By Joan Ellis
2016: Obama’s America asks this: “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?”
There are as many answers to that question as there are people asking it. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a miner or a banker, a man or a woman, the first half of this documentary is enlightening. Obama himself reads most of it in excerpts from his two autobiographical books.
It’s in the interpretation of that material that the public conversation forks left and right.
The movie advertises itself with the tagline, “Love Him, Hate Him but Do You Really Know Him?” Of course not. We didn’t know Jimmy Carter the peanut farmer or George W. Bush the Yale frat boy, but they were thrown up by a fractured nominating system that repeatedly gives us a choice of men we don’t know. Obama’s books made him more of a known quantity than most of our candidates.
Who made this documentary? The director and narrator is Dinesh D’Souza. Staunch conservative from his days on The Dartmouth Review, former fiancée of right wing spokesman Ann Coulter, he examines the distinction between being an immigrant (he as Asian Indian) and being a minority (Obama as black). In a strange tangent, he asserts that Obama, in a punitive rage at past Colonial injustices to his forebears, wants to retaliate by taking money from the rich.
It is Obama’s anger, D’Souza says, that underlies his determination to reduce the U.S. to equal player status on the global playing field by standing against the Keystone pipeline and domestic oil drilling, and for nuclear disarmament. D’Souza imagines an “after-election flexibility” that will enable Obama to socialize and disarm us. He does not mention that Obamacare was crafted on Romney’s Massachusetts health plan or that nuclear capability in multiple countries already threatens the planet and all of us who live on it.
Obama’s need to navigate both the black and white worlds in Hawaii, Indonesia, and the U.S. makes him an even more remarkable figure than he might have been if paternal Kenyan ancestry had been the only unusual thing about him. The fact of a brilliant, apparently rudderless alcoholic father who sired children with various wives was a deep influence on the family man Obama became. His emotional curiosity about his African heritage and the father he met only once is a greatly important piece of his cultural texture.
We are told yet again that Bill Ayers (Weatherman bomber then, professor now), the Rev. Jeremiah Wright (of the rabid anti-American rhetoric) and legendary literary theorist Edward Said were among his early influences. That is precisely the kind of eclectic mix that allows strong, bright people to sort through early influences, accepting and discarding as they go. Isn’t that what learning is?
One thing is sure. With its odd mixture of interest and cant, 2016 proves one thing: the Republican Party now has its very own Michael Moore.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.