10 reasons why Washington should take a page from Harry Potter.
- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
This week marks the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, the eighth installment of the most successful series in movie history. As such, it offers a useful comparison in the differences between what makes a successful summer blockbuster in Hollywood and what makes for one in Washington, DC. Here are the top ten:
10. Too Few House Elves in Washington (Too Many House Death Eaters)
Oh Dobby, Dobby, if only there were a man in Washington of your stature. Poor Dobby who died, according to his epitaph, “a free elf” was cranky and even less photogenic than Anthony Weiner, but he had heart and courage and took risks for those he served in ways that none on Capitol Hill seem to even comprehend. Meanwhile, there are far too many Death Eaters up there on the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue, swirling around in service of He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken (Grover Norquist) regardless of the pain it may bring to those who actually elected them. (Norquist may succeed with anti-tax religion in doing what the leadership of the Soviet Union could not — bankrupting and thus breaking America.)
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9. Even Hollywood Accounting is Better Than How They Do Math in DC
Hollywood is famous for skimming and double-entry book-keeping but even they know it takes both revenues and sensible spending to balance a budget. And they sure have their focused fixed securely on the bottom line on ways that would be revolutionary in DC. Meanwhile back in our nation’s capital it would take a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with more gifts than Mad Eye Moody to combat the trickery that has in just over a decade transformed a budget surplus into a $1.6 trillion annual deficit. (Face it: Threats to downgrade U.S. debt aside, the real story is that Moody’s and S&P haven’t trash-canned America’s Triple A rating yet. America is … very lucky … to still coasting on the reputation of past generations of leaders.)
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8. Not Enough People Who Believe in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks
We need more Luna Lovegoods in Washington. She’s not a slave to conventional wisdom. She thinks outside the box. She’s got guts. She finds solutions where other people only see problems and take actions when others are only worried about how they will look to others. (It’s also worth noting that her father’s publication, The Quibbler could be the last newspaper left in Britain if Rupert Voldemort’s empire keeps collapsing.)
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7. Peter Pettigrew Was Only a Rat Part of the Time
Meanwhile our pols, unable to change species, spend their time changing their positions and their rhetoric. No better example of this than Washington’s own Wormtail, Mitch McConnell, and his convoluted strategy to blow up a budget deal and pin it on the president by effectively doing a complete 180 on the issue of extending the debt ceiling.
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6. In Bachmann’s Washington, Dumbledore Would Never Have Made It Headmaster at Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling has said that the beloved, grey eminence of the wizarding world was gay. Which in Wingnut America would have resulted in him being subjected to the faith-based lunacy of the Bachmann clinic’s talking cure for homosexuality. Which would have left us with the Tea Party’s hand-picked choice Dolores Umbridge in charge of Hogwarts and would have deprived us of Dumbledorian wisdom that Washington could certainly benefit from. Such as his observation that, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
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5. Voldemort Would Never Have Tolerated the Competition
Admit it. You’d vote for Draco Malfoy over Eric Cantor. (If you could tell the difference.) Voldemort’s cronies and henchmen were all clearly supporting characters. But the Washington scene has too many folks competing for the role of head villain.
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4. Bad Guys With Hearts of Gold: The Lesson of Severus Snape
(Spoiler Alert) If you don’t know by now, the emotional high point of the last of the Potter books and this last movie, comes with the revelation that Severus Snape actually was not as bad as all that. In fact, after a lifetime of behavior that could have easily won him a position in the House leadership, he revealed what was good inside of him … and just in the nick of time. If only we could get so lucky with the delayers, ideologues, prevaricators, and stallers who have threatened America with a dark outcome that would make the Second Wizarding War look like something out of a children’s story.
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3. Big Budget Action Epic vs. Busted Budget Inaction Tragedy
The difference is the action. Get it? Except that movies without action go nowhere whereas governments without action send their countries to hell in a handbasket.
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2. Knowing the Difference Between Good and Evil
The reason that we love Harry, Hermione, and Ron is that they risk it all for what is right. The reason the Potter saga is likely to endure far longer than the memories of any of the figments of our imagination who are currently serving in Washington is that it is about the fundamental struggle between good and evil. The reason Washington has been unable to do what was necessary for so long is that it has forgotten the difference.
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1. The Happy Ending
(The movie has one.)
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