Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?
Let me set the scene: It’s 2004 and Dick Gephardt has just decided to retire after 28 years as a US Congressman and 2 failed Presidential bids. With Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District wide open for the first time in 28 years, and with Missouri’s 3rd as a heavily Democratic district, the real race was the primary, not the general election. 10 different Democrats decide to run for the chance to become a US Congressman. Among those running is Russ Carnahan, whose father was a former governor of Missouri, who died tragically in a plane crash, but was posthumously elected to the US House of Representatives, so his mother filled the seat. Carnahan was by far the front-runner in the race and it wasn’t even supposed to be a race to begin with.
Enter Jeff Smith, a 30-year-old African-American Studies professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Jeff was interested in politics and decided that it was time for a change. And with Gephardt retiring, there was never a better time to run. In addition to being young and idealistic, Jeff’s campaign was run by a group of early-twentysomethings. None of which have any political experience and some of which are still in college.
Jeff runs a very grass-roots campaign and surprises nearly EVERYONE in Missouri’s 3rd. I won’t go much further and spoil the ending for you, but even though I personally disagree with many of the things that Jeff stands for, he is an inspiring man and he ran an inspiring campaign.
In the end, this movie really made me think about politics and how it truly has become about what your name is and who you know rather than what you believe. Our country’s founding fathers intention was always that “public service” was to be something you did to serve. They never intended people to be “career politicians”. While there truly is something to be said for experience, I think it’s so much more important for regular people to represent others in our republic.
If you have any interest in politics or just enjoy documentaries, this is a quick (just 82 minutes), interesting film. (3 1/2 stars)