Tis’ the season of Election coverage.
In preparation for Election Day 2012, the Honors House and Society for Political Interest and Networking will screen four films that illustrate presidential politics in the United States.
The first film, The War Room, documents Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The Contender is a political thriller depicting a president trying to choose a vice president following the sudden death of the current vice president.
Wag the Dog illustrates a presidential campaign during which a political operative distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood producer to create a fake war. Finally, The Ides of March depicts a presidential campaign set in Ohio and offers a crash course on “dirty politics” as well as commentary on contemporary American morality.
The films are being shown in conjunction with Honors 2020, "See How They Run: The Substance and Theater of the 2012 Presidential Campaign," taught by Professor Bob Mann, the Manship Chair and Director of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs.
In addition to teaching political communication, Professor Mann authors books about political history, and has spent over twenty years working in politics in both Louisiana and Washington.
Honors 2020 isn’t just a class about the 2012 Election; it covers every aspect of the campaign process in detail. Mann’s goal is to examine presidential campaigns from a traditional lens, one that has been relevant since day one and is still accessible to today’s political audience.
“The class focuses on everything from A to Z about the presidential campaign process,” he said. “We spend some time talking about the history of presidential campaigns. We talk about the candidates personally and their positions on various issues. We look at the debates, we look at the ads. We just sort of examine the presidential campaign from every angle we can think of.”
While much of the class focuses on the election, a large part is based on past presidential elections and how they can be viewed as a learning experience that indicate what to expect in future elections.
“I think it's useful for students to understand that most of what we're seeing is not new,” he said. “Everybody’s standing on someone's shoulders. There are some new things that happen, but by and large there's a lot of influence and borrowing of tactics.”
Mann said understanding these tactics is crucial to understanding how to interpret and view the 2012 Election. Prior knowledge of past elections is the key to an informed tracking of the current campaigns.
However, along with traditional maneuvers comes the influence of new technologies such as social media, voter targeting, and Internet donations. The onslaught of technology has, by and large, revolutionized the campaign trail in many ways — though not all, said Mann.
“I've tried to help my students understand that, as important as [the Internet] is, we still have to pay attention to what's on TV, which is where most people are getting their campaign news,” he said. “The Internet's important, and it's growing in importance, but traditional stuff that candidates have always done is probably more important.”
For this reason, it's important to look to past presidential campaigns — and the films chosen for the "See How They Run Film Series" provide a way for students to do just that.
According to Mann, the film series is an event you won’t want to miss.
“Students will learn something about politics they wouldn't otherwise. It will provoke them to think about politics in a different way,” he said, “I think these films each have something very profound to say about our political system.”
Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831.