When Barack Obama became the first African-American president of the United States, it was easy to assume that racism had been quote-unquote “solved.” While prejudice is far more complicated than that, America still seemed to be making progress. As All In: The Fight for Democracy shows us, history isn’t a straight line. Progress is met with resistance around every corner and no victory is permanent. If Obama’s eight years in office were the ultimate step forward, then the past four years have felt like a step back to the Civil War. Perhaps that’s Donald Trump’s idea of “making America great again.”
Since 2016, the same question has been asked time after time: “How did Trump defeat Hillary Clinton after Obama paved a clear path to change?” Many have pointed to the bigots who prefer it when a white man is in charge. For the longest time, we told ourselves that intolerance was decreasing in numbers with each passing year. If Trump’s presidency has shown us anything, it’s that ignorance has more layers than any of us wanted to believe. To say that ignorance alone put Trump in the White House would be simplifying matters, though. All In: The Fight for Democracy explores the corrupted system that helped secure Trump’s first term and could very well result in a second term if we don’t fight for our right to vote.
Directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, All In provides an overdue history lesson on voter suppression in the U.S. In 2020 alone, Trump has openly admitted to blocking the post office to stop mail-in votes while Kanye West has staged a presidential campaign to draw voters away from Joe Biden. Trump wasn’t the founder of voter suppression, however. This is a tradition that goes back to our nation’s birth when only a handful of white males had the right to vote. While much has changed since then, politicians have found other ways to prevent the young, the poor, and minorities from making their votes count. One of the numerous examples All In gives us is gerrymandering, the manipulation of district boundaries to tip the odds in one side’s favor.
Taking center stage is Stacey Abrams, the first African-American female to receive a major U.S. party nomination for governor of Georgia. Abrams lost the 2018 election to Brian Kemp, a conservative who stated in one ad, “I got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself. Yep, I just said that!” And yet, Kemp still won by more than 50,000 votes. Abrams claims that voter suppression is to blame and nowhere was this more apparent than when she attempted to vote for herself. Upon arriving at the polls, Abrams was denied a ballot. Being a candidate, Abrams sorted the issue out. Had another woman of color been in her shoes, though, would she have walked away with an “I Voted Today” sticker?
Like Al Gore, Abrams may’ve lost the election, but she might have an Oscar-winning documentary on her hands. All In is absorbing, informative, and enraging – but in the best way possible. Almost fifteen years after An Inconvenient Truth won the Oscar, however, there are still people who assert that global warming is a myth. Likewise, there are still countless voters who support Trump even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality against Black Lives Matter protesters, and his reported comments regarding fallen veterans. Michael Moore’s documentaries didn’t exactly sway votes in the left’s direction back in the early 2000s. Will this film? Only time will tell, but it’s a must-watch whether you’re a democrat or republican.
All In: The Fight for Democracy also touches upon Joe Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona and the first person who Trump pardoned. Despite losing reelection in 2016 and being convicted of contempt of court, the 88-year-old Arpaio still ran in the August 2020 primary election. Arpaio lost the primary, but only by about 6,000 votes. If Arpaio came that close to reclaiming the Sheriff’s office, the idea of four more years for Trump isn’t nearly as unfeasible as some might assume. So, make sure you’re registered and before you cast your ballot, be sure to check out this important documentary.
All In: The Fight For Democracy will open in select theaters on September 9 and will release on Amazon Prime September 18. Also, be sure to look over the film’s website to register and check your voting status.