One of the benefits and curses of constitutional democracy is that we must continue to conduct campaigns and elections.
The 2022 midterm elections are over. Municipal elections will be held in many areas in his April of this year. And whether you’re ready or not, the 2024 presidential election is about to plunge into what political analysts call an “invisible primary.”
Most of us have no plans to campaign in 2023 or 2024. But in Colorado and across the United States, candidates and campaign staff are gearing up for the next election.
Candidates are not required to attend spring training camp or Kaplan’s readiness mentoring program. Campaigning for public office is typically a do-it-yourself job with lots of on-site training and improvisation. The best way to prepare for a campaign is to have worked on someone else’s previous campaign.
Another way is to binge on classic Hollywood campaign and election movies. It also helps you find the right documentary that captures the essence of the campaign over the decades.
Here are some of these informative and often entertaining movies. First Hollywood movie:
the last hurray (1958)
Based on Edwin O’Connor’s award-winning 1956 novel of the same name, the film was directed and produced by the legendary John Ford and starred acclaimed actor Spencer Tracy.
The film’s title refers to the final run of fictional Mayor Frank Skeffington, who ran for mayor of a city like Boston. Skeffington is loosely but precisely based on Boston’s colorful rogue Mayor James Michael Curley, in Massachusetts where he held many political offices for over 40 years.
This is a movie about old-fashioned ethnic and tribal campaigns. Sponsorship is important. A transaction is made. Wards (political divisions of the city) are organized. Wakes and funerals are important political events. There are financial rebates and grafts involved.
Both political pleasures and vices are explained. Campaigning is exciting, but as the film makes clear, politics isn’t for the faint-skinned, the timid, or the overly serious.
The film is dated and slow-paced in places, but it’s a valuable introduction to the rituals and rituals of big-city American politics.
best man (1964)
Based on Gore Vidal’s hit Broadway play, the film is set on the final day of the national nominating convention for President of the United States.
Only a few candidates have survived to this point. It appears to be a showdown between a principled, idealistic Secretary of State named William Russell (played by Henry Fonda) and the hot-tempered and charming US Senator Joe Cantwell. These two are fictional composites, but Russell has some of Adlai’s Stevenson traits and Cantwell has some of Richard’s Nixon traits.
Both candidates seek the endorsement of the party’s incumbent president. But both candidates have pasts. Russell was a womanizer and had a nervous breakdown. There are rumors that Cantwell may have had brief homosexual relationships during his military service.
The incumbent president wants to endorse the winner, but has doubts about both of the front-runners. The former president worries that Russell lacks the backbone and political dexterity needed for his job, but the former president fears Cantwell is too ruthless.
It’s a surprise that Merwin, a very bland governor, nodded and was nominated. Viewers are left wondering if “best man” has been tossed out during the frenzied final days of this exhilarating yet exhausting political convention. At the end of the film, the convention delegates chant “Merwin, Merwin”.
This is a cynical, irreplaceable, timeless political film.
This Hollywood classic stars Robert Redford as a handsome, idealistic, environmentalist attorney running for Senate in California. Young Bill McKay, the son of a former governor, hates politics and the cliches and falsehoods that surround his profession.
An enterprising campaign consultant convinces McKay to take on a long-entrenched conservative incumbent. They persuaded McKay that although he would probably lose, this would be a good way to further his “green” agenda. On the other hand, consultants know they can make a lot of money by managing campaigns for this novice and adaptable candidate.
McKay allows himself to be groomed and packed by his handler. The attention of being in the spotlight fascinates McKay and complements his ego. His handlers remake him into something more middle-of-the-road than he really is.
Somewhere along the way, our handsome knight becomes a “politician.” The film suggests that candidates and their election administrators make many adjustments to win an election.
Redford puts in a first-class performance. The movie is very simplistic—a young good guy and an old reactionary bad guy. We do not get information about who is funding these campaigns. The movie falls short of explaining campaign finance.
But the political lessons here are many. The young good man wins, but at that point he’s unsure what the race actually was.In the famous movie’s final lines, McKay campaigns to his manager, “What are you going to do now?” ?”
primary color (1998)
Award-winning journalist Joe Klein wrote a fictional story about Bill Clinton’s 1991-92 campaign for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. It was made into a movie.
Clinton was an underdog, but he served as Governor of Arkansas for 11 years. He graduated with honors from Georgetown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He then graduated from Yale Law School.
Governor Jack Stanton is a fictional candidate for Klein. We see his campaign in the New Hampshire presidential primary and the Florida primary. He’s bright and charming, but he has quite a bit of “political baggage.” Stanton, like Clinton, has been accused of having extramarital sex and avoiding draft during the Vietnam War.
The value of the film is its close look at campaigns, election debates, radio and television interviews, especially the interactions between election advisers and candidates. Jack Stanton seems to thrive in the chaos, but somehow turns into a likeable rogue as he grapples with policy issues, his rival candidates, the media, and the paradoxical life he led. Become.
Joe Klein had to imagine what happened behind closed doors, but what he’s saying seems almost believable.
Actor John Travolta does a great job playing the Clinton look-alike. Actress Emma Thompson is equally compelling as a resentful but complicit political wife.
The film captures the glories and debauchery of modern political life. A college student who watched the movie with us was appalled by Stanton, but admitted that he probably would have voted for him, including his shortcomings.
A true candidate, Bill Clinton took many breaks during the 1992 presidential campaign. His wife supported him, and popular New York Governor Mario Cuomo decided not to run. In the general election, billionaire independent candidate Ross Perot decided to run as a fiscal conservative. So basically he had two Republicans fighting Clinton in his three-way race. Despite his shortcomings, Clinton easily won the White House.
Since the 1950s, documentary filmmakers have covered presidential elections. Here are some worth noting:
Primary 1960 (1961)
Senators John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey campaign against each other in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary. It’s like a home-made video, but useful.
Making of the President 1960 (1963)
It depicts the extremely close race for president between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960.
war room (1993)
A clever documentary about Bill Clinton’s senior campaign advisers and how they crafted a winning strategy for the 1992 presidential election. Colorful strategist James Carville joins communications director George Stephanopoulos. Both of them became popular television news commentators in the years that followed.
This is a Mitt Romney-friendly documentary that introduces former Massachusetts Governor and current Utah Senator and his family. It reveals the decisions Romney made in both his 2008 and his 2012 presidential campaigns (both unsuccessful). Romney and his father were popular as governors of Michigan in the 1960s and were prominent traditional Republicans for the past 60 years.
Mayor Pete (2021)
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has run as an unlikely candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He went up against his two millionaires and several well-known billionaires, placing him first in the Iowa caucus and second in the New Hampshire primary.
This is a Pete Buttigieg pro-movie that shows why he has earned a respectable following and a Cabinet position (Transportation) in the Joe Biden presidency.
Both this and the Romney documentary are informative.
After watching these movies, you’ll probably make sure you’re not running for any office. At the very least, you’ll understand the extremely difficult obstacle course we put our electoral candidates through.
Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write about Colorado and national politics.