Updated: Jan 22, 2019
I’m not going to pretend that I came into this film with an unbiased opinion on its subject matter. After all, I was a member of Hillary Clinton’s finance team and an ardent supporter of hers since she announced her candidacy in early 2007. Additionally, I have never been a fan of Michael Moore’s documentaries - they’re brash, handled without sensitivity or tact, and fuel a conservative’s caricature of liberals.
This subjectivity also applies to Moore himself. As a filmmaker, he’s a notorious liberal. Though not voting for Clinton, he has clear respect for her, as can be seen in his previous works such as Sicko and with a chapter dedicated in his first book, Downsize This!.
Trumpland isn’t a documentary as much as a taping of a one man show, although it feels more like a stand up bit. Trumpland gets its name not from its content, but from where the performance took place, in Clinton County, Ohio, which Moore remarks is definitely not “Clinton Country.” My expectations for an antagonistic battle of ideals and a destruction of Trump came to fruition, including a barrage of odd stereotypes about liberals and conservatives, the majority of which have nothing to do with politics. Conservatives are organized. Liberals are all over the place. A small drone flies over the Muslim audience members to assuage conservative audience members.
But what we expect to be a bashing on Trump is actually Michael Moore arguing the case for Hillary Clinton, with beautiful photos of a youthful Hillary Rodham hung behind him. He delves into her past, her speeches in college, her treatment as First Lady, the work she did, and allows participants to scream out what they dislike about Clinton, responding to many of the concerns of the electorate. Trumpland, like most of the rhetoric in this election, celebrates Clinton’s qualities, not just fending off attacks. And slowly he finds an audience that is more willing to lower their defenses because of Moore’s candid and honest attitude with a crowd he knows wants to disagree with him, yet in the end is responsive to his pleas.
Trumpland is not particularly cohesive, well executed, or even truly entertaining, but it reveals the honest truth about how the country saw Secretary Clinton during the election. This last election cycle was not a battle between Clinton supporters and Trump supporters. It was between people who love Trump, and people who, like Moore and the people in this audience, mostly resigned themselves to voting for Clinton.
It all comes just a little too late for this election. Released barely more than two weeks before the election, this was an appeal that would’ve needed to come weeks earlier to be effective and influential. And Moore knew that, predicting Trump’s victory in July.
But the message of Trumpland is not relevant only to this election, but in fact is more applicable to how we move forward after this election. Moore does something few people know how to do this past year. He took a crowd he knows is volatile, and finds a way to bridge the gap between groups who throw hate at each other. He recognized where the hate on both sides comes from, but stresses that the election ballot shouldn’t be an “anger management tool”. Instead he finds ways the differing political parties can relate to each other, understand each other, and unite together.
If this election reveals something, it is not that we are not divided. Rather our discussions having become polarized, antagonizing each other and ignoring the common ground that stands between even the most different people. And while hostility has heightened since the election results, Trumpland recognizes that this is election shouldn’t be a fight between incompatible ideologies but a recognition of how each of us have suffered since the Recession. Perhaps, if Michael Moore can reach across the aisle, maybe the rest of us can too.