Charlie vs. Goliath: Movie poster
Charlie vs. Goliath Release Year: 2017 Director: Reed Lindsey Running time: 80min Watch trailer

“The amount of mon­ey you raise is a mir­ror to your chances of win­ning” an elec­tion, says for­mer Wyoming Sec­re­tary of State Kathy Karpan in 2016 doc­u­men­tary “Char­lie vs. Goliath.”

Charlie vs. Goliath: Movie poster
Char­lie vs. Goliath
Release Year: 2017
Direc­tor: Reed Lind­sey
Run­ning time: 80min
Watch trail­er

That’s a mir­ror worth smash­ing, adages of bad luck be damned.

“Char­lie vs. Goliath” fol­lows the 2014 US Sen­ate cam­paign of Char­lie Hardy, who refused to believe that mon­ey would ulti­mate­ly deter­mine if he won or not. Hardy was the Demo­c­ra­t­ic, under­dog can­di­date to 3‑term incum­bent Repub­li­can Mike Enzi.

As not­ed in the film, Enzi him­self isn’t Goliath, it’s the sys­tem that he rep­re­sents and which sup­ports him that is the true opponent.

Hardy ran a grass­roots cam­paign that refused to take mon­ey from PACs or cor­po­ra­tions. While this earned him respect and the moral high ground, unfor­tu­nate­ly it is mon­ey that real­ly has the impact on votes these days.

Hardy raised just $62,468 for his cam­paign, com­pared to $3.3 mil­lion for Enzi. But all of Hardy’s mon­ey was donat­ed by indi­vid­u­als, where­as the vast major­i­ty of Enzi’s dona­tions were from PACs, many of which weren’t even in Wyoming.

The sto­ry of Hardy’s cam­paign is the sto­ry of every­thing that is both best and worst about Amer­i­can campaigns.

The best of it is seen in the moments shared among Hardy and his vol­un­teer cam­paign staff of three, all of whom are essen­tial­ly liv­ing out of a 1970 school bus as they criss­cross the state going to small town parades and town halls.

Hardy is a for­mer priest in his mid-sev­en­ties who seems easy to like as he has con­ver­sa­tions with folks through­out Wyoming. He has con­cern for the every­day peo­ple who are strug­gling to get by in a job mar­ket dom­i­nat­ed by the ser­vice sector.

Part­ly out of eco­nom­ic neces­si­ty, Hardy’s cam­paign hinges on how many peo­ple he can con­nect with direct­ly, as he does not have the funds for TV or even radio ads. Yet his oppo­nent Enzi runs plen­ty of TV ads with his pock­ets full of PAC money.

But it is not just Hardy’s lack of cam­paign mon­ey that holds him back; in solid­ly-con­ser­v­a­tive Wyoming, the mere fact that he is a Demo­c­rat is a giant bar­ri­er in itself.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ couldn’t get elect­ed if he ran in Wyoming today as a Demo­c­rat,” said Karpan, in per­haps the most hilar­i­ous­ly hon­est state­ment in the film.

While that may be true, shouldn’t our sys­tem of elec­tions at least give every can­di­date a chance to be judged based on thi­er clues, posi­tions, and yes, their par­ty, with­out the amount of mon­ey they have pre­vent­ing them from even get­ting their name and ideas out there?

That’s the ques­tion we must address, and soon, if we want to main­tain our democ­ra­cy. Pas­sion­ate, prin­ci­pled can­di­dates like Hardy should be the norm, and not imme­di­ate­ly at a dis­ad­van­tage because of big mon­ey pol­lut­ing our elec­tion environment.

Anoth­er inter­est­ing aspect of “Char­lie vs. Goliath” is the afore­men­tioned cam­paign staff. Pro­vid­ing the 1970 bus for Hardy’s cam­paign was his cam­paign man­ag­er, Bruce Wilkin­son. He quit his job in Olympia, WA and came out to Wyoming, bring­ing along a few of his friends to vol­un­teer on Hardy’s campaign.

If we want to see pro­gres­sive cam­paigns have suc­cess across the nation, pro­gres­sives in solid­ly blue areas need to step up and help out in areas that are not. I’m not say­ing every­one needs to quit their jobs and go to Wyoming and live in a bus on the cam­paign trail for 6 months. But we can and should donate to pro­gres­sive cam­paigns in areas where the path to vic­to­ry is more chal­leng­ing than it is in West­ern and urban parts of Wash­ing­ton and Oregon.

Make a point of engag­ing with friends and fam­i­ly who live in less pro­gres­sive areas. If they are pro­gres­sive, ask them how you can help sup­port them in work­ing on cam­paigns in their area.

If they are not nec­es­sar­i­ly pro­gres­sive but are move­able, talk to them about your pro­gres­sive val­ues and how they apply to the issues in their area.

If you are going on vaca­tion to an area where pro­gres­sive cam­paigns are strug­gling, get in touch with a local cam­paign office before you go and see if you can sign up for a vol­un­teer shift or two for while you are there. These actions may seem small, but if we all com­mit to do these things, we can have a large impact.

I am from Pull­man, in east­ern Wash­ing­ton. Despite Pull­man being fair­ly pro­gres­sive (it may be in a rur­al area, but it is a uni­ver­si­ty town and there­fore has a decent pop­u­la­tion of pro­gres­sive folks), the sur­round­ing area is not, and rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the state and fed­er­al lev­el is con­sis­tent­ly conservative.

But this year, the race for Wash­ing­ton’s 5th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict is look­ing like it is going to be com­pet­i­tive, with for­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Sen­a­tor Lisa Brown chal­leng­ing 6‑term incum­bent Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers.

The nation­al GOP has allo­cat­ed resources to help defend the seat, some­thing they have not done in recent mem­o­ry, show­ing their con­cern about McMor­ris Rodger’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. I’ve already donat­ed to Brown’s cam­paign, and post­ed on Face­book chal­leng­ing my oth­er friends who grew up in Pull­man to do the same.

If you don’t have ties to con­ser­v­a­tive dis­tricts and aren’t sure where to donate, you could donate to state or nation­al lev­el orga­ni­za­tions that sup­port pro­gres­sive can­di­dates, or research what seats are being tar­get­ed most by pro­gres­sives this year and sup­port those. (Note that we can’t offer guid­ance on who to donate to or vol­un­teer for, as NPI does not endorse can­di­dates for office or get involved in elec­tion­eer­ing for or against any candidate.)

In Wash­ing­ton, for instance, there are two oth­er Con­gres­sion­al seats that pro­gres­sives are try­ing to flip from Repub­li­can to Demo­c­ra­t­ic in the Novem­ber elec­tions, in addi­tion to oust­ing McMor­ris Rodgers.

One is the seat that Dave Reichert is vacat­ing, Dis­trict 8, stretch­ing from Issaquah and Auburn across the moun­tains to Wenatchee and Ellens­burg. There are eight Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates at the moment, one of whom will like­ly face Dino Rossi in the gen­er­al elec­tion, the only Repub­li­can to have entered the race yet.

Dr. Kim Schri­er seems to be the Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ner. She has raised the most mon­ey so far and has a key endorse­ment from EMI­LY’s List, a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to help­ing pro-choice, Demo­c­ra­t­ic women get elect­ed to pub­lic office.

Also being tar­get­ed is the 3rd Dis­trict in south­west Wash­ing­ton, which includes the cities of Van­cou­ver, Cen­tralia, and Gold­en­dale. There are cur­rent­ly four declared Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lengers to incum­bent Jaime Her­rera Beutler.

In addi­tion to these tan­gi­ble con­tri­bu­tions of time or mon­ey to cam­paigns in less pro­gres­sive areas, there is also the arguably more chal­leng­ing work of bridg­ing the divide between the west coast of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon and the Inland North­west, between urban and rural.

Our local issues may be dif­fer­ent, but they are often linked togeth­er, and not just because we are all fight­ing for shares from the same pot of state resources. If we can all take the time to learn more about each oth­er, our sim­i­lar­i­ties and the things we share, not just the things that make us dif­fer­ent, we can all work togeth­er more effec­tive­ly for a more pros­per­ous state, region, and nation.

Reed Lind­say, direc­tor of “Char­lie vs. Goliath” and I exchanged emails on this top­ic as I was work­ing on writ­ing this review.

“Per­haps that’s a role the film could play in places like Seat­tle, Port­land, etc.” he wrote. “There may be a need for a com­ing togeth­er of the blue(r) parts of the West with the red parts of the West. There should be more col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion because we share the same land and the same rivers and the same prob­lems even if we face dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions. (And of course huge parts of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon are the same polit­i­cal­ly to Ida­ho and Wyoming.)”

Watch­ing footage of Hardy and his team of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans on the cam­paign trail talk­ing to a lot of tra­di­tion­al­ly con­ser­v­a­tive folks in Wyoming is inspir­ing and dis­heart­en­ing at the same time, because they have such a great spir­it and a pro­gres­sive mes­sage, but you know the cam­paign is ulti­mate­ly doomed to fail due to the lack of fundrais­ing. It should not be this way.

Says Lind­say, “Char­lie is one of the most hum­ble, earnest, trust­ing and ide­al­is­tic peo­ple I have ever met — the exact oppo­site of what it takes to win a fed­er­al elec­tion in this coun­try… It is my hope that Char­lie’s sto­ry, as told through this film, will inspire many oth­ers, in this coun­try and beyond, to fight against mon­ey in pol­i­tics or to take oth­er actions to make the world a bet­ter place even when the odds seem exceed­ing­ly long.”

“Char­lie vs. Goliath” does not cur­rent­ly have any screen­ings sched­uled in the North­west, but if you want to host one in your com­mu­ni­ty, go to the film­mak­er’s web­site and fill out the inquiry form.

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