Alpha Class

Mr. Smith Paper

For a Cause

America was a country built upon the ideals of freedom, of equality, and of majority rule. However, the majority cannot rule in a country this big, so it is necessary to elect officials to represent the majority. These officials are not exempt from the vices of everyday man, and they have, from time to time, misused their power. It is not an uncommon concept: political corruption. However, it remained unvoiced for a very long time. Mr. Smith goes to Washington was one of the earlier movies to show such corruption to the public. The struggle of one man against many corrupt, powerful people is a signal that we all need to protect our rights and watch out for those select politicians who choose to use our confidence for their own purposes.

The movie centers on Mr. Smith, a naïve young man whose main goal in life was to improve the lives of boys all over the country. He was a huge fan of American history and had memorized much of it. He admired the ideas and the people behind the government. He accidentally became a Congressman when several corrupt politicians suddenly find themselves one short. The movie brilliantly describes the links of corruption, "the long arm of Taylor," according to Mr. Smith. Taylor used his money and influences to twist the arms of weak politicians, newspapers, and others, and continued controlling them through blackmail. These politicians, in turn, did his bidding in Congress and profit from it. Sadly, this continues to happen in government.

At first, Mr. Smith was just excited to be in Washington. He was enamored with the history that was being made and the history that was already there. One of the first things he did in Washington was visit the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln embodied the American spirit and ideals. He had so many ideas about how to help people, particularly one that enabled boys to escape from city life and to learn about American history and nature. This plan would cost the government no money because the camp would be paid off by contributions from the boys over time. Unfortunately, the area where Smith planned to build his boys' camp was in an area which Taylor and his Congressmen were planning on building a dam which would provide them with a large, illegal profit.

Smith eventually discovered the plot, but when he tried to expose it, his case and credibility were both completely destroyed by the "Taylor machine." He began to realize that those ideals upon which America was founded do not necessarily hold under the weight of such corrupt men as Taylor, especially if the majority who put their trust in those men are repeatedly misinformed about them. However, Mr. Smith held his ground, and in a rather surprising and somewhat daring act (at least in politics), he tried to appeal to the people in his home state because they knew of the corruption and dishonesty of some of his fellow Congressmen, and they also knew that what he spoke was the truth. He attempted a filibuster, in which he stood and spoke for over twenty four hours.

Naturally, the "Taylor Machine" blocked his attempts to get through to the people, and what people he did get through to where stopped or silenced accordingly. As so often happens in this world, it took one man, a member of the guilty party, to come forward and confirm Smith's accusations before the ordeal ended. Had he not done this, the entire argument would probably have ended in Taylor's favor. However, the man who came forward used to believe in America's ideals as passionately as Smith, and he could not stand to see Smith crushed.

Honesty and passion are wonderful traits to have, but they are not all that politics require. Despite the knowledge that there is corruption, one rarely sees it corrected. That is what makes Mr. Smith so appealing to the people in the movie and to the audience of the movie. His conviction about his ideals and his beliefs that America can be better are both desirable traits to have in anybody, especially politicians. Unfortunately, he was only one man, and he was almost crushed beneath the weight of the machine and those foolish enough not to realize its existence. One man cannot fight for everyone, but he can get the fight started. One can only hope that Smith ended his career in politics and used his experience to educate the boys he cared so much about. They need to be aware of what the country could be and why it is not. Most importantly, they need to have the courage to fix it.