Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Does It Have to Be Same Old Same Old?

There has been some pretty interesting television programming over the last few days. Last night we watched a documentary about Granny Haddock [ RUN GRANNY, RUN – on HBO… and it was OUR kind of film] , at age 89 had walked across NH to call attention to public funding for campaigns. At 94 she ran for the Senate against Judd Gregg (2004). She lost 34% to 66%. But the fact that she won more than 10% was in itself a great victory. None of the political big shots took her seriously, but the public did because she wasn’t a politician. She was a concerned citizen who saw a need. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

Coincidentally, Masterpiece Theater is running a five part series called “The Amazing Mrs. Prichard”. It’s a about a woman who manages a Wal-Mart type supermarket outside of London. It takes place in the present with Tony Blair leaving office and an election looming. Rosamund (Roz) is tired of all the political meaningless chatter, as well as the badly behaved perspective MP’s and she decides to run for office. She is the antitheses of political and, in the story, this newness resonates with the voters and she not only wins a seat, but becomes Prime Minister. Her husband admits he didn’t vote for her because he didn’t think she could handle or would want to handle all the tasks –like sending young men and women to war—that would be required of her. Interestingly enough, as she suffers the novelty of her campaign, this supposedly apolitical person. cuts deals with very political women who have become disenfranchised by the men in their different parties. So by the time of the election Roz has some pretty heavy duty experienced women pols on her team as advisors.

Back to the documentary about Granny. It was an inspirational accounting of one women’s outrage about campaign fundraising. But it was also heartbreaking because no one in her campaign, except her son, actually seemed to understand the need for contributions—big or small. At one point they need to decide if this 94 year old woman will saddle herself with insurmountable debt in order to run a TV ad. Her campaign manager refuses to take a cut in pay and to ask others to do the same, so she gets fired. She should have been tied to a stake and been made to eat the money. David and I were horrified by the lack of ability to raise enough money to first create an ad, and then to find enough funding to air it. I think it finally aired twice. I kept thinking, she’s a great candidate, where was the DNC or the DSC? If New Hampshire was that important in the overall Democratic Senate strategy, then why didn’t they send her some help. She actually got 34% of the vote with absolutely no resources. And if she had won we wouldn’t have to depend on the kindness of strangers—in this case Lieberman, for a majority.

Back to Mrs. Pritchard, with the accent on the second syllable. In this first program we meet her, she gets elected, finds out her husband pinched a young woman’s ass at a Christmas Party, in opposition to advice from her 14 year old daughter, curtsies to the Queen, has to decide if she will assist the French in a daring military raid, start to understand the depth of the job, and deal with all the politics—there’s more but that’s enough to chew on. OK, the circumstances and consequences are improbable, but I couldn’t help thinking, “If only that would happen here”. When I wrote my first book, “Schlepper”, the young female lead character eventually becomes the Chief of Staff to the President – and as impossible as that seems it was not so unlikely in the Clinton White House where there were so many young still starry eyed political wiz kids. And that’s what I like about this program. It is just close enough to something that by a fluke or whatever, might happen if people get really tired of same old same old. And it could have happened with Granny, only she needed some professional help and just couldn’t get it.

When Wes Clark ran for President in 2004 I went to one of his early organizing meetings. People, some of whom were political hacks, asked questions he would be asked during the campaign. These are often educational meetings where political junkies decide who they will support and candidates decide if they want to listen. Anyway, someone asked him what he thought about Gays in the military and he said “I think everyone should have the right to serve their country.” It was a great answer because it was not an answer to the question but it was an honest statement about civil rights. In the documentary, Granny is asked if she is in favor of gay marriage and she says “I am in favor of love”. A similar non answer but still a statement about the character of the candidate. Granny was not as quick on her feet or as slick as Judd Gregg but neither was she arrogant, dismissive or as rude as he. Why would the Democratic Party just leave her hanging? Is it because she would not buy into politics as a business. Or politics as a payoff. Did they think that because she was elderly and a bit zany (she wore silly looking hats) that she was less credible or serious? I still can’t figure it out but it was a real missed opportunity for the Party. If only she had gotten my phone number.

I expect there will be many pitfalls for Mrs. Pritchard. It is what makes good television My hope is that she succeeds in this unintentional win. That she continues to represent her constituency in a respectful and laudable way, that she takes her kids and dumps her husband and that it is not just same old same old. If only fairy tales (without the big bad wolves) could become a political reality. We’re just sayin…Iris

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