Maybe it was the “Voldemort Votes Republican” bumper sticker I saw a few months ago. But as I watched the familiar cavalcade of wizards, Muggles and otherworldly beings in the enjoyably gothic and cloak-and-daggerish “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” I couldn’t help noticing an amusing political allegory.
After all, what’s the difference between modern politics and the dark arts that consume the aspiring magicians in “Harry Potter”?
It’s only form. Politicians may not have wands, magic power or cloaks. But that doesn’t stop them jockeying for power by any means necessary. Forging unholy compromises in the interests of passing a bill at any cost is no less distasteful to many of them than mixing a cauldron full of snake livers, bat wings and dried toads to make a spell.
And the rhetorical disingenuousness we’ve been hearing at Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings is no different from various deceptive tricks in wizardry.
When Sen. Jeff Sessions suggested Sotomayor is an activist for asserting that people are -- are you sitting down for this? -- informed by their life experiences, what was his real purpose? Protecting the Constitution from the wrong kind of Supreme Court Justice or political sleight of hand -- as fundamental as pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or giving a pig tail to an unwanted Muggle?
As the movie progressed, it became fun to connect each character in the movie with a contemporary counterpart in American politics.
President Obama would be Harry Potter, natch. He, too, finds himself involuntarily necklaced with the title of Chosen One. The expectations of an impatient, ever darkening world sit on his slender shoulders, too.
And as he contends with an intimidating swirl of problems from the recession to the need for health-care reform, he’s well aware his enemies are watching every move, praying for a misstep. Praying that the wand in his hand is just, well, another stick.
As for Hermione, Harry’s fiercely protective and highly verbal friend, that would be -- hands down -- Rahm Emanuel, the president’s Chief of Staff who relishes a good fight and has made salty language and combative tactics his stock and trade.
Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s goofy, sometimes bumbling sidekick? Surely that would be Vice President Joe Biden whose impulsive pronouncements on everything from the administration’s misjudgment of the economic downturn to avoiding public transportation in the wake of swine flu have set the White House on permanent nervous alert.
My favorite “Harry Potter” character is Severus Snape. As played brilliantly by Alan Rickman, he’s a black-attired enigma whose allegiance to the good or dark side remains a constant question. A few real life characters suggest themselves for this special category. How about Joe Lieberman, the former vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party who suddenly ran to the other side? He would have been John McCain’s running mate if he had nicer legs. Or Sen. Arlen Spector who defected to the Democrats rather than lose power?
One could even make a case for Hillary Clinton, who campaigned bitterly against Obama until the last possible political second -- and then some -- before she swore allegiance to him. For that she got the State Department. Nice work.
I’m obviously not the first one to equate Lord Voldemort with Vice President Cheney, whose latest brouhaha is that he urged the CIA to, uh, not mention a secret plan to assassinate or capture top leaders of al Qaeda. His enthusiasm for secrecy, his lengthy stays in that secure hidden bunker, and his apparent seriousness when he suggested voting for Obama amounted to aiding and abetting terrorism is the kind of cynical sorcery that would make any prince of darkness proud.
And how about that Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Voldemort's principal Death Eaters? As played by Helena Bonham Carter, she’s a beautiful woman given to sudden treacherous moves.
Hmmm, couldn’t she be Sarah Palin, who recently quit her governorship amid a swirl of vague, rambling reasons, one of which was to take her “fight for what's right -- for Alaska -- in a new direction”?
Yes, you can reverse the Democrat versus Republican allusions. Although who’d be Harry Potter in a Republican perspective? Bobby Jindal? And would Newt (suddenly that’s a meaningful first name) Gingrich be Albus Dumbledore, the force of conservative good?
One interesting point: In both cases, Lieberman works nicely as the morally ambiguous Snape. At any rate, this exercise made for a delicious daydream over my popcorn.
And it put a little extra zing into a summer movie, knowing that art and real life are never too far apart.