Monday, November 19, 2012

Lincoln: The Most Exciting Movie About People Talking You'll Ever See

There's an old saying in film... and it actually extends to most entertainment in a certain respect: "Show, don't tell."

The meaning of this saying is that if you have a character is a story tell us that something is the way it is, that is far less effective and entertaining than actually showing it. As an example, what's more interesting? Morpheus telling Neo that the Matrix is a false reality and that humans are actually trapped in pods of goo where they are used as batteries for machines, or having Neo wake up in one of those pods? Yes, I know Morpheus exposits about it later anyway, but he does so with visual references and it carries weight because of what Neo has already experienced. The point still stands. No one can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself.

Guidelines such as this often exist to help young artists give their work structure. Proper technique and form makes performing something difficult considerably easier. For example, if you've never played the trumpet before, on your first attempt, you might play with your cheeks puffed out. However, an instructor might tell you that that is improper form. They would be correct. It is easier to play if you don't puff your cheeks out. Yet some might recall iconic images of famous trumpet players with their cheeks puffed out like you wouldn't believe. Well, this is for two reasons: 1) They were probably self-taught and thus always played that way without an instructor to tell them otherwise. 2) When you are that good, you don't need to follow all the guidelines to play well.

In other words, rules exist to guide the newbies and to be broken by the masters.

Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly a master. So when I say that "Lincoln" almost constantly defies the saying "Show, don't tell," I don't mean that in a negative sense. I mean that the majority of the film has old people talking to one another about a lot of things that we never see, but it still manages to completely engross you in it. Despite this film only taking place during roughly one year of Lincoln's life, and despite the fact that the film is less about Lincoln and more about his greatest accomplishment (the 13th amendment), this film still manages to give us a very complete picture of the man and the people close to him.

In almost every scene involving Lincoln, at some point he will start sharing an amusing anecdote, either (allegedly) from his own life, or just an amusing story he once heard. We never see the scenes he describes, even if they are real events that involved him personally. A lesser filmmaker would have caked this screenplay with red ink, probably writing "Show, don't tell" a thousand times during every monologue. They would have expanded the story to encompass his entire life, or cut to flashbacks while we hear Lincoln describe the scene in voice-over, or they would have cut the voice-over entirely, since that is also often considered "lazy". That would be the "proper" way to do this sort of film, and one can't blame them. If this film had been directed by anyone else, I doubt that it would have worked. If they had anyone other than Daniel Day-Lewis in the role, I don't know if it would have worked. But because it makes it work, it is far far better this way than what it would have been if done "properly".

Because Spielberg is such a captivating filmmaker from a visual standpoint (that man could make drying paint visually interesting) and because Daniel Day-Lewis is such a captivating orator as Lincoln, these scenes where we literally just hear Lincoln tell a story for a few minutes are some of the best scenes in the movie. Not only do they tell us more about Lincoln's life and his particular sense of humor, we as an audience experience first-hand his ability to enthrall with the power of words. If we were just shown these anecdotes or shown these other parts of Lincoln's life, we wouldn't have understood just how powerful Lincoln's words were.

Also, even though these anecdotes are generally very straightforward, Spielberg often finds a way to inform them visually. For example, one of Lincoln's best anecdotes involves a story about an interestingly placed portrait of George Washington, and as he describes it, we often cut to the portrait that hangs in the very room they are in. It not only feeds the imagination, it makes us wonder in the back of our minds, "Is Lincoln just making this shit up off the top of his head? If it were a picture of a dog, would he have told an anecdote about a dog instead?" Spielberg makes us feel like one of the people that Lincoln is talking to, and when everyone in the room shuts up and is suddenly speechless after Lincoln finishes spinning his yarn, we too are ready and waiting for Lincoln to drop the hammer.

Another thing that makes Spielberg Spielberg is the fact that he does not use someone else's iconography. He creates his own damned iconography. No, he will not show us Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. No, he will not show us the assassination. Spielberg is not trying to show us his version of things we've already seen or imagined. He has no interest in showing us things we've already seen (except that one time when he remade "War of the Worlds" or when he made the sequel to "Jurassic Park"). He's not going to stand on the shoulders of giants. He is a fucking giant, and goddammit, he will fucking remind you in case you forgot.

Probably the best thing about this film is that it treats Lincoln like a character, not as an historical icon. As I said, most other films about Lincoln would probably show us most of his life, from birth to earth. The highlight reel. However, it seems that only films about historical people show us their entire lives. All other films just show us a tiny sliver of their lives and they give the audience a deeper understanding of who these people are through their words and actions. This film keeps its story very focused on probably the most important year of Lincoln's life (which also happened to be his last one) and uses his very rich history to give his character depth rather than influence the actual plot or focus of the film.

And that's not to say that all of Lincoln's interactions in the film directly influence the central conflict regarding the passage of the 13th amendment. Not at all. In fact, most of the scenes involving Lincoln's eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln (AKA Jinxy McDeath) have little-to-no bearing on the actual plot of the film. Once again, if we were playing by the rules, these scenes would probably have been cut or contrived to somehow influence the story more directly. But really all it does is give Lincoln more personal drama to deal with. Yes, it also indirectly gives us another reason to hope that the amendment gets passed, but I don't think we as an audience really needed a reason other than "racism sucks". Good ol' Jinxy reminds Lincoln that his stalling regarding the war could cost him the life of another son and the sanity of his wife, but those aspects aren't really necessary to communicate the urgency of the war or the amendment to us as an audience. Still, this movie is called "Lincoln", not "The 13th Amendment". This movie is about Lincoln and by showing his emotional baggage, we get a complete understanding of who he is and what is going through his mind as he tells Ulysses S. Grant to stall for time. The 13th amendment is the structural core of the film's plot, but plot should not be in service to itself, but in service to the characters. In this case, the passage of the 13th amendment is the central conflict of the story because it was arguably Lincoln's greatest challenge. We see him at his best and his worst and even if this movie won't help you pass your history test on the life of Lincoln, you'll still feel like you understand this Lincoln better than the Lincoln you'd see in a more traditional biopic.

From what I've read, Tony Kushner had a lot of trouble writing this screenplay, and I can understand why. He probably struggled to put his finger on exactly what aspects of Lincoln to delve into, and I'm also willing to bet that he was not all that happy with how his work turned out. It doesn't help that Kushner has mostly just written plays during his writing career and thus was probably more interested in writing dialogue than action. This happens a lot with playwrights who dabble in film and television. Even incredibly talented writers will fall into the trap of telling rather than showing simply because on stage, you don't have the freedom of cutting from scene to scene. I honestly think that if a different director read the script and told Kushner to, "Show, don't tell," Kushner would have apologized, agreed, and rewritten accordingly. But Spielberg made it work, and its unorthodox approach gives it an edge. A master's mark. The fact that Spielberg took a screenplay that most other filmmakers probably would have rewritten and elevated it into something amazing is a testament to his immense talent, which we are constantly reminded of and impressed by throughout the film. The most well-known filmmaker makes a film about the most well-known President of the United States  and somehow manages to make it feel wholly original, and a lot of that is thanks to the screenplay, or more specifically, Spielberg's decision to use it.

Beyond just the technical aspects of the film, it pretty much goes without saying that the acting is amazing. Daniel Day-Lewis, as I mentioned, captures the essence of Lincoln without depending on familiar phrases, mannerisms, or iconography. We almost never see him wearing the hat, we rarely see him give speeches, and the ones he gives are probably not the ones most Americans are familiar with. His voice is softer and higher-pitched than most people are used to (though obviously it is more historically accurate).

Oftentimes, actors and actresses who portray historical figures are often seen as Oscar-baiting, and perhaps with good reason. In a way, it's easier to portray a character based on a real individual since there's a great wealth of information for the actor to draw from to influence their performance. However, as easy as it may seem, it is actually very difficult to portray a character when you already have an image of that character in your mind. It is hard to lose yourself in a different personality when your mind instinctively believes this person to be a separate entity rather than a part of yourself. I used to act when I was a teenager and a lot of my more serious acting friends would often refuse to watch other performances of the plays or musicals we did simply because they didn't want to subconsciously influence their performance. However, when you are playing Abraham Lincoln, it's pretty much impossible to forget that he was a real person with very familiar mannerisms and traits and that you are not him. The difficulty, therefore, of portraying an historical figure is to make the audience believe that you are them without resorting to simple caricature.

So yes, Daniel Day-Lewis is definitely going to win an Oscar for this performance, and when he does, the cynics will use him as an example of the Academy favoring actors who play historical roles rather than actors who play original characters. While I don't wish to defend the Academy or deny this cynical assertion, I do wish to defend Daniel Day-Lewis' performance. He will win the Oscar not because he played Lincoln, but because he was Lincoln. The Lincoln he gave us was as far from caricature as you can get. He played Lincoln like a person who had never even heard of Lincoln before. He played Lincoln with such a fierce dedication and understanding and faithfulness to who he truly was that if anyone tells me that he doesn't deserve his accolades, I will smack them across the face.

I know I've already gone on for quite a while about this film, but there's one last thing that I love about this film. Specifically, I love how it depicts the political process. Despite the fact that Kushner's screenplay was mostly finished around the same time Obama took office, it's fairly clear that the current state of the American legislature shaped what eventually became the finished product. And it's not just from throwaway lines like, "When has the Republican Party ever unanimously agreed on anything?" or "I founded the Republican Party to be a conservative anti-slavery party," but by showing us a political process that felt simultaneously familiar and completely alien.

It is a strange cognitive dissonance. We see a House of Representatives filled with loud and boisterous movers and shakers, we see the Democrats as the party of racism and traditionalism and the Republicans as the party of progress, and we think, "Man, so much has changed." Then we see the Democrats obstinately denying the passage of the 13th amendment out of pure spite and political zeal and think, "Man, things haven't changed a bit."

In this time of year after a very long and heated election, it is easy for Americans to get discouraged with the democratic process. "Lincoln" does a lot to restore faith in the process, but not through naive optimism or stirring speeches that change the hearts of cruel men. No, we have our faith restored through cold calculation and corruption in the service of good. This film says, "Yes, even 'Honest Abe' was not above political schemes, bribes, and deceptions in the service of his political agenda," but it never forgets to remind us that, "His agenda was to end slavery."

Toward the end, when Lincoln is talking to the Confederate leaders who are upset about the 13th amendment (spoiler alert: Lincoln ends slavery), he tells them that blocking the ratification of the amendment is off the table and he subtly insinuates that if they wanted to affect U.S. legislation, maybe they shouldn't have seceded in the first place. The point being that, yes, sometimes the country can go in awful directions or sometimes just directions that we disagree with, but you can't win if you don't play. Yes, the political process is ugly, corrupt, slow, and stupid, but it's what we've got, and the good guys can bend the rules just as well as the bad guys can.

During the passage of Obamacare, I think a lot of Obama's supporters were disappointed with the results. I know I was. It felt like it was burdened with endless compromise, pages and pages of pork, never-ending debate, and even then, the Democrats had to pull an obscure rule to force it through without bipartisan support. I think a lot of us felt like they should have scrapped it and started over from scratch. Keep it simple, avoid the lobbyists, and vote for it when it's perfect. But what I eventually came to terms with over the past couple years was that Obamacare, despite all of its flaws, is better than nothing. Over the past several decades, almost every single elected President has promised health care reform as a part of their platform, regardless of the party they belonged to, and with minor exceptions regarding new programs for specific groups or problems within the system, they have all failed. If Obamacare was taken back to the drawing board, another proposal never would have been reviewed by Congress during this administration. Obama would have had one more failed promise, and it very well might have cost him the election. If Romney had won, he would have repealed Obamacare, and despite his insistence to propose a newer, better version of it, I guarantee you that if he did, it would have failed just like every other attempt to pass sweeping health care reform. The only way this kind of legislation was ever going to work was with compromise, political trickery, impenetrable legalese, and gallons and gallons of corruption. It may not be perfect, but as the saying goes, done is better than perfect.

In a way, this movie mirrors that process. Lincoln's administration does a lot of shady things over the course of the movie. They know that the main reason most white people support the amendment is because they believe it will help end the war, but without that motivating factor, ending slavery might not have happened for another generation. Lincoln wants the war to end, but he doesn't want it to end (or appear to be ending) before the passage of the amendment. The conservative Republicans will only support the amendment if they believe that the war shows no clear end in sight and that Lincoln is actively pursuing every opportunity to negotiate peace. The radical Republicans don't just want to end slavery, they want equal rights for all races, and it is difficult for them to pretend that they don't want this amendment to act as the first step in that direction. Lincoln has a moral obligation to the thousands who risk their lives on the field of battle, but he also has a moral obligation to the millions of slaves and freedmen that continue to face oppression. Beyond the ethical implications of stalling peace for the sake of political timing, we also see the administration flat-out bribing lame duck Democrats with jobs in order to win their votes.

Lincoln has to get down and dirty to help clinch the passage of the amendment, and the end result is perhaps not precisely what the radical Republicans (and the audience) would prefer. But as a character says towards the end of the film, "It's more than enough. For now."

It would have been nice for racism to have ended with one amendment over the course of two months, but it was simply unrealistic. What they managed to do was only a step, but the first step is often the hardest. Similarly, Obamacare is just a step. It might not work, but now that it is an absolute certainty that it will take full effect in 2014, politicians can no longer simply try and stop it. This ship is moving and it has passed the point of no return. It is going to happen, and when it does, we can finally stop talking about what Obamacare might do and finally see for ourselves what it will do. Then we can decide on what the next step to take is.

The often-forgotten promise of the Democratic experiment is the "experiment" part. We generally feel hesitant about legal experimentation because of what might happen, but we ignore the fact that laws can be changed or unmade just as easily as they can be made. We decide for ourselves what we want and reserve the right to change our minds at any moment in the future. Roughly 100 years ago, we outlawed alcohol. Then a few years later, we changed our minds. We tried something and it didn't work, so we stopped. Still, I'm glad that alcohol was outlawed for a brief period of time, because if they hadn't tried it, there would probably still be idiots proposing prohibition legislation to this day. If we didn't have historical evidence of our failed experiment in prohibition, those folks would never have shut up. Sometimes, the only way to convince someone of something is to roll the dice and see how things play out.

This was what Lincoln understood. Either they could have stood around and debated for years and years until the majority was convinced that slavery was evil, or they could have forced it down their opponents throats and shown them that America without slavery was a better America.

In other words: Show, don't tell.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall: Why James Bond Needs Aliens

I saw "Skyfall" and I don't really see any reason to do a proper review of it. I liked it, didn't love it, but pretty much anything I could say has been said elsewhere and probably better.

But I do have one major concern, and that's with the future of the Bond franchise.

You see, while I don't intend to spoil anything about "Skyfall" in this post, I will say that the film's major theme is in regards to whether or not James Bond still has a place in the modern world, and honestly, I'm not sure the film has a satisfying answer.

Classic Bond

If you've ever seen the older Bond films, you'd know that the majority of the films are... kind of silly. Despite the fact that Bond is constantly in life-or-death situations, he never acts it. He's unflappable, charismatic, and entirely cavalier.

This is, of course, a product of the times.

For the most part, people really didn't know anything about secret agents and spies other than what they learned from Bond stories. Though Ian Fleming himself had a great deal of firsthand experience in the military and the secret service, he obviously embellished a great deal for dramatic effect and definitely romanticized the experience a great deal.

However, as time went on, the patience for such things grew thin. The world was changing, our perception of the military was changing, action films were becoming more grounded and realistic, and the older style of the Bond films was starting to show its age.

I personally think the turning point was "Austin Powers", a series that more or less crystallized the Bond formula in loving parody. At that point, as a society, we finally understood how silly the Bond films were.

Then, in the early twenty-first century, the Bond franchise had a quadruple-whammy. In the same year, we got the last "Austin Powers" film, the first "Bourne" film, and the last Pierce Brosnan Bond film, "Die Another Day". And, of course, in 2001, setting the stage for all this, was 9/11. Suddenly terrorists, spies, and the secret service weren't so romantic and silly.

"Austin Powers" had not only driven a stake through the heart of the classic Bond formula, it had driven a stake through the heart of its OWN formula of parodying the Bond formula. Meanwhile, the sleeper hit, "The Bourne Identity", single-handedly changed the face of spy films in a way no one saw coming, resonating with a post-9/11 perception of war. Finally, in the middle of it all, "Die Another Day" showed an aging Brosnan perpetuating an aging concept with an unbelievably outdated formula that just no longer worked.


It was not surprising that when James Bond returned to the big screen in 2006, they decided to do away with the classic formula. Instead, they embraced the grim and gritty tone found in most modern spy films (most commonly compared to the "Bourne" movies).

I really liked "Casino Royale", mostly because it felt like an evolution of the character. A new beginning. He could go anywhere from there.

Then we got "A Quantum of Solace" and the pendulum swung way too far in the Bourne direction. There was essentially nothing recognizable left, and that was the biggest problem.

While pretty much everyone is in agreement that the Bond formula just does not work in a modern setting, by simply adopting the Bourne formula, there's nothing about "Quantum of Solace" that helps it stand out from the competition.

Then with "Skyfall", it felt like they found the balance. They kept the Bourne-style character-focused story, but they brought in a great villain, some of the more familiar elements of the franchise, and an attitude of "out with the old, in with the new". On top of that, the direction and style of the film stands on its own in a way that few Bond films have dared.

However, there's a problem.

Nowhere To Go But Down

"Skyfall" may have been aptly named because I don't think the series has ever been quite this ambitious, and yet, it has seemingly set the series up for an enormous fall. Maybe it's just me, but from my perspective, (again, not spoiling anything) this probably could have served as the LAST Bond film. Of all time. I'm serious. Yes, I know they full-well intend to keep going from here, but I can't imagine why (other than money and tradition of course).

The biggest reason (without mentioning spoilers) is that this film tries to reconcile the Bond of the old age with the Bond of the new age, and it definitely manages it convincingly within the context of the story.

There's one very cute scene that pretty adequately illustrates what I'm talking about.

Up until now, the Daniel Craig Bond films haven't had a new Q, mostly out of respect for the late Desmond Llewelyn, but also because the role of Q didn't really fit in with the new aesthetic. This new Bond was much more believable and ridiculous gadgets with disturbingly specific purposes didn't really fit.

However, in "Skyfall", we finally get a new Q, and he is played very well by Ben Wishaw.

In his first scene where he gives Bond his equipment, the equipment consists of a gun that with only work for Bond thanks to a palm print scanner and a remote tracking device. After presented with this, Bond says something to the effect of, "A gun and a radio. Not exactly Christmas, is it?" To which Q responds, "What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that sort of thing anymore."

Q's response is meant to be funny, but it also speaks to the film's larger theme of how the world has changed in regards to espionage, but more specifically (and subtextually) how the world has changed in regards to spy films.

This scene between Bond and Q perfectly encapsulates the tone of "Skyfall". We have a long-missing element of the Bond franchise coming back, but he's been transformed to fit into the new aesthetic. Then, as a nod to their roots, they make a joke about how simple these tools are when compared to some of the things used in earlier films. The exploding pen isn't even that old. It was in "GoldenEye". But the idea is that it would be ridiculous and that old stuff just doesn't fit into the way the world is perceived these days.

And no, I'm not saying that this perception is wrong. The fact is, we have these new Bond movies because "Die Another Day" was basically a testament to how the Bond formula just doesn't work in a modern setting. So they changed it to something that does work.

But the big problem is... now what?

So we've established that this new James Bond won't have crazy gadgets, ridiculous plot-focused stories, or lighthearted fun. OK, fine. But those aspects are basically what allowed the classic films to have such longevity. Viewers didn't go to each Bond film to see a progression in character, they went to see the new gadgets, the new cars, the new villains, the new setup, the new girls, etc. What this new series has done is effectively marginalized all of those elements. They might still be there, but they are either used specifically as nods or references or subverted entirely in service to a greater theme or story.

The thing is, there's nothing wrong with doing that. As I mentioned, that formula stopped working, so incorporating it without actually adhering to it is clever if you want to make an updated Bond film. However, in doing so, you are making a film that is entirely about Bond the character, not about Bond the self-insert audience-fulfillment adventure machine, and at this point, we've basically exhausted all of his angles as character.

Sure, at this point they've basically got all of the pieces in place to return to the familiar Bond formula, but the Bond formula simply would not work with the tone set for these new films. Anything that would fit this more realistic world would have to be something believable, and sadly, that can't make Bond stand out from the crowd of other Bourne knock-offs. And we can't just swing back to the old ways because "Skyfall" has been lovingly embraced by fans and mainstream moviegoers alike. If you hit the reset button again in order to return to the classic formula, it will be seen a disappointment.

So these are the options.

1) Continue the same way and end up with a movie that will inevitably be seen as inferior to "Skyfall" and make people question whether or not the series should proceed any further since the new Bond has too many limitations to stay fresh and interesting.

2) Revert back to the old ways to maintain the old formula but piss off all of the people who loved "Skyfall" and were completely on board with the new status quo.

3) Bring something unexpected into the mix. I'm not saying it's aliens, but...

It's Aliens

OK, maybe not aliens per se, but bear with me here. The fact is, now that "Skyfall" has basically firmly planted the Daniel Craig Bond aesthetic and made it commercially and critically successful, they can't change it. All of these serious people have to keep being serious and they have to keep using believable-ish tools for their missions. It has been established that the new Bond takes place in (essentially) the world we live in with no real variances, and any deviation from that would feel inconsistent.

But not if you throw in something completely unexpected and unprecedented that challenges the suspension of disbelief of the characters themselves.

The fact is, whenever we get a movie about government agents and aliens, it usually ends up being something that is quickly established in the movie and explained away. This would be your "Independence Day", your "Men In Black", or even your "District 9".

But if you had a traditional James Bond opening, but just before the credits, a fucking flying saucer lands and the VERY SERIOUS Daniel Craig and his VERY SERIOUS MI6 colleagues all stand completely flabbergasted, then you have something different.

Yes, it's ridiculous, but that's the point. We get to keep the Daniel Craig Bond-verse by having it act as the straight man to something else that is just plain ludicrous. The characters in this world are just as perplexed by this alien presence as we are and any wacky territory they enter into may feel out-of-place, but understandable. It will basically force Bond to lighten up a little. His trauma will seem much smaller when he's staring down the barrel of a plasma rifle.

To help make my point, let's examine the "Iron Man" franchise.

OK, obviously the Iron Man suit is science fiction, but the first two "Iron Man" films were very much steeped in a world that felt real. Still, they had basically reached about as far as they could without jumping straight into weird/wacky/campy territory. Thankfully, then we had "Avengers", and suddenly Tony Stark's world became much stranger. Now "Iron Man 3" can delve into pretty much whatever crazy shit it wants and we can explain it away by remembering that Tony Stark fought aliens in New York just a few months earlier.

So it doesn't HAVE to be aliens. It could be magic. Or time travel. Or parallel worlds. One friend of mine thought that the Cthulhu mythos could be a good fit.

We just need something completely out there so that Bond no longer feels limited by the tone of his world.

Otherwise, he's doomed to just muddle around the same familiar territory that had already been explored by many other action films rather than staking out his own new territory like the franchise used to do.

Also it would be the perfect opportunity to reveal that he is, in fact, a Time Lord, but I digress.

"Skyfall" is good, but as good as it is, they can't make every new movie a throwback to the old ways while justifying the new ways. That bit has now officially been played out. If you look at the story content alone, "Skyfall" was basically a really well-executed mash-up of "Mission Impossible", "Live Free or Die Hard", "The Dark Knight", and "Home Alone". Nothing about it feels particularly unique in style or substance, and that's a serious problem if they want this franchise to survive long into the future. Not every movie can be about Bond getting over his physical and psychological issues while lamp-shading how silly Bond films used to be, and if that's the only way these movies know how to bring Bond into a modern setting, then this bubble is set to burst.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

USA to Republicans: Get Over It

So I'm currently staying up waiting for the victory speech from Obama, and while I wait, I wanted to say something.

I'm not a staunch Democrat by any means. I'm very much socially liberal, but that's pretty much the only aspect that I'm definitely hard-liberal on. On my ballot today, I voted for Democrats, a Libertarian, and even a Republican (he was running unopposed, but still).

I'm getting the impression that the Republicans are blaming Romney for his loss in this campaign.

Sorry guys, but it wasn't his fault. It was your fault.

Even if Romney was not the right guy to nominate, he only got the nomination because literally every other potential nominee was either crazy or stupid. Why? Because your party has decided to be universally outspoken on social issues and that has been what has driven this country apart.

I'm just going to say this now. If you want to win my vote... if you want to win ANY votes you aren't already getting... you have to stop fighting for the social issues.

I'm not saying you have to change sides. I'm not saying you have to start supporting abortion or gay marriage or whatever, but you do have to stop making these issues part of your platforms. You have to stop fighting for them. America is no longer overwhelmingly white, male, straight, and Christian. Especially now that Puerto Rico might actually be our 51st state, you can't keep going like this. You just can't.

You want to win? Just focus on practical issues. Propose budget legislation that works. Propose revisions for Obamacare now that it definitely will not be repealed. Stop making public statements about "traditional Christian values" or whatever you think will win you those rural votes that clearly aren't enough anymore.

If you let the Democrats win the social issues, then the battle becomes much simpler. Right now a ton of people are voting for Democrats specifically because they believe that the Republicans want to roll us back to the social dynamics of the early 20th century. If you say that you're going to stop fighting against social progressives, you'll actually have a serious chance.

Gay marriage is going to be a thing now. Roe v. Wade is not going to be overturned (seriously, how many decades has it been?). People of color are not going to go back to being marginalized and disenfranchised.

And you know what? Get over it. We have bigger issues that are worthy of bipartisan discussion. If you genuinely want to get back to being the party of fiscal responsibility, then stop being the party you currently are.

OK, speech time. Good night and good luck.