NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

Documentary Review: Michael Moore takes on the Trump error with Fahrenheit 119

Michael Moore’s lat­est doc­u­men­tary checks all the box­es his films usu­al­ly do: you laugh, you almost cry, you shake your head in frus­tra­tion, and you chuck­le and roll your eyes at some of the stunts he pulls.

In Fahren­heit 119, Moore also gives us some rea­son to hope that, despite the dis­as­ter of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­cy, we can get our coun­try mov­ing back in a pro­gres­sive direc­tion and save our democracy.

The films opens with clips from Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s ral­ly in Philadel­phia on the night before the 2016 elec­tion; a night filled with hope and the expec­ta­tion that she would be the next Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

Then we see clips of Elec­tion Day, includ­ing many women who are emo­tion­al and excit­ed about hav­ing vot­ed for a woman to be Pres­i­dent for the first time.

Moore notes that few expect­ed Trump to win the elec­tion, and shows news clips of var­i­ous pun­dits all say­ing that Clin­ton is going to win. The New York Times said Trump had only a fif­teen per­cent chance of winning.

And yet, we all know what hap­pened: just after 2 AM East­ern Time on 11/9/2016, the Elec­toral Col­lege was called for Trump.

Moore nar­rates over the video of Trump and his fam­i­ly com­ing out on stage to accept vic­to­ry and notes how no one looks par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py or cel­e­bra­to­ry. Trump had not pre­pared a vic­to­ry speech, because he ann expect­ed him to win.

At 2:29 AM, Trump’s face as the next Pres­i­dent is pro­ject­ed on the Empire State Build­ing. “How… did this hap­pen?” Moore asks emphatically.

It all start­ed with Trump’s announce­ment that he was run­ning for Pres­i­dent, which Moore says was fake and just for pub­lic­i­ty to try to prove his star pow­er to NBC after he learned that Gwen Ste­fani was get­ting paid more for being a judge on The Voice than Trump was get­ting for The Apprentice.

The move back­fired, as he spoke with­out a script and made his infa­mous­ly vile and racist state­ments about Mex­i­can immi­grants, caus­ing NBC to fire him.

Fahrenheit 11/9 movie poster

Fahren­heit 119
Release Year: 2018
Direc­tor: Michael Moore
Run­ning time: 2h 8min
Watch trail­er

Rather than Trump qui­et­ly fad­ing away from soci­ety as we all wish would have hap­pened, his sons con­vinced him to still go through with the two ral­lies he had already planned and paid for.

He loved the large crowds and the ener­gy and atten­tion he got, so he con­tin­ued on with more ral­lies and made it into a real pres­i­den­tial bid.

And the mass media (ahem, CNN) hap­pi­ly gave him plen­ty of air time, get­ting rat­ings and prof­its off of the crass and crazy campaign.

Audio is heard of a CBS exec­u­tive say­ing that “it may not be good for Amer­i­ca, but it’s good for our rat­ings” and admit­ting that they were mak­ing a lot of mon­ey from their cov­er­age of Trump.

Moore also tar­gets celebri­ty news anchors (or, to bor­row a term from James Fal­lows, buck­rak­ers) who were very point­ed and aggres­sive in their inter­views of Clin­ton dur­ing the cam­paign, and like Don­ald Trump, have been accused of sex­u­al harass­ment, includ­ing Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, and Char­lie Rose.

The film then tran­si­tions from Trump to dis­cussing anoth­er awful elect­ed offi­cial, Michi­gan Gov­er­nor Rick Sny­der. Moore’s home state of Michi­gan elect­ed Sny­der in 2010. Like Trump, Sny­der had no polit­i­cal or pub­lic ser­vice expe­ri­ence. He was the CEO of Gate­way com­put­ers, and promised to run the state like a business.

Once in office, he quick­ly took action to con­sol­i­date his pow­er and reward his rich friends by pass­ing a tax break for the rich and con­vinc­ing the Leg­is­la­ture to pass an emer­gency man­ag­er law. This statute enabled him to replace the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed may­ors and city coun­cils of strug­gling cities includ­ing Detroit and Flint, with his cronies who worked to pri­va­tize var­i­ous aspects of city ser­vices and make mon­ey for their and Sny­der’s friends and supporters.

Moore then explains the basics of the Flint water cri­sis, and how Sny­der and oth­er gov­ern­ment offi­cials have failed to take any action to address it. The sher­iff of Flint tells Moore that he believes Sny­der should be charged crim­i­nal­ly, say­ing “it is an inten­tion­al act” to let peo­ple to con­tin­ue to be poi­soned by the water.

This leads to some clas­sic Moore antics.

He goes to gov­er­nor’s office at the state capi­tol and tries to make a cit­i­zen’s arrest of the gov­er­nor, but he is not there. So Moore fills up a water truck with water from Flint and goes to the gov­er­nor’s man­sion. He gets no response on the inter­com at the gate, so he sprays the water over the fence and into the yard.

Going back to Trump, Moore shows footage of the vio­lence against pro­tes­tors and peo­ple of col­or at Trump’s ral­lies and how Trump eggs it on.

Trump in his ral­lies and mem­bers of his cam­paign staff in inter­views repeat­ed­ly ref­er­ence “the real Amer­i­ca” as being who he rep­re­sents, as opposed to “left­ists.”

But, says Moore, we are a pro­gres­sive, lib­er­al, left­ist country.

A major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans sup­port equal pay, labor unions, a high­er min­i­mum wage, a low­er mil­i­tary bud­get, stronger envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, are pro choice, believe immi­gra­tion is good for the coun­try, and do not own guns.

If we are the major­i­ty, he asks, why don’t we con­trol any of the branch­es of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and a minor­i­ty of state governments?

In pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date has won the pop­u­lar vote in six of the last sev­en elec­tions. Al Gore and Hillary Clin­ton would have become Pres­i­dent if we used the nation­al pop­u­lar vote instead of the Elec­toral Col­lege to seat win­ners, which Moore says was writ­ten into the Con­sti­tu­tion to appease the slave states.

We can’t real­ly call it a democ­ra­cy if the per­son who gets the most votes does­n’t win, Moore says. He then pro­ceeds to dis­cuss the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial pri­maries and the par­ty’s use of auto­mat­ic, unpledged del­e­gates at its nation­al con­ven­tion. This turned peo­ple away, both from the par­ty and from the elec­tion, Moore argues.

“The loss of faith in democ­ra­cy becomes our death knell,” said a Yale his­to­ri­an inter­viewed in the film. Auto­crats only suc­ceed when enough peo­ple give up, he said.

Moore then strikes a more hope­ful tone, high­light­ing many pro­gres­sive, first-time can­di­dates run­ning for office this year, includ­ing New York’s Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (the like­ly suc­ces­sor to Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joseph Crow­ley) and Michi­gan’s Rashi­da Tlaib, who if elect­ed would become the first Mus­lim woman in Congress.

Oca­sio-Cortez, who we see door­belling in Queens shares a thought with the cam­era: the con­cept of “elec­toral insan­i­ty,” which she defines as elect­ing the same peo­ple over and over and expect­ing dif­fer­ent results.

Moore then high­lights the momen­tum of oth­er move­ments sweep­ing the coun­try, such as teacher’s strikes, which start­ed in West Vir­ginia and were fol­lowed up in many oth­er states includ­ing Ari­zona, Ken­tucky, and Col­orado, and the March for Our Lives move­ment start­ed by the teen sur­vivors of the school shoot­ing in Park­land, Flori­da. On one day there were over sev­en hun­dred march­es in the Unit­ed States and over a hun­dred more in oth­er cities around the globe.

After alter­nat­ing between an old black and white video about the attrib­ut­es of despo­tism and clips of how those are all present in our soci­ety today, Moore empha­sizes that it “does­n’t need to end like this”.

He ends the film with a clip from Emma Gon­za­lez’s speech at the March for Our Lives, high­light­ing the gen­er­a­tion of activists that is help­ing to lead much of the change that is so des­per­ate­ly need­ed in our coun­try right now.

I def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend see­ing Fahren­heit 119, as it gives you some need­ed per­spec­tive on things in these chal­leng­ing times while also stok­ing your frus­tra­tions and moti­vat­ing you to keep push­ing for change. I also learned a few more things about the Flint water cri­sis that I was­n’t aware of previously.

Fahren­heit 119 opened on Sep­tem­ber 21st and can be screened in the­aters across  the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: