If you have not been to the movies in a while, it is time to experience the new electric reclining chairs in some theaters as you watch the electrifying movie about Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour. You can’t help but see the parallels with political events playing out today.
World War II is looming. The U.S. is shamefully still neutral. Hitler is marching across Europe and is on the verge of wiping out the entire British Army at Dunkirk – the entire British Army. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain has lost the confidence of his country and of parliament, and has weakened the country’s military standing, placing the world on the brink of accommodating Hitler’s socialist domination. (Chamberlain had signed in 1938 the Munich Pact with Hitler, giving Czechoslovakia over to the Germans. Chamberlain at the time declared that it brought “peace in our time.”)
At this moment, Winston Churchill is appointed Prime Minister after a vote of no confidence by Parliament on the leadership of Chamberlain. But many of the elite think that Churchill is a selfish, idiotic alcoholic without the sophisticated understanding to govern.
The movie artfully and accurately portrays the almost total isolation of Churchill among his cabinet, the disdain of King George, and the apparent hopelessness of the safety of Britain. At these rare moments in history, only the most remarkable and courageous among us, ready for a time such as this, step up to make unreasonable decisions that literally save the world from darkness and evil.
I couldn’t help but feel honored and privileged to be a witness to this event, sitting with Churchill and his cabinet in his underground war room.
But the movie also shows the unflappable shortcomings that Churchill persisted in throughout his time in office. After grudgingly being asked to be prime minister by the King, Churchill informs him that they cannot have their weekly meeting at 4pm because that is when he is napping. King George proclaims, “Is that allowed?” It is also remarkable just how much alcohol Churchill consumed on a daily basis – at least 20 ounces per day of scotch and Champagne. At one time, he seemed to be a blubbering fool, either drunk from overconsumption, or deeply despondent and conflicted in being pushed to the brink of negotiating a peace with Hitler. Fortunately, for the entire free world, he rejected the views of his entire cabinet and military leadership and declared that Britain would never surrender. The people and Parliament fell in behind him and the course of history turned.
The parallels with our current President can’t be ignored. Most notably, and one of the most inspiring parts of the movie for me was when Churchill evaded his own chauffeur, escaped to the subway, and held an impromptu town hall meeting in a subway car. The people were so crystal clear about the path ahead – fight on, never surrender – while the elite leaders were so confused.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Jeff Judson is a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute and former President of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The views expressed are his own and not that of the Heartland Institute.