PBS Premieres MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON Tonight
What happens when a Vietnamese American political rookie goes up against the realities of Southern racial politics and ultra-partisan struggles in Washington, DC?
A fascinating portrait of an idealistic novice navigating the high stakes world of partisan politics, MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON follows the unexpected journey of Representative Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese American Republican who scored a surprise victory when he was elected to Louisiana's mostly African American Second Congressional District, which had elected Democrats for more than a century. The first Vietnamese American ever elected to the U.S. Congress and the only non-white House Republican of the 111th Congress, Cao quickly made headlines as the only Republican to vote for President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act. But will two years in Washington allow Cao to keep his integrity and idealism intact?
Winner of the Full Frame Film Festival Inspiration Award, MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON, directed by S. Leo Chiang, premieres tonight, January 3, 2013 from 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).
"Mr. Cao explores partisanship and race, two issues which have been important - and divisive - this election season," says Chiang. "The film examines those two themes through the eyes of an idealist centrist who happens to be an Asian American Republican who tried to survive in the ultra-partisan climate that exists in the country today."
A pro-life Catholic, former seminarian and lawyer from the Versailles neighborhood of New Orleans, Anh "Joseph" Cao decided to join the public sector to fight for the greater good of his city and country. Elected in an upset in 2008 when his opponent was rocked by scandal, Cao enters the political arena with a disarming combination of earnest naiveté, integrity, and passion. While on the House floor, he speaks frequently about overcoming partisan and racial differences. He soon becomes known as the most liberal Republican in the House, infuriating his fellow Republicans by befriending President Obama and supporting health care reform, all the while insisting that his votes are based solely on personal principle and the needs of his district. Later, he reverses his position and alienates the President by voting with the Republicans against the health care bill, citing inadequate language to prevent funding for abortion. When Cao campaigns for re-election in 2010, he gets an eye-opening lesson in partisan politics and learns the hard way about the temporal nature of political friendships and the power of long-standing political alliances and traditions.