This Wednesday, Big Easy Magazine hosted its first movie event, a special early screening of Michael Moore’s new movie Fahrenheit 11/9. The film is about America in the age of Trump, and how Americans can make sense of Trump’s rise through the Republican primary to the White House.
NOTE- this review contains spoilers about our collective nightmare.
The movie begins, logically enough, with the ominous buildup to election day, November 8th 2016. Crowds of Hillary voters line up to vote for “the first woman president”, elderly women exclaim over finally being able to vote for a woman for president, people put their “I Voted” stickers on (late, white supremacist) Susan B. Anthony’s grave. Old news footage puts Trump’s chances as exceedingly slim, as Hillary’s supporters rally in the New York Javitt’s Center—a giant glass building that was meant to symbolize the glass ceiling. Trump’s camp, meanwhile, holds a small event, only blocks away.
And we know how that night turned out.
Rather than simply looking at how Trump came to power, however, 11/9 looks at the greater political landscape and several distinct power struggles that illustrate the competing forces in America, between corporate corruption and working-class people. Moore points out that statistically, most Americans believe in “progressive” ideas—free public college and childcare, greater environmental protection and healthcare for all—yet the party that is vehemently opposed to those ideals holds power in all three branches of government. This even though a Republican has only once—once—won the popular vote in 30 years (Bush, round two. We really lost a lot of credibility on that one).
Moore also brings us back to that old wound, Bernie Sanders’ primary loss at the hands of Democrat Superdelegates, as another example of why the American electorate feels completely disenfranchised, unmotivated at all to vote. Though Bernie won huge majorities in several states’ primaries, he lost even those states (Vermont, West Virginia and New Hampshire, to name a few) in the nomination process.
But as an example of murderous corruption, Moore brings us to Flint, Michigan, his hometown and the site of his first documentary, Roger and Me. Upon taking office in 2011, Governor Rick Snyder puts some of Michigan’s largest cities under emergency management, including Flint, effectively putting half of Michigan’s African American population in a militarized zone, as he seized power from local governments and introduced pro-business measures to the municipalities while slashing social services. At the same time Trump, that this point still just a buffoon of a public figure, is seen taking note, because for some reason, in 2013 someone thought it wise to ask Trump what he thought about the governing of Michigan.
Flint’s water crisis, STILL ongoing in 2018, is shown in heartbreaking detail as the people of Flint learn that their children are being poisoned, and the local hospital lacks clean water, while General Motors is given a FREE hookup to clean water because, well, they gave Snyder’s campaign money.
Though the film does delve into some of the more disgusting details of Trump’s history—the racist housing cases, his sexualization of children and even his own daughter—this is not a movie that delves deep into Trump’s reprehensible past. Rather, it looks at the opposing forces that pull on our society today—the incredible, successful wildcat strike in West Virginia strikes an inspirational note, as the influence of big money in the Democratic party strikes a sobering one. The triumph of the Parkland students’ March For Our Lives Movement is shown alongside the surge of progressive, upstart candidates running for office across the country, while Obama’s historic visit to Flint in 2016 is an unsettling reminder of the 44th president’s shortcomings.
Overall, Moore delivers a powerful punch—punching up, of course. His narratives of the working class—the teachers of West Virginia, the wave of progressive candidates coming to ballots in November—carry the audience through what is ultimately a reminder that our democracy is only as strong as our defense of it. For though the film examines many of Trump’s autocratic and fascist tendencies (his racism, his attacks on the press, his gargantuan promises to a desperately loyal base) Moore’s film shows us that we have not fallen into a Third Reich-esque pit.