Written and Directed by Michael Moore
“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” ~ Plato
In spite of being very familiar with his rhetoric, I have somehow managed to miss seeing Michael Moore’s documentaries. My avoidance has nothing to do with what he represents but rather a lack of desire to see documentaries until recently.
In his latest documentary, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Moore explores what led to the election of the 45th President of the United States, billionaire executive Donald J. Trump. As the film opens, Moore focuses on elated Hillary Clinton supporters where, on November the 8th, she was projected to win the election by a wide margin: the people wanted to stay the course laid out by President Obama over the prior eight years.
In a moment of irony, Clinton’s celebration was hosted in a building made of glass, to represent her breaking through the glass ceiling.
Then the unthinkable happened: Trump won the election.
Through the culled footage, Moore locked in on the despondent and defeated faces of supporters, who thought that they had a win in hand. Yet, Moore had projected and even warned that Trump was going to win the office of the highest land, and when you think about his reasons, he was right.
I grew up in one of the rust belt states, Wisconsin where we did indeed elect a Republican governor every year that I was alive. And as I grew up, more and more manufacturing left the state, the lifeblood of it at one time. Moore focused his rust belt ideology on the Flint, Michigan debacle and how the ‘good ole boy’ mentality led to the governor, someone who had never run for office previously, engineered the problem so that he could essentially declare martial law.
Something of interest though was how he focused on Obama’s visit to the region before he left office, specifically a stunt involving his need for a glass of water. His staff pleaded with him to drink from a plastic bottle, but he refused, taking a perfunctory sip from a glass of Flint water. The citizens, who believed that Obama was going to bring the resources of the federal government to bear on the problem, instead left them stranded.
Trump swooped in, promising to Make America Great Again and built on the need of the region’s disenfranchised population.
He next focused on the Democratic National Convention where Independent candidate, turned Democrat Bernie Sanders went against the odds to try to win the party’s nomination. Moore showed examples of where the DNC outright lied, forcing his hand. Friends for Bernie turned into Friends for Hillary.
Citizens wanted change, and they believed (and he could have) led them to victory, if he had been given a fair chance.
Wait! Don’t we have a two-party system in this country, asks an incredulous Moore. We do, but that assumption rests on the fact that neither party is what it once started out as. So, why then, did the DNC force Hillary in to spotlight, someone whom a number of voters simply didn’t trust?
In essence, the DNC has become as complacent and complicit as the GOP. They have sought the same special interest monies and support from big corporations and media companies. Moore even included Les Moonves’ commentary on why Trump was good for the election cycle, saying, “He might not be good for America, but he’s damn good for CBS.”
That’s the real foundation for Moore’s argument, something that I think he was successful in conveying even if he went off the rails getting us there: Trump won because he was able to better leverage his media presence. He won over states, populous states where Hillary’s team told her not to even go, saying that she’s got a lock on them.
The popular vote had Hillary’s win in the bag, but the Electoral College is ultimately the deciding factor. Someone was ready for change that infamous night, no matter how the popular vote swung.
Change is good, though.
One of the many unintended benefits of Trump’s win is how frustrated teachers in West Virginia decided to stand up for a pay increase and better health insurance. Their movement spread to other states, including Arizona’s Red For Ed.
Another example was of ordinary citizens who are so incensed by the political stalemate, standing up and running for office, a grassroots effort and so far in smaller, state offices, there has been change.
Finally, Moore focuses on the future with student uprisings following the Parkland, Florida student shooting. The suspect’s cell phone video warning that this was coming was included as well; it was chilling knowing that this was going to happen. In another example of change, the student survivors went to Washington to challenge lawmakers, but not before confronting Florida’s lawmakers.
One of Michael Moore’s many moving themes in “Fahrenheit 11/9” is that Trump’s win and Hillary’s loss was born of political compromise and a dictatorial regime that continues to be slowly unfolding in front of all of us. They were not the catalysts for our current situation, but they are the byproducts of complacency, corruption and ineptness.
His message is clear: no matter which side of the aisle you sit on, change is our fundamental responsibility and now, it turns out, our necessity. How will you rise to the challenge?
3 out of 4