Pundits' Cultural Learnings Forget! I Say "Borat" Won Congress Last Tuesday!

In all the analysis of how and why the Dems did so well last week, no-one seems to have given Sacha Baron Cohen the credit he so richly deserves.

Consider: the entirely brilliant Cohen came out with "Borat" the weekend before the election. Before that scenes had been all over the Internet for a couple months. They reached tens of millions. Now, although that run-up promo didn't give us the real juicy stuff like Borat singing the Kazakh national anthem to the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner at a rodeo; or those obese, sweaty college dudes drooling prejudice with their Jack and suds, it was clear that this was going to be a movie uncompromising in its satire of Republican America.

Not America. REPUBLICAN America.

Whether it was the sweet-pertater-pie cooing of bourgeois Southern morons trying to coach Borat in the niceties of social intercourse or the Pentecostal pseudo-Christians ululating gibberish to bamboozle the gullible into 'cures for Jeezus', this movie was all about George Bush's base. I'd bet good money that a substantial number of the 2.4 million people who went to see it on its first weekend, were not necessarily going to vote Democrat two or three days later. I'd give the same odds that a substantial number of them were Republican-leaning or Independent voters who were expecting a mildly funny movie about a mad foreigner loose in America. Instead they were left helpless with laughter by an irresistible 'reality' satire of people who even if they were - officially - model Americans, said voters secretly believed to be bigots, prudes, hypocrites, thieves and assholes. An awful lot of what happened in the voting booths on November 7th was about non-Democrats voting their secret misgivings about Republican icons.

Sure a goodly portion of the hilarity was at the expense of Borat's rabid anti-Semitism; an anti-Semitism it might be recalled, that until less than a generation ago, was a sine qua non of any respectable right-wing Republican politician and still lurks in the shallow waters of rightwing Baptist and Evangelical souls. After all, that sweet lil' old NRA gun-shop owner suggests 'a nine-millimeter' would be best for killing Jews. Think he's a Democrat? And who knows? Perhaps George Allen, or at least his core voters, actually do believe that Jewish mothers lay eggs.

Both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, than whom none are more retrograde editorially, gave Borat raves for its savage social satire, calling Sacha's fearlessness in exposing his targets, the movie's greatest strength. The Post and the WSJ could hardly have missed who and what was being satirized; but they did this a few days before a critical midterm election.

It's entirely credible that this gut-churningly funny satire of the reddest of the red, boosted a couple million voters into the wild blue yonder. With razor-thin margins in so many Congressional races, "Borat" could have been all it took.

Sacha Baron Cohen not only proves once again that pound for pound, Jews are the funniest people on the planet, he also reaffirms a tradition of uncompromisingly savage social observation that stretches from Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl to Jon Stewart and which while not exclusively Jewish (Terry Southern and George Carlin spring to mind) is still overwhelmingly so. Thank God for it and long life to it.

Let's hope young Sacha is planning something just as juicy for the fall of 08.