CSUN Politicians Tactics and Their Impact Reflection Paper

  • 850 words minimum (more is always OK) – type the final word count at the top of your paper
  • You must give your paper a title
  • Essay format – this means paragraphs, at least five of them:
  1. Introductory paragraph
  2. Write a FULL summary of the film
  3. Do NOT tell me who the director is. This is irrelevant to the assignment.
  4. Include all the campaigns Atwater works on, with supporting quotes from the film.
  5. Include commentary from at least SIX people who were interviewed about Atwater. Include their names, what each said and why you picked them.
  6. Your summary must include responses to ALL of the requirements that are bullet-pointed below
  7. Concluding paragraph must address the final three bullet points



This is a reflection paper on ‘Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” (link below)

The film is a documentary on the man who changed modern campaigning in America. Keep in mind that Atwater went after both Republicans and Democrats with equal vigor. Winning was the goal –– at any cost. Was the cost too high? This is for you to decide – explain your position in your response. Atwater’s lies cost many politicians their political careers when the media failed to do adequate fact checking. So, despite all the harm he caused, why did Atwater remain a popular figure on the campaign trail?

Along with your own reflections–thoughts, comments, conclusions, assessments, observations––include thoughtful commentary on ALL of the issues listed below. Write all of your responses in paragraph format – not bullet points. Points will be deducted for missing information.

  • Should there be campaign laws that demand truthful campaigning? Why or why not?
  • Should the media be held accountable for failure to fact check on what it reports? Why or why not?
  • Write a dictionary definition of “Machiavellian” and cite your source for this definition. Was Lee Atwater ‘Machiavellian’ in the ‘truest sense,’ as was said at his funeral? Why or why not? Who in the film characterized Atwater as Machiavellian? This must be included.
  • Who was Willie Horton, and how did Atwater exploit Horton’s actions to help his candidate win? Who was Atwater’s candidate at this time? What governor had the prison furlough program that Dukakis based his own furlough program on?
  • What were some of Atwater’s underhanded campaign tactics? Specifically name at least three of the “dirty tricks” that Atwater used in his various campaigns.


  • On the subject of being prepared to vote upon the age of 18, should there be more emphasis on K-12 education regarding elections so that voters will not be fooled by tactics such as negative ads Why or why not? (ie: consider Atwater’s slamming of Governor Dukakis for his voting record in Congress. Explain why this is distracting nonsense, and a PLSI 01 student would know better). Keep in mind that sleazy campaign tactics are likely to go undetected by ignorant voters. How much did you learn about politics and voting during your K-12 years?
  • What is the relationship between Atwater and Strom Thurmond?
  • Why did Atwater decide to be a political operative for the Republican Party?
  • Who was accused of burning an American flag? Was it true? Why was this accusation made?
  • Who is Karl Rove? Even though Atwater died years ago, his protégé, Karl Rove, continues the Atwater legacy – including the ‘push poll.’ Considering what you saw, and what you think about the film as both a citizen and a voter (or possible future voter), offer commentary on the various people who were interviewed:
  • Did you think their comments were valid and accurate?
  • What car did Karl Rove say that he and Atwater campaigned in during “one of the greatest weeks of his life?”
  • Who among those interviewed best characterized Atwater and why? You must be specific. List this individual’s name along with the commentary. What did they say about Atwater that was so compelling and accurate as to capture the realAtwater? Be specific. What were the comments? Quote them.
  • How did Ed Rollins influence Atwater and his career?
  • What does Ed Rollins say about Lee Atwater’s request for a Bible?
  • How does music play into Atwater’s life?
  • Why did the students at Howard University reject Atwater?
  • What does the film say about high school campaign managers?

In addition to your own conclusions on Atwater and the film, address these questions in your final, concluding paragraph:

Do you believe that Atwater was sincere in repenting for his ‘political sins’ when he wrote contrite (apologetic) articles for newspapers/magazines and sent apology letters to those he had wronged? Why or why not?

Why do you think Ed Rollins ultimately forgave Atwater?


Finally, had he recovered from his brain tumor and lived to a ripe old age, would Atwater have gone back to his old dirty-dealing ways or would he have changed his ways? Why or why not?

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