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Voting and Elections

The films All the King’s Men and Primary Colors portray the reality of campaign politics in America. Elections are indeed the highlight of any political systems, as it is when interactions and power plays are most evident. Although the two movies were crafted decades apart, the similarities – in how campaign and elections is being done and viewed – are truly striking. Both films illustrate the tainted nature of political campaigning, as there seems to be a natural corrupting nature to it.

For instance, in the process of his rise to power in All the King’s Men, Stark began to lose sight of his goals and principles, and resorts to the usual mudslinging and meaningless campaigns. This nature of electoral politics is also clearly portrayed in Primary Colors, where elections are marred by controversies and intrigues hounding presidential-candidate Stanton. The important actors in any elections are the candidates, the campaign staff, and the voters themselves. The candidates are expected to project an image that is respectable and believable, and this image should be enhanced by the campaign staff.

It would be the voters who would make the decision on how effective these campaign strategies are, as all efforts are directed towards them. The campaign managers have the crucial task of maintaining the momentum of the candidate, and to continually remind the public of the positive past and future efforts of their patron. The voters should hence decide prudently on whom to choose among those running for office. The idea of elections seems simple indeed, but reality is more pessimistic than this, as was shown in the two films.

In the effort to accomplish their goal – which is to win – these political actors would take part in the web of deceit and corruption. Elections therefore are portrayed as negative in these movies, as politics takes a dirty form in the effort to gain power and office. The film does capture the reality of elections in this country. It is in fact unfair to claim that all elections are marred by negative means of campaigning, but dirty elections has become so frequent and regular that one would not wonder why the public has such disdain towards politics.

The characteristics of the text-book elections are clearly shown in the two movies. For instance, there are the grand speeches and the stage/TV antics that would aim to endear the voters to the candidates. These are discreetly and slowly being complemented by subtle hits directed to the opponent, which would in time turn into full-blown black propaganda. After which comes the exposure of countless skeletons that would result to massive controversies and intrigues. These things are noticeable not only in the movies, but also in the way we are going about our elections today.

Candidates from both parties are frequent throwing accusations to one another, and digging the secrets of the other’s past. Even among party members, like Obama and Clinton, who are expected to share the values of the party, are even viewing each other as enemies. In fact, candidates at all government levels can be prone to such kind of campaigning. It is no wonder that films like All the King’s Men and Primary Colors would have such pessimistic view of elections.

After viewing the two films, I am more resistant to the idea of running for government office. As was seen in the films, even the most well-meaning and innocent people can be prey to the corrupt nature of the system. The innocent and passionate Stark became a notorious and heartless official; the respected Stanton became the target of mudslinging and dirty campaigning. Of course, I can say that I would want to run for office for the intention of reforming the system from the inside, but this objective seems to be extremely difficult, even impossible.

For me, contributing to change could be more effective as a citizen, rather than as a government official. I can join lobby groups or non-governmental organizations, and maintain the passion for reform that I have. I fear that when I do participate in the type of campaign that we have right now, then I would be compromising my own principles. In conclusion, the two movies All the King’s Men and Primary Colors, although their timeframes are decade apart, show what politics is in its barest form.

Elections are in fact a tool to gain and maintain power, which can corrupt even the most sincere official, as in the cases of Stark and Stanton. Also, it is the event that exposes the darkest of the candidate attitudes and intentions, and considers no exception to this harsh power play. Indeed, the room for reflection is rich and clear. Electoral and campaign reforms should be premium in our agenda to make politics in America more palatable than it is now. Elections should be a time that would affirm our democracy, and not the time for mudslinging and dirty politics.

Indeed, this dirty politics is what we can observe even at this very moment, in the campaign tactics of Democrats and Republicans – with each other and even among party members. If the way campaign is conducted would be an opportunity to corrupt the personalities of the candidates, then truly the need for reform is immediate. Elections should be the time of healthy competition and collective development – characteristics that are opposite to what the movies portray.


All the King’s Men. (1949). Primary Colors. (1998).

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