Popcorn Populism and a Kernel of Truth

08/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Okay, so it wasn't perfect. Big deal. In this country, these days, not-perfect gets you a book deal and a talk show.

Or a movie -- in this case, a less-than-perfect movie that I rather liked. And I'm not just saying this because Arianna makes a cameo appearance.

The premise of Swing Vote -- a presidential election coming down to one man's vote in the vital state of New Mexico -- is no more absurd than that of a lot of films, like, say, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Flimsy or no, it bears a weightier civic message. Pity there were only three other people in the theater seeing it with me.

Near the film's end, Kevin Costner's character, Bud Johnson, reduces all the funny, acidulous and slapstick bits into a question to the presidential candidates that should be the very first one asked at the first real-life presidential debate -- if the moderator has the nerve to ask it:

If this is the richest country in the world, how come so many of us can't afford to live here?

In the film, we get a fadeout instead of a response. In the real world, we deserve an answer.