Last year, documentary director Karen Price, daughter of Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chronicled the 2006 Democrat house takeover in a revealing film called “HouseQuake.” While the documentary followed a handful of Democrat nominees as they ran for Congress, it focused more on the tactics of then-House campaign strategist Rahm Emanuel. It’s a solid documentary, but the film is really less of a story and more of a campaign study guide. As the New York Times said of the film last year, “For Republicans, it may be a lesson in how they can do to Mr. Emanuel what he did to them.”
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Well, whether Republicans have learned from the Democrats in 2006 (and whether they even needed to, given today’s political climate), newcomer media company RightNetwork has. Beginning this month, RightNetwork is airing “Running,” an original series (available on demand) following eight candidates in their 2010 race for Congress.
For two productions focusing on the same issue, the series is about as opposite of “HouseQuake” as conservatives are of liberals.
First, while “HouseQuake” enjoys the perfect vision of hindsight, “Running” is the equivalent of a TLC reality show, with real heart, real drama – and real suspense. Where “HouseQuake” was more the educational tool, “Running” is the thriller, complete with the political suspense – and sometimes the political shenanigans – that Americans know and “love.” The pilot episode focuses on two California Republican challengers: Former stand-up comic Ari David, running for Henry Waxman’s 30th District seat; and successful small-businessman John Dennis, gunning for the seat of Nancy Pelosi herself. While “HouseQuake” played on viewers’ knowledge, boosting excitement through rally scenes and media coverage, “Running” gives the gritty – sometimes boring – details of campaign life, even before the primaries are decided. But these details are anything but boring in the expert hands of the “Running” production crew. In the pilot, the RNC has yet to step in, since it as of then doesn’t know who Republicans want to back.
“HouseQuake” is a well-produced, interesting and revealing film. It meets its quality match in “Running,” whose folksy soundtrack, quirky self-filmed webcam scenes and down-and-dirty campaign footage make it an entertaining, revealing look into what these candidates are all about. It’s a quick snapshot to be sure, but it’s only the pilot, and it is a strong start to the show. Also, these candidates are passionate and real. Because of that, there are a few swearwords throughout.
It is very clear that, whereas “HouseQuake” was more of a celebration of Democrat victories, “Running” is the story of dissatisfied common folk who are just saying no, and are willing to sacrifice big to do it. In “HouseQuake,” Mr. Emmanuel campaigns hard to convince former Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler (now Rep. Shuler from North Carolina) that being a Congressman wouldn’t be too great of a time commitment. In “Running,” self-made people sacrifice big to fight for what they believe in.
It’s not just the story of the candidates themselves, but of their wives too, and the way they sacrifice to keep food on the table while their husbands fight to keep America free for the next generation.
I watched “HouseQuake” in an artsy theatre in downtown Washington, D.C., in a very liberal audience among many Democrat elites, followed by a discussion with Ms. Price and a Democrat strategist, moderated by a writer from The New Yorker. Energy was high – it was early autumn of 2009, and healthcare reform was due to pass in weeks.
A year later, it’s remarkable to see the difference in Washington’s atmosphere. The liberals in power are scared. Americans nationwide are ready to call the shots this November, holding their leaders accountable for the last two years.
When it comes down to the stories, that’s the biggest difference. “HouseQuake” is really a pat on the back for Democrats, a job well done and an opportunity seized. “Running,” a TV show, is less a reflective work and more an in-depth, emotional look at what real people – many of them unlikely candidates – are doing to ensure that their America stays free. If they lose the race, at least they tried. And even if the candidates lose in the end, as a reality TV series, “Running” is a big winner.