At this pivotal moment before the election, many people are questioning how we got to this point. How can the democracy that we value so highly have brought us here, to where more than 200,000 people have died of a single virus, and over 8,500 wildfires have burned in California since the beginning of the year? Some people have begun to ask — is democracy dead? Has it been corrupted by money and power? Are politicians just making empty promises to get re-elected?
With all of these questions running through our heads, it’s hard to know where to turn for answers. The news is a fast-paced, constantly changing whirlwind. It doesn’t often leave you feeling inspired. So where do you go for motivation or hope? Where do you go to remind yourself why votes matter even in a system where sometimes it seems like they don’t? Your answer lies in entertainment, specifically documentaries.
Documentaries, podcasts, and honest conversations will influence voters because they are real. Documentaries don’t try and hide the fact that politicians and our voting systems are flawed. At the same time, there is something about documentaries that can inspire you, and make you want to go out and do your part. There are many things a documentary can convey that news and infographics can’t. It can show the emotion and humanity of democracy, elections, and larger political movements.
Knock Down the House is just one example of a documentary that could help inspire a voter. The documentary was released in January 2019 and intimately follows four women from across the country running for the House of Representatives and Senate. Not only do we learn about the celebrated Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), but also about Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin, three other women who ran for Congress in 2018. These women were all newcomers running against big money politicians with long histories in Congress. It is unlikely that newcomers who run against people like that will win, but these women bravely tried to.
The documentary is inspiring in many different ways and can help someone understand the importance of supporting grassroots campaigns. What the viewer learns from all four women, but specifically AOC, is that often, politicians accepting money from large corporations can essentially be “bought” and become corrupt. That’s why grassroots campaigns are so important; they focus on getting support from the local level. Grassroots congresspeople can focus more on the people they are representing because they are not corrupted by the financial influences of large corporations. All four women were running grassroots campaigns against men who had larger financial influences, which inspires viewers who see them as the underdogs.
Unfortunately, AOC was the only one out of the four who won in 2018, although both Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearingen have received the Democratic nomination for this year’s election. While it was incredibly disappointing when they lost, it made AOC’s win even more powerful to the viewer.
At one point in the movie, Vilela says to AOC, “It’s not about any one of us individually, it’s about the whole movement.” AOC responds, “It’s just the reality that [for] one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try.” In 2018, 117 women, 47 of them women of color, were elected to the House, but if it wasn’t for this documentary, we wouldn’t have known about many of the women who weren’t. The political movement then was more than just who was elected. It’s the same today. This documentary shows that what happens in November won’t happen with the flick of a switch. It’s about a movement, and about what people have done in the months, years, and decades leading up to it.
Election and voting documentaries are essential to the political process because they can show both the cruel and inspiring sides of elections. Right now, our country is nowhere near perfect. From climate change, to mass incarceration, to economic inequality, there are many issues that need to be addressed, and they need to be addressed soon. So much is riding on this upcoming election, and we need to do everything in our power to get people to vote.
That’s where these documentaries come in. After watching Knock Down the House, as a viewer you are inspired to vote right then and there. Seeing how hard someone who truly cares about the American people has to work in order to run a successful grassroots campaign would make anyone want to use their voting privilege. It’s entertainment and media like this that will push people to vote.