Much like Michael Moore, Dinesh D’Souza preys on the clickbait-era feebleness of his perceived audience with Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, a fundamentally incoherent and aesthetically barren harangue masquerading as a revisionist history lesson on the legacy of contemporary U.S. politics. There’s no question that Moore is a better filmmaker than D’Souza, which at least keeps the former’s work tenable as cinema, but both approach argumentation in a nearly identical manner, utilizing a single voice or case study as evidence of both incontrovertible fact and widespread practice. Such extrapolating logic serves merely to naturalize the director’s manipulations. For Moore, it’s conspicuous edits and a feigned look of surprise when a subject states information he very likely already knew. D’Souza behaves similarly, solemnly nodding as his interviewees divulge one “revelation” after another, but it’s clearly all a sham, primarily because the director, who appears on screen throughout, rarely asks questions of his subjects, instead leading them with “Tell me about…” at every turn. The jig is so transparent that one can almost feel D’Souza mouthing just off screen the obviously scripted dialogue along with his subject.
As in America, D’Souza makes himself a partial subject of his own film. This time around, he not only believes the Obama administration had a hand in his 2014 indictment for illegal campaign contributions, but also positions himself as a political prisoner (“Obama tried to shut me up”). In fact, the film initially functions as a vehicle for D’Souza to plead his wrongful persecution, including an unintentionally risible reenactment of his sentencing, which is presented as a fictional breaking news story on a local Manhattan news station. One may initially wonder why D’Souza would go to the trouble of reenacting his sentencing if such footage actually exists, but then the answer seems fairly clear: By using his own recreation, he’s trying to pass himself off as a victim-celebrity (not necessarily in that order). Subsequently, D’Souza also reenacts his brief stint in prison, where he learns about the “America of the street,” as he puts it, from Roc (Corey Cotton), a fellow inmate.
The film is an incoherent and aesthetically barren harangue masquerading as a revisionist history lesson.
The core of Hillary’s America is a dunderheaded blob of rhetorical baiting that argues that the Democratic party, from Andrew Jackson onward, is historically responsible for numerous systemic social problems ranging from slavery to contemporary racial injustice to a lack of women’s rights. D’Souza initially explains this through a prolonged reenactment that imagines President Jackson as a sneering mafioso-type, who took pleasure in raping his slaves and having them whipped. When Jackson raises his glass at dinner and utters, “To the Democratic party,” it’s with the guttural calm of someone like Vito Corleone. That’s likely due to the film’s other undergirding premise that the Democrats run the U.S. like a street gang, the terms of which (plan, pitch, take, deny) D’Souza learns from Roc over a game of chess.
The idea of U.S. capitalism being comparable to organized crime isn’t a novel one, but at least there’s a kernel of an idea there that’s fortified by a degree of correlation, no matter how facile. The overarching claim, however, that the Democratic Party upheld slavery and created the Ku Klux Klan and is therefore a group of hypocritical liars is merely misdirection via semantic deceit, since D’Souza perverts the usage of the name “Democrat” by suggesting its definition has remained static over the last 200 years. It’s notable that D’Souza never uses the words “liberal” or “conservative,” terms that would obviously not fit so plainly into his schizophrenic delineations of revisionist history.
If there’s a case to be made against both Hillary and Bill Clinton for their supposed corruption by Wall Street or extensive earnings from giving speeches, the film only mentions these talking points in passing and provides practically no evidence for any of its claims. Throughout, D’Souza stays perpetually distracted by his own braggadocio and can’t be bothered with proffering hard data to support his rhetorically dubious assertions. For a film titled Hillary’s America, one might reasonably expect D’Souza to devote a majority of the runtime to dealing with Clinton as an unfit presidential candidate, yet only the final half hour specifically addresses her merits.
The criticisms, like that Hillary enabled Bill’s sexual abuses by becoming a “fixer” and personally sought to hush certain women up, are pulled directly from the tabloids. The minimal time spent skewering Clinton directly is less surprising upon consideration of a shameless question D’Souza asks, following President Jackson’s implied rape of a slave girl: “What is it about Democratic presidents and innocent young women?” D’Souza is more comfortable rooting around in the garbage of his own deluded ponderings than engaging in any form of thorough, viable analysis.