So Goes the Nation
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(Documentary) "...SO GOES THE NATION" examines America's tumultuous electoral process through the eyes of diverse politicians, activists, and voters. The 2004 presidential election provides the stage, showing how the voting public is manipulated by both parties' leaders and their political marketing machines. Features Hollywood A-List in grass roots campaign efforts (Matt Dillon, Steve Buscemi, Hillary Swank, Brendan Fraser, Joe Pantoliano, etc.)
As John Kerry presidential campaign volunteer Miles Gerety puts it, "As goes Ohio, so goes the nation." Directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern, who were behind The Year of the Yao (about NBA superstar Yao Ming), attempt to get a handle on the 2004 presidential election by focusing on this swing state in the weeks before the big day. Senator Kerry and President George W. Bush staffers recount their experiences in trying to win the White House. Speakers include everyone from door-to-door campaigners to Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and RNC chairman Ed Gillespie. Even some of Kerry's most dedicated followers admit that there were times their man let them down, like his failure to take a more aggressive stance against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. On the other hand, at least one Bush staffer feels that her candidate made too big a deal about same-sex marriage. As longtime Republican Leslie Ghiz remarks about his campaign promises, "Notice there's [been] no marriage amendment." Del Deo and Stern also shadow local voters and out-of-town celebrities like Brendan Fraser, part of the organization Bring Ohio Back. (Other famous names to swing through the Buckeye State include Matt Dillon and Bruce Springsteen.) If ...So Goes the Nation presents more talking heads than revelations, it's still an evenhanded look at the series of events that led to such a seemingly surprising result. As a study in contrasts, Rachel Boynton's Our Brand is Crisis, also featuring strategist Tad Devine, proves that winning can sometimes be worse than losing. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
- Commentary by filmmakers James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo
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As a non-American, I heartily recommend this film to anybody with an interest in American politics, and how electioneering there differs from other English-speaking countries.
George W. Bush is never in So Goes the Nation described as an accomplished president by anyone interviewed, even from his own side. Even when accepting the nomination, Republicans didn't focus on Bush's accomplishments, but completely made the 2004 campaign about John Kerry's faults and it worked.
What So Goes the Nation does is call out the American voter. What exactly are voters basing their decisions on? Because as most of the participants in So Goes The Nation admit, the whole discussion was about John Kerry, instead of a critique of the decisions that Bush made in his first four years in office as president.
Therefore So Goes the Nation reveals the gamesmanship of a presidential campaign and dissects brilliantly what did and did not work from a campaign perspective, but the actual governing abilities of the politicians involved are never really discussed, which reveals how the general public can so easily allow themselves to be manipulated.
Therefore it reveals that a good campaign can easily elect a bad politician.
What SO GOES THE NATION lacks is the filmmakers' perspective. For example, it only hints at the ugly truths that cost John Kerry the official vote count. When I saw this D.V.D. recently at the public library, I wondered why I had not heard of it. After seeing SO GOES THE NATION's timid take on Republican suppression of likely Kerry voters in the Buckeye State, I understood why most word of mouth was probably two syllables - "Skip it."
Nonetheless, credit SO GOES THE NATION for taking us into the hearts and souls of ordinary people working hard for the Kerry and Bush campaigns in which they believe. Watching those volunteers' spirits soar and dip (Kerry) and dip and soar (Bush) on Election Day 2004 I compare it to true-storytelling such as APOLLO THIRTEEN, where we already know what happens yet suspense builds anyway.