Every now and then, my family and I decide to see a movie for which we have relatively low expectations.
Usually, one or more of the kids or not-so-young kids think the movie will be “great” and Carol and I agree to see it to earn parent points. On rare occasions however, I’m the one who thinks it will be “great,” and everyone else decides to humor me (there are some perks that come with being Dad).
Years ago, the film that Dad thought would be great was a very silly looking spoof of my beloved Star Trek series, a film called Galaxy Quest.
If you grew up loving Star Trek and never quite fell out of love (even after the terrible Star Trek: The Movie came out in the extended edition), Galaxy Quest is a lot of fun. Not a great movie, but a lot of fun.
My kids, infected with stories of Star Trek episodes from earliest childhood, had a blast.
There is a moment in the movie, however, that actually is inspiring, for all the silly send up of the cast and concepts behind Star Trek and made-for-TV sci-fi dramas.
The commander has this tag line he uses in the TV show: “Never give up. Never surrender.” It’s hardly great literature or anything (remember, this is a spoof of TV).
In the movie, the washed-out cast of the canceled show and the clueless real-life aliens who took the show seriously decide that’s a motto worth living by . . . even worth dying by. And it makes all the difference for both of their worlds, for the galaxy in fact. Along the way, it redefines their sense of themselves and awakens new possibilities for the future.
That motto comes to mind as I’m reading some of the entrance poll results from Iowa. Because the “heroes” of Iowa (if one is thrilled by those results) were as inexperienced at this “hero” thing as the cast of Galaxy Quest and the aliens who took them seriously.
Younger voters in the Democratic caucuses went overwhelmingly for Senator Sanders (84% of those under 30, 58% of those aged 30-44). First-time participants in the caucuses also went solidly for the senator (59%).
On the Republican side, Senator Cruz secured his biggest margin over the large Republican field among voters age 30-44 (with 30%, 7% more than Mr. Trump), followed by those under 30 (26%, just 3% more than Senator Rubio). The headline-grabbing, Twitter-feeding Mr. Trump captured the largest share of first-time caucus-goers (31%, 9% more than Senator Cruz).
In short, it was a night for insurgents, for those who promise change. That’s often the Iowa way.
Research tells us that there are a handful of critical factors that influence our political engagement. The most powerful: our parents. Grow up in a politically engaged household, and one is likely to be politically engaged . . . at some level at least. Grow up in a politically disengaged household, and engagement will be hard to achieve.
But another critical factor is that formative experience of politics, what’s happening when we first decide to pay attention and get at least a little involved. Like when insurgent candidates (of whatever stripe) make enough of a splash to give one at least a moment of hope for something new, some real change . . . hope that one’s engagement might make a tangible, observable difference.
The odds still are that Secretary Clinton will be the Democrat’s nominee (though that’s not a sure thing). Senator Cruz is far from being a shoe-in on the Republican side, and Mr. Trump may have just begun to face the real challenges of real politics.
In other words, the voyage of political activism that has been launched this year for many in Iowa and elsewhere on the winds of insurgent candidacies is almost certain to run into strong opposing winds. It also stands a very good chance of ending on the rocks of some future primary state.
Been there, done that.
My first campaign was in 1976. It was a primary. We lost. No, let me be honest: we were destroyed.
I worked on a mix of winning and losing campaigns after that. I’m not sure what the ultimate scorecard was, but my candidates probably won slightly more often than they lost. Slightly.
I’ve awakened many post-election mornings beached, battered and bummed out.
But this thing called politics, for all the game metaphors, isn’t really a game.
It is the lifeblood of a free society. It is the only possible guarantor of our freedoms and one of the most important potential protectors of a society’s vulnerable: children, the wounded and disabled, the disadvantaged and displaced.
Engagement matters. And it is through engagement that true heroes are formed.
So, win or lose, sail on.
Never give up. Never surrender.