Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CORRECTION- Political Campaign Docs

In my search for a conservative Congressional Campaign documentary I happened to come across So Goes the Nation. This film follows the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. What is unique about this film is that is features input from people at every level of the campaign on both sides. I highly recommend this film to politcos out there. Interesting to see where Dem's improved and the GOP dropped the ball from 2004-2008.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Political Campaign Documentaries

As a Poli Sci maor studying in Washington, D.C. (soon to be London for a bit) my Netflix queue has of late been dominated by political documentaries following candidates for office. Two of the best films were Street Fight, which focused on the 2002 Mayoral Candidacy of Cory Booker in Newark, NJ, and Can Mr. Smith Still Go to Washington. The latter of these films focused on the 2006 candidacy of Jeff Smith in the Democratic Primacy for the St. Louis Congressional Seat vacated by the retiring Dick Gephardt. These films provide an inside look at the upper level organization of campaigns that most political volunteers and even operatives at higher levels have little access too. The chance to gain an inside look at the decision making process behind how a candidate operates their campaign is invaluable in examining the positive and negative aspect to a given campaign.

Street Fight focused on Newark City councilman Cory Booker. A Stanford educated attorney turned politician whose focus on improving the living conditions in Newark brought him into contention with six term incumbent Mayor Sharpe James and the Democratic machine of New Jersey. Booker, a fellow Democrat, challenged what he say as the perpetual poverty in Newark, the inaction of Mayor James, and the cut throat nature of Newark Politics. Running on the change platform that would later form the basis of Barack Obama's historic Presidential Campaign, Booker ran into unexpected issues with race. Although both candidates were African American James attempted to portray Booker as a "race traitor" who was taking money for Republican donors. In the end Cory Booker came up just three thousand votes short of overthrowing the dominion of Sharpe James. James utilized thousands of imported campaign volunteers, racial tensions, and outright intimidation to beat Booker. In 2006 Booker chose to run again and James opted out of re-election, Councilman Booker carried the election with nearly 70% of the vote. Booker later became famous due to his feud with Conan O'Brien that resulted in Conan being banned from entering Newark City Limits.

Can Mr. Smith Go to Washington Anymore is a modern nonfiction play on the classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starring James Stewart. The documentary aims to examine whether or not a political outsider can realistically run for Congress. Attempting to claim to seat held by the retiring Rep. Dick Gephardt. charter school founder Jeff Smith is seeking the Democratic nomination for this Congressional seat. An educational profession who has charted a number of schools targeted at improving the quality of minority education. Going up against the Missouri Carnahan dynasty Smith places meeting as many of the people in the district as possible. Despite raising a large amount of money and building up quite a bit of momentum Smith was unable to wrest the Democratic nomination from Russ Carnahan. Smith, although he was not unable to win the nomination, has not retreated from the public sphere. Instead he made an unsuccessful bid for the State Senate and plans another Congressional run.

In addition to being fascinating looks at the political process in the United States, these two films have a few other things in common. Both campaigns were unsuccessful and both candidates were democrats. Unsuccessful campaigns are actually better case studies for modern American politics as they show the level of devotion it requires to come even moderately close to winning a major election today. Furthermore inside information within the campaign is not at a premium in a losing effort as it will not be necessarily employed in a reelection bid in two or four years. As for the focus on Democrats I am at a bit of a loss. You could argue that film makers are more likely to be Democrats and that the use of documentary film is a progressive technique. I think however, that the main reason Republicans have been reluctant to adopt this technique is chronic short sightedness. By not seeing that even in defeat a campaign can result in a positive outcome republicans have compounded their mistakes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So earlier this week I took the plunge and went to see James Cameron's Avatar. Cameron has quietly been working on this project, and more importantly the technology required to produce a 3-D epic. The result is stunning from a production point of view. By far the most compelling 3-D film I have ever seen, Avatar delivers where all other films utilizing this technology have fallen short, instead of appearing cheesy the use of 3-D enhances the things that we already love about epic blockbusters. The colors are more vivid, the exotic creatures of the planet Pandora more lifelike, and the battle scenes more intense.

The technology works so well in this film because it is effectively coupled with an incredible story. Avatar tells the story of Jake Sully a parapelgic former marine who is sent to the planet in place of his twin brother to serve as an "Avatar Driver" a human being whose consciousness is transferred to a genetically modified body created from a mix of human DNA and that of the Native Navi. I was blown away. This film was a tremendous ride and I literally was speechless for the duration. What makes this film especially poignant was the fact that it raised a number of prominent issues well above the pay grade of your typical sci-fi action adventure story. Specifically, the film challenges the relationship between the earth and humanity, consumerism, the god of the profit margin, and most importantly Avatar questioned what we deem important in our every day lives.

Without giving anything away I will simply say GO SEE THIS MOVIE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Hill

Today is my last day in Congresswoman Mary Fallin's Office. Can't believe how fast this internship went. Its pretty cool walking past the Capitol on your way into work each day. More than that however I really lucked out. Having the opportunity to get a first hand look at the operation of the legislative branch of the United States government was incredible. Matching the concepts I was learning in my Congressional Studies course to the practical realities of the House of Representatives was invaluable to my overall understanding of how Congress works. Moreover it is always nice to be able to match faces to nameless terms and job descriptions. Although I am not sure if I will ever work on the Hill after graduation, it is definitely an option I will consider. Essentially a blend of public policy and legislative knowledge staff work on the Hill can be fascinating. However, just like all jobs it can also be slightly monotonous. For me I think I would try to find a candidate to work for and then ultimately serve as staff for their DC office. I can imagine the work becoming a bit tedious if you fail to connect that work with the overall mission of the Congressperson or ideology.

Regardless, I will certainly miss coming to work each Tuesday and Thursday in Longworth 1432 and all the people there. I wish Congresswoman Fallin the best of luck in her gubernatorial bid and thank her for the opportunity.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pictures for Last Post

Finals, Resignations, and an Impending Hop Across the Pond

So truth be told I starting this blogging project as I knew I would be going overseas to study and participate in an internship in London. I will taking classes through the University of Leeds and working for MP Nigel Waterson ( in the House of Commons. Waterson represents Eastbourne, Willingdon, and East Dean and also serves as Shadow Minister for Pensions and Older People. Right off the bat the term Shadow Minister is much cooler than Ranking Member, the typical designation for minority committee leads, and I think we in the former colonies should put some consideration into this. Also "Older People" instead of Senior Citizens is incredibly British and I like it nonetheless.

In preparation for this I have decided to step down from the positions I hold on campus because I would not be able to properly execute the duties of these offices from overseas. Resigning from College Republicans was bittersweet. Although I am incredibly excited to go abroad this is something I have put alot of time into and something that is near and dear to my heart. CR's was the first thing I got involved in upon arriving at CUA, and truth be told the first thing that made me realize I made the right choice of schools. I know they will continue to do a great job and I can't wait to get back and help them take back PA from Paul Kanjorski and Arlen Specter. We worked PA-11 two years ago for Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazelton, PA and came up just three points short. I'd like to graduate knowing we sent him to Congress.

Last night I stepped down as Student Life Chair for CUA's Student Government. I have held this post since the General Assembly was founded in the Spring of 2008. Although I wish I had more time this year to continue to work towards the betterment of the student experience I am pleased to know that they are in excellent hands and are all capable of doing great things. Tonight I will be stepping down from the General Assembly as a Delegate for the class of 2011. I have truly appreciated the confidence my class has placed in me and I promise to remain involved while away.

The backdrop for all this resignation drama is finals week at The Catholic University of America and me feverishly packing my stuff to fly home on the 19th (I should get on finding a flight about now).........Ok flight taken care of. I guess the reason I am blogging this out right now is that this is all happening very quickly. I am so excited to go to the United Kingdom but still I can't help but realize I am gonna miss this stuff that I have been doing for the last two and a half years. Some people may not get it but these campaign trips, late night meetings, running around frantically to set events up, dueling with the administrations, have been some of the highlights of my collegiate career.