Last month, the Washington Post ran an interview with Oscar winning Director Jonathan Demme. The subject: His documentary, “Jimmy Carter Man from Plains.” The Nation has long believed that Carter is the best ex-President this nation has had in the 20th century. If you’re sane, why wouldn’t you value and celebrate people who redeeem themselves with moral *and common sense* acts and ideas after they leave official power.

So, when Demme–who had the wise and good taste to spend some tough time on the road with “an ex-president {who} moves so much faster than” the rock and rollers he worked with (think Talking Heads in “Stop Making Sense” and Neil Young in “Heart of Gold”) –was asked if there were any other politicians he’d think would make a good documentary subject, who knew he’d give the name of one of my all-time favorite politicians? Maurice Hinchey!

Hinchey is one of the congresspeople you may never have heard of. (He representsNew York’s 22nd CD, which spans eight counties including the Hudson Valley.) He’s why I still have faith in the institution of Congress and the Democratic Party to do some good/ (usually if pushed and challenged..) As Demme put it, Hinchey is “this incredibly decent, well-informed, energetic American elected official. He’s a plain talker. We search vainly for anybody who speaks plainly in the Democratic Party.”

Hinchey is just that –a plain and straight talker. He is also one of the few in the party who make up what the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone (and, later, Governor Howard Dean) used to describe as “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” We need to retrieve and work with such people because, in the absence of radical reforms (which I also support) we need to work with the world as it is, with determined idealism and grounded realism, and Hinchey and his colleagues’ work (check out the Progressive Caucus, the largest and certainly the most inspiring caucus in this House) will determine whether we end this disastrous war, avert a catastoprophic strike on Iran, connect with the daily struggle of working people in this country and find a real 21st century remedy for the environmental crisis confronting us.

It takes a Jonathan Demme to see in a Maurice Hinchey– 68 -year old Navy veteran, and a passionate progressive who speaks fearlessly in defense of the constitution and a free and independent media– a boon to a wise filmmaker in search of a narrative.