Trumping Democracy

| December 7, 2017

On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States, defeating opponent Hillary Clinton in one of the biggest political upsets of all time.  No one thought Trump could win.  He was behind in every poll, he ran on a message of hatred and bigotry, promising to antagonize our enemies and alienate our allies.  However, through a series of unlikely events, Trump managed to swing a few key states and win the electoral college vote despite losing the popular vote by millions.  The result was a lot of anger from the left, blaming people for staying home on election day, blaming people for third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, and blaming those who voted for Trump because they thought Clinton was a criminal without any evidence.

According to Thomas Huchon’s new documentary Trumping America, the election of Donald Trump may have had less to do with individual voters and blind luck as many of us believe.  The film follows the 2016 election cycle and the forces working behind the scenes to install a Republican figurehead in the oval office to do their bidding.  It sounds nefarious, but if you watch the film, you may find that I’m holding back on my alarm.  The film argues that Trump had very little to do with his own election, but rather he has a man named Robert Mercer to thank.  Mercer is a billionaire recluse who funneled millions of dollars into Trump’s campaign after his first choice Ted Cruz became mathematically eliminated from getting the nomination.  Mercer used his money and influence to install his own people in the Trump campaign and later the Trump white house, including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

Obviously this influx of money into politics is nothing new.  Even before the Supreme Court ruling concerning Citizens United, businesses have found countless ways to line the pockets of their chosen politicians in the hope that they’ll be complacent to their needs once in power.  What makes Trump’s story different is the role of a company called Cambridge Analytica, which is owned by Robert Mercer and specializes in voter profiling.  They collect information legally from social media and online shopping sites to create individualized profiles on hundreds of millions of people.  Even completing a simple “Which Harry Potter character are you?” quiz on Facebook can help them get a sense of who you are, what you like, how you’re likely to vote, and what might sway you otherwise.  Cambridge Analytica used this information to target key voting blocks in swing states and help ensure a Trump victory last November.

I probably shouldn’t just spend my entire review summarizing the film, but honestly I find it fascinating, and the 2016 election fundamentally changed who I am as an individual.  I won’t get too political here, but not being a fan of Donald Trump and finding him unfit to be president, his victory was painful for me.  It’s not so much that a racist, power-hungry child now has nuclear access codes.  That’s just the world we live in, but rather I was just completely disheartened to know that I live in a country where it was even possible for Donald Trump to be elected president.  So, I spent the last year coming to terms with the belief that this country was broken, possibly beyond repair, and seriously considering options to just wash my hands of the whole thing and make a new home in a new country, but for now I’m forced to stay put and watch the Trump presidency unravel on a day to day basis.  Then I’ll watch a film like The 13th or Trumping Democracy and know that the country has always been broken and we’ve just learned to ignore that.

While the film is adequately made, I think it would be more effective if it never tried to make an argument to its audience, but instead just gave this surprising information and let the audience do with that what they may.  There’s too much of a call to action, which tends to make me question the credibility of documentaries, which can too easily cut together footage in ways that shed the counterargument in the worst possible light and manipulate the audience into believing what they want.  Had the film just given me facts without any bias, it would have struck me as less hypocritical and more effective.  The information it does give I trust is accurate and sheds light on a cancerous capitalistic system that will continue to rot the US from the inside out.  I just have no idea if there’s anything to be done about it.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.