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Review: 'The Accidental President'

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

In the days leading up to the 2020 election, it might be fair to say that many are still wondering about the events that led up to the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump’s victory seemed to defy the odds, the predictions, the experts, analysts and even plain common sense.

He lost the popular vote but went on to sit behind the desk of the Oval Office.

It was a bewildering string of events leading to an outcome that surprised almost everyone, including the RNC and Trump himself.

Those events are the subject of James Fletcher’s new documentary The Accidental President that walks us through an unlikely path to the presidency.

It charts the trajectory of a brash billionaire who became the leader of the free world despite the lack of any political experience.

It connects the dots, marking the notable steps and missteps along the way: the Obama “birther” accusations, the McCain bashing, the boastful “pussy-grabbing” remarks, and a list of bad choices that should have spelled sudden death to anyone’s political career, particularly when they were running for the highest office in the land.

But Donald Trump manages to skillfully sidestep every self-created obstacle that he placed in his own path, to the cheering support of his following.

The Accidental President is well-researched and well-produced, touching many of the defining moments of Trump's rise to power. There are numerous clips to refresh our collective memory.

In addition, there is supplementary commentary and insight from a list of notable celebrities, experts and insiders. They include Jerry Springer, Piers Morgan, Van Jones, Kellyanne Conway, Frank Luntz, Molly Ball, and Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci.

Collectively, they attempt to explain how we got from there to here.

To a large degree, what they say makes a great deal of sense, despite your political affiliation.

The Accidental President rolls out the facts in a manner that could be applauded by factions on both sides of the proverbial fence. People on the left might shudder at the narrative, people on the right could applaud it.

The somber, downbeat music tracks might give away a liberal bias, but that seems to be the only tangible hint of political preference.

Like it or hate it, the movie does a good job of telling the story and explaining how it could possibly come to pass.

It moves with a brisk, compelling pace that is engaging, from start to finish.

It opens with the various interviewees getting mic-ed up and prepped in behind-the-scenes footage that is usually edited out. The inclusion here sets the stage for what follows.

In general, the material seems well balanced.

Curiously, there is little attention given to the impeachment hearings or Trump’s friend and shadowy advisor Steve Bannon who many believe was the architect of Trump’s overall strategy that included attacks on established government and the media as well as an agenda to create a divisive atmosphere of chaos and fear that could be exploited for political gain.

Those details aside, the film makes a case for Donald Trump’s marketing skills and ability to recognize and exploit opportunities.

Those qualities were his saving grace when he managed to emerge from the biggest field of Republican presidential nominees in memory and later cashed in on Hillary Clinton’s over-confidence and under-estimation of her opponent’s blue collar, grass roots appeal, born of anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo in Washington, DC.

Anger eclipsed ideology.

Trump vowed to build “a great wall,” repeal Obamacare, and create jobs, among other unfulfilled promises.

As is often the case in the world, he said what many wanted to hear. Aaron Sorkin pointed out that in his campaign speeches, he talked less about the plight of working people and more about himself.

Trump's outrageousness boosted the ratings for the networks. It was a symbiotic relationship. A win-win proposition.

After the election, the rants spilled over into the Twitter rants that allowed him to speak directly to his supporters, bypassing traditional media altogether.

The ugliness and anger of the content was often overlooked; the lead story every minute of every day.

The president’s enormous ego demands that he IS the news.

The movie observes that his greatest skill is that of self-promotion and suggests that he’s the ultimate showman.

For anyone wondering “How the hell did we get here?” The Accidental President makes a pretty plausible case for a largely implausible political tale.

It reveals a lot about America in 2020 and reveals a lot about ourselves.

It is a must-see documentary in the days leading up to November 3rd. It’s a history lesson and it begs the question about whether history—even improbable history--could possibly repeat itself.


The Accidental President is coming to virtual theaters on October 16 and VOD on October 27.

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