If you had told me only a few years ago that, in 2016, reality star and The Apprentice host Donald J. Trump would be elected as President of the United States of America, I would’ve thought you were crazy. And so would a lot of people. However, the American Republic has just about survived Trump’s 4-year presidential run and come out the other side. But just how did he get elected in the first place? Well, a new documentary – The Accidental President aims to answer that. Written and directed by James Fletcher, The Accidental President chronicles Donald J. Trump’s Presidential campaign and answers the simple question: How on Earth did Trump become President of the United States of America?
This documentary not only highlights the power and influence of social media, but also the power of the general public and how someone understood a majority, regardless of personal opinion of that subject. It’s presented in an unbiased way; not judgmental but more observant of what was going on during the time of the Trump campaign and how strong his campaign came to be.
The documentary begins at the start of Trump’s campaign and breaks down how he managed to get the American people on his side. The chronological order that the documentary chooses not only makes the subject matter simple to understand, but it also helps with creating a step-by-step process of the whole picture. As someone who is from the UK and doesn’t completely understand US politics, I found this very easy to follow. The pacing is also great, and it uses its time well, despite the amount of information that is contained.
The Accidental President can ultimately be broken down into four sections: Trump’s campaign, his online campaign, Hilary Clinton’s campaign and the election results. Accompanying each section are interviews with various media reporters, entertainment figures, including Piers Morgan and Jerry Springer and even a former chief scientist of Twitter. This gives the documentary an unbiased look into the key aspects of his campaign and how it worked as well as why it worked. And, while it may seem strange that figures like Jerry Springer are being interviewed, they’re important. Because Donald Trump treated the political campaign like a reality show (which he’s used to), it was actually interesting to hear from people who knew the inner workings of the reality show and entertainment industry. An example is his rallies, where he wouldn’t talk about any of his policies. Instead, he’d make jokes about other candidates and talk about other things, which entertained his target audience; it also made for extremely high TV ratings. As it’s quoted near the end of the film: ‘he took politics and pulled it into the world of entertainment’. And, as we’ve seen over the last four years, it worked. This is the first time where a reality show host has been relevant in explaining a political campaign, which further highlights how strange the whole campaign was.
The documentary also highlights the misunderstanding of the general public by the media. No one took Trump seriously and didn’t think he’d get elected, and that was the problem. Ignoring a situation and hoping it would go away wasn’t going to work and even the Republicans attempts at distancing themselves from him didn’t work either, because it was already too late. He’d already gained a huge following, not just because he held a lot of rallies, but because he made sure that no other candidate held a TV spot. By posting a tweet or doing/saying a shameful thing, it got him attention. To him, bad news is still news and, retrospectively, I can see how he got elected. He knew how to get people on his side and turn a minority following into a majority. Does this make it right? No, but understanding has to happen. And, unfortunately, the other candidates didn’t know how to respond to his shock, non-politician personality. This documentary shows, to an extent, how powerful social media can be too and not just how powerful a presence in the news can be.
The Accidental President is a fascinating look into the workings of a non-politician’s political campaign all the way to his presidential win. It’s very well executed and is filmed in a way where the events leading up to the 2016 election are easy to understand. The interviews conducted are also interesting and feature a variety of guests from press to the social media industry, and even the entertainment industry. This gives the viewer a full picture into the workings of the online campaign and the rallies. If this is a subject matter that you are interested in, then I would highly recommend this documentary.
The Accidental President is screening in limited U.S. theatres from Monday, June 21, 2021