Need Some Election Day Inspiration? Remember Tracy Flick

If you haven't revisited Alexander Payne's madcap 1999 dramedy ELECTION in a while, now's as good a time as any.

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Tracy Flick, Reese Witherspoon's bubbly gunner persona in Election, is the can-do candidate hero we need right now, and her story should serve as a searing reminder that you need to hit the polls this year because voter turnout is everything.

But first: what Tracy Flick does to her opponent’s posters is garbage, literally and figuratively. She destroys campaign materials in a momentary fit of rage - messageless though they may be - and lets someone else take the fall for her wrongdoing. Tracy Flick gets away with it and simply never accepts the consequences, which is dirty. But she's still not the villain of the story, not even close.

Tracy wants to be student government president, and she's shown more than the requisite initiative and skill set to back up her candidacy. Her resolve is so staggering that she's even running unopposed because no one cares enough to challenge her for the spot. All is well and above board until her miserable teacher Mr. McAllister comes along and starts taking his midlife crisis out on her.

"Mr. M" can't stand Tracy Flick for a couple of reasons. To him, she's a little man-eating know-it-all who cost his colleague-slash-bandmate his job and family because she seduced the guy into an extramarital affair. Nevermind that he was a full-on adult who capitalized on her social vulnerability to get her into bed and then bragged about the lurid details of her body fluids at work. And forget the fact that this cad was in the power position, as her teacher and yearbook club supervisor, and probably committed a crime; the way Mr. McAllister sees it, Tracy Flick, in all her relentless ambition, took advantage of a weak pal and deserves to be knocked down a few pegs for the good of all mankind.

So, he zeroes in on the SG race, which would otherwise be a very yawn-worthy affair for the high school electorate, as an opportunity to personally introduce her the harsh reality of life's disappointment that he himself knows so well. He just can't sit back and watch her skate her way to victory, not this time, even if it means turning the student body into a rudderless ship.

He dupes a jovial jock into turning his career-ending injury into a new path. Paul Metzler is a useful idiot because, if you can overlook his hilariously bad man makeup, he's completely nice and has a recognizable enough name to court those voters who don't care that his sole agenda item is to throw a bitching homecoming party. It's icing on the cake when an anarchical third party candidate emerges by way of Paul's sister Tammy, who's out for revenge after he unknowingly steals her girlfriend. The messier this whole campaign becomes for Tracy, the better, and he doesn't care if the student body is punished in the process.

Somehow, despite all of Mr. McAllister's vicious meddling, though, Tracy manages to eke out a win on the merits. Granted, she's only up one vote because Tammy takes herself out of the running and bonehead Paul casts the deciding vote for Tracy Flick on a whim, but still. She's got the W clean.

The second Mr. McAllister witnesses her happy dance in the hallway, though, it's enough to drive him over the edge again. Before any official count can be passed along to the principal, Mr. McAllister proceeds to jeopardize his career (note: he's already wrecked his own marriage at this point) by redirecting a couple of her votes to File 13 to swing the tally into Paul's favor, and voila. The crisis of a Madame Presidency has apparently been averted, and he can savor in having successfully sabotaged the shrew and go on with his sad little life.

If not for an observant janitor and one very virtuous ballot counter, Tracy Flick's wings may have very well been clipped by Mr. McAllister in the end. But, just as he has failed to cover the tracks of his own relationship-ending dalliance, he leaves a trail of deceit in the form of two crumbled up ballots, and Tracy Flick is ultimately given her due.

The prescient parallels between this movie and the 2016 presidential election are fairly obvious. Here we have a blonde go-getter who's spent her whole life methodically racking up achievements in preparation for this moment, but some people see her sense of enterprise as entitlement. Meanwhile, her unlikely opponent has no idea what he's doing in the election, let alone how to run things if he wins, and yet, his familiarity around the school and a few catchy phrases are enough to sway an alarming amount of voters to his corner.

Luckily, there isn't an electoral college to supersede the popular vote results in Election, but it's also Tracy Flick's stridency in getting voters to the polls that ensures she overcomes the extreme odds that are stacked against her by way of Mr. McAllister's subterfuge. Even prior to his interference, when she's poised to run uncontested, she still rises at the crack of dawn to secure her signatures because she's willing to do the legwork just for the sake of it. She won't take any vote for granted.

If not for those students who can see through Paul's flimsy platform (including himself) and show up to put that check mark by Tracy Flick's name, the student government might be in shambles by the end of Election, captained by a dunce who was groomed for the job as a means to an end for a vengeful outside party.

It all comes down to a single vote, which is both a convenient plot device for the film and an important reminder in real-life that, yes, every ballot counts, and the Tracy Flicks of the world are counting on you to come through, too.

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