Two years into the Trump era, with the pivotal—perhaps epochal—November midterms looming, two new documentaries begin with cuts of pundits laughingly dismissing Donald Trump’s chances of becoming president of the United States.
One is from Oscar-winning director Michael Moore. It’s his second film about Trump; the first, 2016’s Michael Moore in TrumpLand—performed, shot and edited weeks before the 2016 election—captured Moore’s one-man show. In it, he predicted Trump’s win; unlike pundits, in fact, he never doubted it. His latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9—which flips the title of 2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11—encapsulates his feelings: Election Day 2016 was the political equivalent of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Moore grew up in working-class Flint, Michigan, a state where Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Jim Stern, a financier and prolific film producer, was also raised in the Midwest but in the progressive enclave of Chicago. He, too, was sensing a political shift in early 2016 and set off with a film crew to Florida, West Virginia and Arizona to meet and understand Trump’s supporters. Among the “facts” they share during Stern’s American Chaos: how Clinton promised to abolish the Second Amendment her first day in office.
Jim, what made you think Trump was going to win in early 2016?
Stern: I’ve lived in New York, Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco—all liberal cities—and I come from a political family. The people around me were hoping Trump would win the Republican nomination because they believed there was no way Americans would elect him, guaranteeing Hillary’s win. I was absolutely on the other side and very concerned that she would not be able to stretch the electorate to overcome a core that would not leave Trump. And I felt like no one was talking to anybody. We can be snarky and say these poor people are such dopes. I don’t believe that.