“It would be hard to find a more unlikely candidate than Charlie Hardy, a 75-year-old penniless former Catholic priest who spent nearly a decade serving the poor while living in a cardboard shack in a Venezuelan slum. In 2011, Charlie returns to his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and is shocked to see poverty, hunger, and homelessness.”
That’s the opening synopsis of director Reed Lindsay’s fascinating feature-length documentary, “Charlie vs. Goliath." Reed spent months following Charlie Hardy during his extraordinary struggle to run for US Senate and change a system closed to outsiders.
Reed Lindsay sat down with IVN at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans to explain Charlie’s journey:
Hardy refused special interest money and made campaign finance reform a central part of his platform. And by the way, his opponent in the general election was a Republican with a $3 million war chest.
Initially, Charlie tried to get on the ballot as an independent candidate, but the task of collecting the thousands of required signatures to grant him access to a ballot was just too much.
“He did a big drive to get signatures, and got a lot of them, but he fell just short, and I think some of them were invalidated. He couldn't get his name on the ballot as an independent,” explains Lindsay.
He didn’t stop there; he just redirected his efforts.
“The second time around they figured, 'Well, why put all this energy into that when I can just pay $200, and be on the ballot as a Democrat?'”
Lindsay says filming and following Charlie through his campaign process was a cultural eye-opener. As a Democrat, Hardy sought office in one of the most conservative and deeply red states in the country.
‘How do you approach red states?’ Lindsay asked himself frequently throughout the project.
In a time of mass political generalizations, for some, the question tends to be, ‘Why do you approach red states?’ But Lindsay’s experience taught him that not every red state is the same, and conservative doesn’t mean close-minded.
“I went all around the state and everywhere I went I asked people questions, very open-ended questions, not leading questions, like: ‘What do you think about politics today?’ ‘What's your opinion about Washington?’ Those type of questions," he recounts.
"And the answers I was getting were a lot alike. I thought that people would be going off about Obama. No, they were talking about money in politics. What they were giving were the same things you'd hear in Berkeley, California. I mean it was no different. And you realize there is a lot of common ground. Not just on that issue either. There are other issues as well.”
It was the finding himself on common ground with people in a red state which turned him on to a common misuse of the word 'intolerant'.
“I feel like the people who are most virulently intolerant, are not progressive," says Lindsay.
"They're the liberals. I couldn't believe it, talking to some liberals. After Trump was elected and the intolerance they were showing, it was if they were going off and screaming at red America - that they should just leave the country. You say that they're intolerant, but you are just as bad.”
“We need to get beyond the war," Lindsay remarks. "As a journalist, I can't even stop and watch most mainstream media because it's just the Democrat Party pundit and the Republican Party pundit. It's been like that since I can remember. But it's just mind-numbing, and nobody is talking about real issues.”
Back in Wyoming, Reed is doing work with a group called Wyoming Promise, which is boosting a ballot initiative to get big money out of politics.
“They could be the first state to call for a convention of states to end Citizens United. They could be the first ones actually to do that through a ballot initiative. Imagine the reddest state in the United States taking a stand on that. It would be quite symbolic. “ - Reed Lindsay
Yes, just imagine.