|Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party|
by Peter J. O'Connell
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. Released: July 2016. Runtime: 106 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, thematic elements and smoking.
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party ends with Dinesh D'Souza being asked by a member of a class of immigrants that he is teaching: “How do I know when I have become an American?” D'Souza replies: “When you become a Republican.”
The entire film, written and directed by D'Souza and Bruce Schooley, has been heading like a laser for this partisan point. D'Souza, the movie's main auteur, is a conservative intellectual, an immigrant from India, who first garnered attention when, along with Laura Ingraham, he battled political correctness while a student at Dartmouth in the early 1980s.
Several years ago D'Souza apparently decided to become a right-wing version of leftist filmmaker Michael Moore, who brought forth Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and other works of a type that has been labeled “propumentaries”--a mixture of propaganda and documentary. In 2012 D'Souza brought forth the film 2016: Obama's America and in 2014 America: Imagine the World Without Her.
Hillary's America begins with a lively animated credits sequence set to a rollicking “Crappy Days Are Here Again.” It then moves to a reenactment of D'Souza's conviction and incarceration for a donation that violated campaign finance laws. D'Souza, playing himself, feels that his offense was minor, his prosecution politically motivated, and his punishment excessive. However, he decides to learn what he can from his fellow inmates.
A kind of imagined or pseudofactual sequence follows in which D'Souza learns how scams are carried out. He begins to ask himself what if the Democratic Party were a vast scam operation using claims of supporting racial equality, social justice and economic opportunity as a cover for a continuing attempt to gain control of America's wealth and freedom? D'Souza goes to a postulated “Democratic Headquarters” to investigate this point, and there in a basement he comes across the “secret history of the Democratic Party.”
A series of dramatic reenactments follows, with amateurish acting and cheesy costuming and makeup (those wigs!, those beards!) in prominent display; nuance, not. The aim is to shatter Democratic icons, from Andrew Jackson, described as the founder of the party, to John C. Calhoun to Stephen A. Douglas to Preston Brooks to Woodrow Wilson to Ben Tillman to John W. Davis to Margaret Sanger to FDR to Richard Daley.
To a greater or lesser degree, according to D'Souza, such figures either supported or refused to take action against such evils as slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan—described as the “military wing of the Democratic Party.” When leading Dems, such as LBJ, did take action it was out of hypocrisy and political calculation. The Democratic aim throughout was to get Native Americans onto reservations, African-Americans onto rural plantations or into urban ghettoes—described as “poverty plantations”--and immigrants into barrios or similar tough neighborhoods.
D'Souza's demonization of Democrats is contrasted to his depiction of the “truly democratic” actions of such GOP figures as Abraham Lincoln and Ida B. Wells, a noted anti-lynching activist described as a “gun-owning, black, Christian, Republican woman.” The Civil War, according to D'Souza, was not a war between North and South but a war between Republicans and Democrats. No Republican owned slaves, and Republican legislators overwhelmingly supported civil rights legislation following the war. Democrats overwhelmingly opposed such legislation. This situation continued well into the 20th century.
The tone of the film's reenactments is reminiscent of Victorian melodrama, but the “secret history” becomes more powerful when it simply quotes facts, such as those on slaveholding and legislative votes. And it is perhaps most powerful during its least heated sections, such as the interviews with the impressive Carol M. Swain, an African-American professor of law and political science, who shifted from Democrat to Republican, and Jonah Goldberg, author and commentator. These interviews are interspersed among the reenactments.
When Hillary's America finally gets to Hillary Clinton herself, it presents a mix of reenactments, newsclips, and an interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. The reenactments depict Saul Alinsky, “father of community organizing” in Chicago and a great influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as a sleazy character linked to gangsters. Reenactments also depict the Hillary of the 1960s as a squirrelly left-liberal. The newsclips present a familiar array of what Clinton critics allege to be shady financial dealings by Hillary and husband and coverups of Bill's sexual shenanigans.
An array of patriotic scenes reminiscent of calendar art, accompanied by familiar patriotic music, follows the film's sequence on the Clintons and leads to the dialogue quoted at the beginning of this review.
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is not in the realm of “fair and balanced.” It is more like the experience that many men have had of being lambasted by a wife or girlfriend, who then says, “I'm overstating in order to make things clear.” Does D'Souza's lambasting of Democrats lead to a clarity beyond conventional fairness and balance? See the movie and judge for yourself.