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Craven: Election Post Script

(Host)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 independent vote.

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 the arts.

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 entitlement.

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.

Speaking 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 compassion.

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 ambitions.

As I say, I'm hopeful.

Jay Craven is a filmmaker who teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and directs Kingdom County Productions
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