Fahrenheit 11/9 critiques Democratic establishment failures
Just in time for the 2018 midterm elections, Michigan-based documentarian Michael Moore has released “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the spiritual successor to his breakthrough 2004 George W. Bush polemic “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Though this movie currently marketed as Moore’s anti-Trump movie — and yes, there’s a lot of that in there — the film is also a scorching diagnostic of the failures of the Democratic establishment and the liberal hubris that led to the electoral victory of a blowhard billionaire game show host over a first lady-turned senator-turned secretary of state.
The film starts with a recap of the 2016 election night; a night every American remembers vividly. Expectations were shattered while the literal glass ceiling that was to be ceremoniously broken at Hilary Clinton’s election night headquarters was left intact.
Moore talks about the misleading poll numbers and how the Left slowly melted down and how the Right was in celebratory rapture as every swing state flipped red. He ends the prologue with his signature narration asking, “How the fdid this happen?”
The rest of the film switches back and forth through several case-studies that aim to directly or indirectly answer that question. Bernie Sander’s populist run during the contentious 2016 Democratic primary is touched on, as well as the failure of the media to take Donald Trump as a serious candidate, and the Democrats’ decades-long commitment to a lukewarm, center-left strategy that’s slowly alienated and eroded their voting base.
The political ignorance of social welfare by both parties is brought up most prominently with a thorough examination of Flint Michigan’s water crisis and the state and national levels of corruption that continues to halt their recovery— Michigan being one of the key rust-belt states that Clinton lost.
This example, while interesting on its own and documentary-worthy by itself, is sometimes forced awkwardly into the larger narrative argument that Moore is trying to make about post-Trump America.
Nevertheless, he manages to wrangle this subplot back into the fold with a scathing indictment of both Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and then-President Barack Obama who tried to downplay the severity of the health crisis caused by increased amounts of lead being introduced into the city’s water supply.
The documentary excels when it shows the strength of American activism and organization. The large student walkouts that were led by the survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida and the woefully under-reported teachers strike that began in West Virginia and then spread nationwide are recent examples that show the real strength that people who feel unrepresented have when they come together.
It’s then unfortunate when Moore leans on alarmist rhetoric that conjures up Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, as if to say, “if I can’t inspire you to vote this fall, maybe I can scare you into the booths.”
Whether you feel those comparisons to our current administration are unfounded or accurate, the appeals to base emotion and the transparent manipulation within these sequences register just as lame as the Russian ‘Killery’ memes or the propaganda depicting Jesus and Satan arm wrestling for the fate of America.
“Fahrenheit 11/9” is unlikely to change the minds of those who are either for or against the Trump administration, but the portrait it paints of a scattered and somewhat leader-less left-wing on the verge of a populist takeover speaks to a very interesting and self-reflective moment that we have yet to see resolved.
Moore gets a little sloppy and hyperbolic with the big-picture stuff but when he focuses in on specific figures, movements, or political happenings, he’s better at letting the raw information inform his arguments.