Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just for the food
The wisdom of my favorite film, Big Night, seems readily apparent right now. The movie is about a pair of struggling Italian immigrants who operate a restaurant at the Jersey shore in the 1950s. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) is the brilliant, perfectionist chef, and Secundo (Stanley Tucci) is the pragmatic businessman who manages the whole operation. The trouble is that they serve very sophisticated Italian food which is little known and little understood in the corner of the universe where they ply their trade, while just up the street Pascal (Ian Holm) runs a glitzy Italian restaurant/nightclub that serves up the typical Americanized Italian slop you'd find in your average can of Chef Boyardee. Primo quips at one point that one goes on in the restaurant is "the rape of cuisine." Regardless, Pascal's is packed, while their own business is on the verge of failure. Pascal promises to get the famous musician Louis Prima to play at their restaurant one night, so the press will come and give them the attention they need to save the business.

At one point, a despondent Primo is being told by Secundo that their restaurant is failing and that only Louis Prima can save them:

Primo: People should come just for the food.
Secundo: I know that.
Primo: People should come just for the food!
Secundo: I know that, I know! But they don't.

At another point, Pascal tells Secundo to "Give the people what they want, then later you can give them what you want."

Most Democrats, and most liberals, believe people should vote Democratic just for the ideas, just for the principles that we stand for and believe in. But they don't. They should, but they don't. They go to Pascal's. And we don't have time for them to learn, as Secundo shouts angrily at Primo. "This is a restaurant, not a fucking school!"

Well, this is politics, not a fucking quadrennial civics lesson. If people keep voting Republican, we're going to go under, the bank is going to foreclose. We can't invite Louis Prima to save us, and he wouldn't come anyway; we'd end up throwing another big party that no one shows up for. We have to serve up some of Pascal's bastardized cuisine, which we'll call "values," the word everyone wants to hear. We have to neutralize those values issues, the wedge issues which keep sending poor, rural Americans into the voting booth to cast ballots for the party of oligarchy and regressive taxation. We have to repackage our seafood risotto as spaghetti and meatballs.

We have to give the people what they want, so that later we can give them what we want. And we have to figure out how to do that. And soon.


At 1:54 PM, Blogger Annie DiMario said...

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