  Start by knowing the neighborhoods you’re  representing.

4.        Amend the financial threshold requirements that Republican  U.S. Congressional Candidates must raise within their district in order to gain  Party campaign support or expertise.  For Republican candidates in places like  New York, Trenton, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta – it is virtually  impossible to raise the necessary hundreds of thousands of dollars because there  aren’t enough Republicans or Donors. 5.         Reiterate former RNC Chairman Ken  Mehlman’s 2005 apology  for the “Southern strategy” of the Nixon era, which sought to encourage white flight from the Democratic Party.  But, go even further by committing to spending $10,000,000  over the next two years to support Republican candidates in urban/African-American-majority districts.  While you are at it, commit to ending the practice of gerrymandering which has only served to isolate and dis-empower urban and  minority voters.

6.        Require all Republican U.S. Senate and House candidates to  hire and empower Senior-Level advisors  from within the district they are  representing or wish to represent.  Someone from Canton, Ohio may not be the  best person to help you defeat John Lewis in Atlanta or win an open seat in Los  Angeles.  The GOP must build its own talented farm team in urban America.

7.        Attend and speak at the National Association of Black Journalists  (NABJ) this July, as well as the Urban League and NAACP Conventions.  Mitt  Romney missed a huge opportunity by skipping the NABJ Convention and not  speaking to thousands of black journalists last summer.  Also check out the  National Association of Hispanic Journalists Conference in August.

8.        Be prepared for some rejection and skepticism.  The Republican  Party will likely have been found missing in action by many of the voters you  will meet.  Get used to the phrase, “you are the first Republican I’ve ever  met.”  By the third or fourth time our Republican Party meets these voters, we  will be like old furniture – expected to be there.  The only way to get of the  “Racism” tag is by being in the room and expressing our views on our own terms.

9.        Be better than the Democrats by knowing our Party’s history with  the African American community and connecting this history to modern-day  policies and ideals.  There are many African American (and other) entrepreneurs  who may be interested in the GOP’s business and fiscal policies, if they were  presented to them one-on-one.  However, this can never happen unless we can  explain where we were and where we are going.

The Republican campaign strategies of just getting a few percentage  points over fifty-percent and the days of just turning out the base are over.   The Republican base is shrinking over time mainly due to poor campaign  strategies showing the rusted paint of the Southern strategy.  The campaign strategists being paid to come up with these plans are not racist, just very  short-sighted and unwilling to risk change.  Going to where it is easier to win  votes is a tenet for Democrat and Republican campaign strategists.  Their view  is understandable – a buck is a buck.  However, the “win now” attitudes carried  by those on the Republican side have winnowed any filling of the Big Tent.

Each presidential election, the Republican  Party starts out minus 127 Electoral Votes since the Party concedes the East and  West Coasts’ Urban and Minority voters every time.  With New York, New Jersey,  Pennsylvania, Washington State, Oregon and California automatically going to the  Democrats every four years and these states’ urban and minority voters not being  offered the chance to seriously consider the GOP, my Party’s future looks very  grim.  No matter who is our Republican National Committee chairman going  forward, we must get off our current road to oblivion.