PBS’ new docu-series The Contenders- 16 For ’16 aims to highlight 16 of the most groundbreaking, influential political candidates who set a precedent for what it means to hold the most powerful position in the world- President of the United States of America- in preparation for the November election.
Through the eight-episode arc which begins tonight (Sept. 13), the show will compare the political tactics and techniques of politicians who, at first glance, couldn’t seem more different, but in hindsight, they share several commonalities within their approach to their craft.
The first episode highlights Shirley Chisholm and Sen. John McCain. Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and the first black person to run for President of the United States. The two shared a passion for the political game, a commitment to shaking things up and a straight-forward approach to tackling the issues.
Chisholm, who was a contender for the Democratic nomination in 1972 (but lost to George McGovern), cared deeply about universal health care and universal early childhood education. One of her first big speeches was in opposition to the Vietnam War, and she aimed to expand upon Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society Program, which aimed to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.
Of course, being a black woman running for the highest office had tons of negative feedback from regular people and Congress members as well, as described in the episode. However, Chisholm stood firm on her belief that she was “the candidate of the people of America,” and her “unbossed and unbought” stance on the issues is what got her so far in the race.
“Shirley Chisholm didn’t give a damn about what other people thought about her,” said Robert Gottlieb, the National Student Coordinator for the Chisholm campaign in the episode. He worked with Chisholm during her 1972 campaign.
See some clips below, and be sure to tune in tonight at 8pm ET to catch the full episode. If you miss it, visit Thirteen.org/schedule to find out when it re-airs. The Contenders- 16 For ’16 wraps up on Tuesday, November 1.