In the wake of the recent Presidential campaign, filmmaker and Marlboro
College teacher Jay Craven says he’s feeling cautiously hopeful about
the months ahead.
(Craven) I’m feeling fairly optimistic though I
found the campaign itself often infuriating for the $2.6 billion spent,
mostly on distorting TV ads. One would hope that kind of investment
would illuminate substantive issues, convey urgency, and provide a true
mandate. Instead, I felt that key issues were kept under wraps, maybe
for fear that opening them could cost a candidate the coveted
I received multiple daily campaign pleas for
more and more money, and began to imagine what these billions could do
to support cash-strapped non-profits working to build community, heal
our environment, and promote health, housing, nutrition, education, and
Or maybe some of it could have been spent to convene
deeper dialogues on issues the campaigns mostly ignored, starting with
campaign finance reform, climate change, military spending, and voting
rights, which appear threatened. Some discussion bubbled up about
underemployed people working part-time jobs, but we missed the chance
for the larger discussion of income inequality and how part-time
low-wage work stifles our recovery and has become policy for too many
companies seeking to avoid paying benefits.
And talk about cuts
to social security worried me – and still does. With an average payout
of just $1000 per month, social security seems to me only a modest
safety net against extreme poverty – and an earned benefit; not an
Pulitzer Prize winning presidential historian
David McCulloch lamented the huge costs and shallow depth of the recent
campaign. "History will reveal what’s been said," McCulloch commented.
"Is there anything that will stand? I haven’t heard it," he said.
with Charlie Rose, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin urged our re-elected
president to now do what Lincoln and FDR did – to learn from what he
didn’t do so well during the first term. She thinks he needs to get out
of the White House more, to build a mandate through a direct
relationship with the public – in an effort to repair the broken
political culture in Congress.
Maybe Goodwin’s right – that
given the blocked Washington narrative, we might better advance change
by hearing – and acting – on stories from the American people. Maybe
then our political leaders could reach for something lasting that
animates our sense of common purpose.
In his spring 1968 speech
at the University of Kansas, then-candidate Robert Kennedy added another
thought – when he suggested that we expand our notions of the gross
national product to include – quote – "the health of our children" and
"the joy of their play;" "the beauty of our poetry" and "the
intelligence of our public debate." He asked that we measure as key
indicators "our wit" and "our courage," "our wisdom," and "our
In his victory speech on election night, our
re-elected president offered a hint of what I felt was missing during
much of the polarizing campaign. President Obama called on us to – quote
– "seize the future together" – to build on "the sum of our individual
As I say, I’m hopeful.