"Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore"
I live in a democracy, but sometimes it doesn't feel like I do. For instance, I'm a registered New York Democrat, but I can't remember the last time a Democratic presidential primary was still "live" by the time it came around to my state. I had no choice but to jump on the John Kerry bandwagon in 2004, and now I'm being told to throw my hopes behind Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for 2008, despite the fact that I'd much prefer to see a wider selection of choices.
The conventional wisdom says fundraising win elections, but the practical result of this is that corporations and private interests are "deciding" our primaries for us. Why are we allowing this to happen so blatantly, and what happened to the great American ideal that we (we, the people) run this country? This is no small issue, and that's why I bet every single person who watches the new Independent Lens documentary "Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?" will root for Jeff Smith, a 29-year-old underdog fighting to win a Democratic party primary in St. Louis, Missouri, to win his difficult race.
Political campaign documentaries are always fun to watch (I think so, anyway), and this show has its peculiar appeals, including an earnest and smart lead candidate whose untrained voice has an unfortunate habit of squeaking during campaign speeches. He's clearly unpolished, and the fact that he sometimes resembles a young Jerry Lewis doesn't help. We see him struggle to define his own positions when facing tough opponents, and during one comically bad voter dialogue he tries to reassure a pro-life neighbor that they can "solve this abortion problem" if they can only fix education. Jeff Smith clearly needs to nail down his positions a bit tighter (but, then again, so does Barack Obama).
Fortunately, Jeff Smith has many strong points to balance his youthful awkwardness, and I do believe he has a bright future in politics. He's especially good at motivating and connecting with his staff of young St. Louis hipsters, who all cry unabashedly in the show's final scene. But I won't tell you why they are crying; you'll have to watch and find out for yourself.