The 2016 presidential election was a stressful time for everyone involved, regardless of political party, age, state or economic status. James D. Stern tries to explain how the country became so incredibly polarized in his documentary American Chaos, but fails to shed light on the questions he should be answering.
Stern followed the presidential campaign of Donald Trump for six months to understand why people across the country support him after his many controversial actions. He traveled to states like Florida, West Virginia and Arizona to talk to Trump supporters about the issues persuading them to vote for him.
People tell Stern they’re tired of politicians and the role of money in government. To them, Trump is not a traditional politician but rather one who will shake up a stagnant Washington D.C.
Four months before the election, Stern traveled to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, filled with fierce Trump supporters and Republicans alike. One woman he talked to said she “would rather have a dead carcass as president than Hillary Clinton.” Stern attempted to talk to these radical Trump supporters, but rarely came to any sort of conclusion with them.
Stern also journeyed to Arizona, where immigration is a major issue for residents living near the border. Trump is the first candidate who actually talked about immigration directly, Arizona residents said. They claimed illegal immigration is out of hand in their area — and Trump will fix it.
In the beginning, Stern said he would not argue with the people he visits, but ends up venting to the camera about how wrong they are, defeating the documentary’s purpose of being open-minded and truly understanding Trump supporters.
While Stern let Trump supporters tell their side of the story, it’s questionable if he truly listened to them. Parts of American Chaos are just him talking to the camera about how unqualified and ridiculous Trump is. He argued his own position after he spoke to supporters, making viewers question if he seriously considered the other side.
None of the points made in the documentary were earth-shattering, either. The documentary didn’t add much to what people already know about Trump voters. On average, they want stricter immigration regulations, gun rights and more coal industry jobs.
Personally, reliving the vile and tense time for America that was the 2016 election in two hours was horrifying. Many have learned to deal with the election’s outcome or, at the very least, moved on from the result, but all the documentary did was bring up buried emotions with no real conclusion or message in the end.