David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Benign fearmongering: Worth a try

Thursday | February 3, 2022   open printable version open printable version

2014 as rehearsal for 2022.

DB here:

With the Democrats on the defensive in poll after poll, and Republicans poised to sweep House and Senate races, voices are raised to suggest that a new strategy for 2022 is needed. The idea of voting to protect democracy and equal protection under law may be too abstract and absolute for an electorate preoccupied with inflation, the pandemic, crime, and social turmoil. People will vote for a return to “normal everyday life.”

An emerging strategy, proposed by Josh Barro and others, is for Democrats to show that their policies are facilitating just that return to normalcy. This seems reasonable, but I think it is only part of an answer.

The contemporary Republican Party trades on what cognitive psychologists call loss aversion. The Democrats, we’re told, will take away something precious: gun rights, white people’s pride, the choice to get vaccinated, even life itself with abortion. The fear of loss is a powerful motivator.

The Democrats have largely not embraced a fear-driven narrative. They stress aspiration and expansion of opportunity. But the promise of a better life isn’t as galvanizing as the threat of a worse one.

I therefore suggest that the Democrats try a strategy of fearmongering on their own. Instead of the fantastic threats conjured by the GOP (sharia law, rule by George Soros), there are quite plausible threats that would follow from Republican victories in 2022 and 2024. The Democrats should state these crisply and make vivid what life under unified Republican rule would be like.

We don’t have to guess. On the basis of past legislative and executive initiatives, as well as the 2016 Republican Party Platform, we can confidently assert that these policy goals will be targets. (All quotations come from that platform, unrevised in its 2020 version.)

The first target will be the elimination of Obamacare, with or without a replacement. In addition, Dodd-Frank would be purged, as would the Consumer Protection Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service, the latter because a new tax code would be “simpler and easier to understand”—and somehow eliminate tax cheats. Killing the IRS also eliminates the principal agency administering the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit, and other programs.

There will be an initiative to privatize Social Security and Medicare, long targets of GOP cuts. Also to be privatized are mass transit systems, road and bridge improvement, the postal service, and the Veterans Administration. Funding for Amtrak would cease, as would government loans for college education. Thousands of acres of public lands would be thrown open to exploitation “even if these resources will not be immediately developed.”

The principle of local sovereignty would lead to a radical Federalism. Republican states would manage their own energy resources, determine their own marriage policies, decide their own environmental regulations, control federal lands in their boundaries, and establish “constitutional carry” gun laws. As is already happening, legislatures are devising educational policies controlling curriculum, but in addition the GOP encourages the end of tenure and the recruiting of ex-military and business people for teaching posts. Bible study would be a part of the curriculum, and sex education would emphasize abstinence. Nothing in principle would prevent the arming of teachers or even certain students.

Workers can expect a further pressure to eliminate unions. All states would be encouraged to establish right-to-work laws, reinforced by a “national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce.” This is said to be necessary because of the need for franchise businesses (a dominant sector of the economy) to maintain stable wage structure. The GOP’s long-standing objection to the unionization of government workers will be enacted in a Congressional inquiry into the disparity between federal workers’ pay and that of corresponding private-sector employees. That inquiry can lead only to a deflation of the wages of federal workers. As for those on welfare, the 1996 work requirements will be restored.

Hot-button culture war issues will be settled in draconian fashion. The US will withdraw from the Kyoto Protocols and Paris Agreement and no longer contribute to the United Nations Framework on Climate Control. A wall will be built on the southern border. The census will no longer count residents, only citizens. The public display of the 10 Commandments will be encouraged.

The bases of all these transformations is the plan for Congress to put in place a Balanced Budget Amendment that would cap spending to the average of GDP. This would make constitutional the drastic downsizing of federal services. A constitutional convention would also offer the opportunity for further amendments on whatever subjects the delegates wanted to raise.

President Biden need not have asked, “But what are they for?” These are the things they have been pushing for a very long time, and they are within striking distance of achieving them. In addition, we must remember that these policies have been advanced by the “moderate” center of the Republican party. What the more extremist members would advocate can scarcely be imagined, though we are given daily previews–including the threat to imprison political opponents.

A much-noted 2012 New York Times article showed that government benefit programs “invisibly” support American life to a remarkable degree. The reporters found that the government provides nearly $1 in benefit for every $4 in other income.  Just as important is the need to maintain the middle class, which has become dependent on unemployment benefits, earned-income tax credits, minimum-wage benchmarks, and other forms of aid.

Democrats should, at every opportunity, remind Americans what losses are likely after 2022 and 2025. Appealing to altruism and principle is fine, but out of sheer self-interest many voters might find themselves averse to life under unified Republican rule. It may be that citizens yawn when asked to uphold principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. They’re unlikely to do so at the prospect of losing Social Security, Medicare, health insurance discounting preexisting conditions, school lunches, disability payments, and other taken-for-granted benefits of contemporary civic life.


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