After nearly four years of waiting, and a landmark Supreme Court decision, David Bossie, chairman of the advocacy group Citizens United, finally got what he wanted—the chance to make a movie that could change the course of an election. Tuesday at the Republican National Convention, Citizens United will release its new documentary, The Hope and the Change, an hour-long overview of the Obama presidency. But, perhaps surprisingly, this isn’t really a movie for Republicans. Everyone interviewed for this documentary is a registered Democrat (or left-leaning independent).
The Citizens United movie does not delve deep into the president’s past. There are no expert opinions, and no behind the scenes footage. The Hope and the Change is not about the president but about those who put him in office: It's a collection of interviews with Americans from “purple” states who voted for Obama in 2008–and who may not do so again. In interviews intertwined with media footage, these voters discuss how they became disillusioned with the candidate of hope and change.
The movie begins with the 2008 Obama campaign at its zenith, with all the fainting and the passion, and the “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” For conservatives, long skeptical of Obama worship, this footage provokes the same old scorn. And "clinging to guns and religion," and Obama’s own admission of the stimulus that "shovel ready wasn’t as shovel ready as we thought." There’s that slogan about the oceans receding and the earth beginning to heal—but the film also digs up a few gems you may have forgotten.
The film is at its best when it dredges up the kind of clips that Obama’s 2012 campaign would rather everyone forget. This film is a pointed reminder of just how much candidate Obama promised—and how much he has failed to deliver.
“He promised change,” says one woman, “And we all got fooled.”
“It’s almost like buyer’s remorse,” another man says.
“It’s almost like an Ancient Greek tragedy,” director Steve Bannon says. “It’s the classic hero’s fall. The interviewees are like the chorus. At the beginning, they’re small, and Obama’s this great big voice, but as the movie goes on and on, they get louder, their voices come together, they take over—and he gets smaller.”
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech. The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, launched the era of the super PAC. The idea of “corporate personhood” became a rallying cry for the Occupy crowd.
But that’s tangential to Bossie’s project, he says. “I didn’t go to the Supreme Court to give more spending power to unions or to create Crossroads GPS. … I came because Michael Moore had the right to make a movie and advertise it, and I didn’t.”
Well, now he does. Citizens United plans to premiere the movie at both conventions, to broadcast the film (it hopes) on basic cable, to get it featured on PBS, and to advertise it on MSNBC and on CNN. It will open in theaters in September.
The Hope and the Change premiers in Tampa at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, at Liberty Plaza.
Kate Havard is an editorial assistant at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.