The Candidate (1972)

I thought “The Candidate” was a fairly realistic portrayal of a political campaign in regards to my impression of the campaign process. Throughout the majority of the film it seemed that the campaign was for the gain of others and only backed by strong words and lofty ideas. Although McKay seemed like a fairly down to earth “in touch with the people” sort of man, the intention of action behind his claims for change seemed improbable. His entire campaign was almost a joke on the people of California. Giving them hope for a representative for the younger generation and faith that someone sympathetic to their issues will be fighting for them. It was unfortunately a highly calculated set of speeches of what people wanted to hear. This isn’t too far a jump from what I see most politicians doing. They choose a support group and they run with the majority, playing on the hopes and fears of the masses. McKay is driven by favoritism, the fear of losing face, embarrassing his father and disappointing his campaign members. While he wants to win, he wants even more to lose and avoid the responsibility that comes with all the promises he has made. I can say though that I too would have supported him given his opposition, a man who represented none of my beliefs or desires for my ideal society, but is nevertheless probably more reliable.

I think the film is fairly blunt about why people enter American politics. McKay was inadvertently able to use his father’s name and reputation as a successful Senator as well as ride off the reputation and support of his father’s colleagues and reputable friends. This went both ways as people were able to use the success of his campaign to further their own careers, especially his campaign manager who seemed unaffected during the win while McKay was shocked.

I definitely thing McKay is corrupted by the electoral system. He underestimated its power and the power of his campaign team. From the beginning of the film to the end McKay turns from a happy young lawyer to a stressed out candidate to a lying politician. The horror in his face when his father says “son, you’re a politician” says he never intended for that to happen but it was already too late.

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