All In: The Fight for Democracy
by Hope Madden
Documentaries can be frustrating, especially political documentaries. They warn you about coming disasters you hadn’t predicted, show you the brutality and ugliness in parts of the world you hadn’t seen, reinforce that ulcerous dread in your gut about humanity on the whole. You can basically only hope they also show you a way out.
Mercifully, All In: The Fight for Democracy does that. But first it upbraids your apathy about voting by detailing the harrowing history of Americans who had to take a beating, even die, just to exercise that right. Then it details the meticulously detailed strategy in place and being executed right now to keep you from exercising your right, now that you understand its value.
Filmmakers Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus wisely anchor their facts to Georgia’s gubernatorial race of 2018. The core storyline, narrated by the Democratic candidate in that race, Stacey Abrams, is of that election’s rampant and open-to-pubic-view suppression of Georgia votes. Abrams’s opponent, Brian Kemp, had been an architect of voter suppression as Georgia’s Secretary of State: closing polling places, purging voting rolls and instituting legislation that made voting more difficult.
It was incredibly successful for him. Expect to see more of it.
If that sounds cynical, it is. It’s also a major point of the film. But Cortes and Garbus (and Abrams) have a more idealistic goal, which is to point out something important to every American citizen regardless of party: Democracies only work when citizens decide what politicians do, not vice versa. When citizens vote, we can make the decisions. We can determine who is in office and what they need to fight for and against. And if they don’t do it? We can vote them out.
But we can only do that if we can actually vote, which is why politicians who don’t want to do their jobs enacting the will of the people work tirelessly to make it harder and harder for Americans to cast their ballots.
The history is well told between effective speakers and illustrative animations, but it’s the insidious nature of voter suppression and its modern execution that is equal parts enlightening, terrifying and frustrating.
So make a plan. Verify your polling location. Double check that you are still on the rolls. (Ohio is especially guilty of stifling the vote.) Vote early.
And watch this movie.