Stephen K. Bannon’s powerful documentary, “The Undefeated,” may be the condensed story of Sarah Palin to date; however, that’s far from all that it is. “The Undefeated” is as much America’s story and a story of American Exceptionalism, as it is your story, if you consider yourself a genuine Reagan-Republican, or Conservative. Add in the dynamics of significant under-currents within contemporary American culture and politics, especially of the Republican strain, and one begins to appreciate the scope of Bannon’s latest epically American political film.
Bannon artfully weaves those broader themes into the story of Sarah Palin not simply as political, or theatrical device, but demonstrates them to be genuine, honest and accurate in keeping with the documentary format. Assuming one knows at least a bit of Palin’s more recent story – and the film appears to primarily target Conservatives, Tea Party types and GOP primary voters who would – the film’s tremendous force and tension comes from the confrontation of all those things Bannon accurately embodies in Palin pitted against elitist, establishment forces intent on, not simply opposing, but destroying both Palin and what she represents.
The opening will likely leave many a viewer sitting alone in a darkened theater asking, … why? Why are they so intent on destroying Sarah Palin (or me, and what I believe in, assuming one has come to identify with the former Governor politically to at least some degree)? And that’s just the first four minutes.
From my first viewing of a rough cut of “The Undefeated” over a week ago, to re-visiting the opening four times now, as an individual deeply passionate about conservative politics – even if often expressed confrontationally, I’ve not been able to get through it once without checking back tears born of a mix of emotions – from sadness and anger, to frustration and deep concern. I’m not ashamed to say, on more than one occasion, said checking failed.
However, the tears are not for, or about, Sarah Palin. I consider myself a fan, certainly, but am not so naive as to entrust my entire politics and beliefs in any one person, or political figure – not even Ronald Reagan. It’s the painful realization of a broader truth for America and America’s current politics that grabbed me up and invested me so deeply in Bannon’s film. Besides, why cry for Sarah Palin, she is and remains “The Undefeated,” in the grand scheme? At no time does the film take on what would have been an unfortunate tone, that of making her appear a victim, somehow. Palin is a fighter and a survivor, as the film makes abundantly clear.
Beginning with the very end of Senator John McCain’s introduction of then Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, at the 2008 GOP convention, one sees, first the Palin children and family, then a glowing Palin take center-stage – cutting away before she utters a single word. But what might, or should, that moment have meant to earnest conservatives of a more populist strain looking in at the time?
Here was a woman hardly known, at least nationally, thrust into the limelight, a woman, potentially – it was thought – capable of giving significant hope and inspiration to grassroots conservatives not as excited with the McCain nomination, as they might have been, ideally. The expectations upon her that night were all but surreal.
Like many, I had no idea if she would deliver, or crash and burn in just one more bit of political miscalculation by the McCain campaign. Yet, instead, she soared! Sarah Palin delivered what many a sincere conservative wanted and needed to become excited about the 2008 race. And she went right on doing it throughout the Fall – and continues to do it, even now, in many ways.
And for that and that alone, what did she get? Cut to the next three minutes of the opening of Bannon’s “The Undefeated,” as the likes of Matt Damon, Rosie O’Donnell, David Letterman, Bill Maher, and so many others, hurl insult and slander one after another at her: slutty, idiot, retard – with a retarded child, moron, c*nt, cartoon, hockey mom, tw*t, a nice looking parrot, dumb, get out of our face, stupid bitch … and on it goes – until this day, to a degree. But that’s only because Palin’s still standing, true to form and film, she remains “The Undefeated” even now after all of that.
What did this woman do to deserve all this? And, as Andrew Breitbart addresses in the film, where were the supposedly politically prominent purportedly on our side? Many of them, even McCain campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, and some former Romney consultants, among many other GOP establishment types, weren’t content to simply remain silent in the aftermath of 2008. For some sick, or corrupted reason, they felt compelled to pile on whenever they could. In what decent world is that excuse-able, let alone make any sense beyond some superficial fixation upon politics to the point where it becomes inhumane? And that’s representative of an establishment Republican Party that seeks to lead conservatives and America forward, somehow? I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, frankly. But I digress.
So, what did this woman, or her and our conservative principles, ever do, or do to them, exactly? The answer is, nothing – except perhaps threaten them, merely by existing. For her part, all Sarah Palin ever did was speak out boldly for many of us. And that is why “The Undefeated” is a film with insights and consequences that reach far beyond former Alaska Governor and 2008 VP Candidate, Sarah Palin – however central to the film are her resume and experience. It should not, it must not be lost on Conservatives that every insult, every slander and gross mischaracterization spat at Sarah Palin was not meant only for her, but for all conservatives and what they believe in, as well as the America they would envision for themselves and their grandchildren.
Indeed, while Sarah Palin is by far the central character in “The Undefeated”, the film includes insightful, thought provoking commentary from Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce, Andrew Breitbart and a host of others, all undefeated voices of the Right on their own terms. In a sense, they are as much Palin, as she is them, and all of us together comprise, a common sense, genuine, Reagan conservatism.
Did I cry at the film? How could I not realizing that all those things are under serious assault and currently at risk of being defeated – ultimately. Politically, with, or without a Sarah Palin, will a genuine Reagan conservatism remain undefeated, or politically viable, after 2012? Frankly, I can’t answer that. You’re damn right I cried and suspect I will, again, eventually. But keep in mind, that’s the beginning of “The Undefeated,” not the end, by any means.
God has shed His grace on thee, America. We will not squander what we have. We will fight for America! And it starts here in Madison, Wisconsin! It starts here! It starts now! What better place than the state that hosts the Super Bowl champs, to call out the liberal left and let them know: Mr. President, game on! – Sarah Palin
Yes, as Palin biography, resume, a bit of recent political history and portent of things possibly to come, it’s a potential political atomic bomb set to go off at the beginning of the GOP Presidential primary. But will it ignite? That depends on any mass reaction across the conservative grassroots and among GOP primary voters. My own best guess is that, as with her recent bus tour, this is now something of a trial balloon. If there’s an opening and enough people there that want her, my guess is she will step up. That would be in keeping with the concept of a servant’s heart.
But it should be noted that “The Undefeated” is genuinely more Bannon’s vision, than it is Palin’s. Bannon was first contacted to do some short films – part of an effort I’ll weigh in on elsewhere. Sarah Palin, along with others, are re-inventing conservative media and communications – taking Reagan’s concept of going around, or over the heads of the media directly to the people to a new level thanks to new and developing forms of communication. But given that it is, in fact, Bannon’s film and not Palin’s, we can add the notion that this has always somehow been Palin’s grand plan to the long list of fallacies many seem intent on ascribing to the woman.
Think of Sarah Palin what you will, the fact is, there is no other individual in American politics today, except perhaps for Barack Obama, that has generated so much focus and attention. That alone elevates Palin to a level any GOP nominee is going to have to achieve to be truly competitive in 2012. But even if Sarah Palin doesn’t run, or fails to re-ignite the spark in grassroot hearts she did in 2008, someone is going to have to carry the banner for “The Undefeated” in 2012 – lest what might be called a more traditionalist view of America not remain undefeated for very long.
That, for me, is the real message to be taken away from Bannon’s “The Undefeated.” With a Democrat Party now fully committed to statism and a GOP establishment that all too often embraces a slow-stepped form of compromise that ultimately gets us to the same place more slowly, Bannon’s film is every bit a story about America’s larger political future, than it is biopic of one former Governor and Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. And that’s why it’s a must see film for those on the Right interested and motivated when it comes to conservative and Republican politics – whether one fancies Sarah Palin, or not.
While “The Undefeated” serves incredibly well as a film about Sarah Palin and could very well spark any potential Palin candidacy for 2012, beyond that, it is a remarkable commentary and critique on America’s current culture and politics – and it belongs in conservative political history books for that reason alone, if not more.
For a more Palin-centric review, I’d suggest Jedediah Bila’s review at the Daily Caller: Palin’s record takes center stage in ‘The Undefeated’.
Many politicians don’t practice what they preach. They make campaign promises they rarely keep. And they love to talk ethics, transparency, and bipartisanship — until they are sworn into office, that is.
I’d also recommend Scott Conroy’s write up at Real Clear Politics – Palin’s Secret Weapon.
“This film is a call to action for a campaign like 1976: Reagan vs. the establishment,” Bannon told RealClearPolitics. “Let’s have a good old-fashioned brouhaha.”