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Do Voters Want The Presidency To Be Popularity Contest? 'The Accidental President' Looks Back At 2016

Intervention Media
"The Accidental President" will be released on VOD on October 27.
Interview with James Fletcher and Anthony Scaramucci.

Several documentaries have been released about President Donald Trump in the last few weeks. From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s film Totally Under Control on the administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to Unfit, a psychological analysis of the president’s behavior over the last four years, the president gives “content creator” a whole new meaning.

While none of these docs will serve as an “October surprise” on their own, it is not a film anthology anyone from the administration would want voters to spend an evening binge watching. One of the most interesting documentaries of the bunch is The Accidental President, an in-depth and unironic look at exactly how Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.

Through a host of interviews with political experts, journalists and media personalities like Kellyanne Conway, Matt Schlapp and Van Jones, first-time filmmaker James Fletcher paints a detailed picture of what many pundits consider was the biggest upset in U.S. election history.

Whether Trump wins re-election on November 3, does his rise to power over these last few years mean that both parties are going to have to reevaluate the kinds of candidates they run in big races? Will the Democrats have to choose someone as beloved as Tom Hanks or Oprah Winfrey to have a fighting chance in 2024?

It’s a question Fletcher thinks society has to answer itself by looking in the mirror and deciding what it wants out of a leader.

“You wouldn’t pick a neurosurgeon based on how famous they are,” Fletcher said in an interview by videoconference earlier this month. “You really want to look at their mortality stats and their actual surgical ability if you’re going to put your life in their hands. One of the things our film touches on is, ‘Are we OK with being entertained or do we feel there are other qualities a leader ought to possess other than attracting attention?’”

Anthony Scaramucci, one of the film’s interviewees and the White House’s former Director of Communications, sees presidential elections as “marketing competitions” and “popularity contests.” Scaramucci was famously fired from his post after only 11 days. He continued to support Trump after he was let go for two more years but has since become a strong critic of the president and has endorsed Joe Biden for the 2020 election.

“It’s not like we’re making a hiring decision as the American people,” Scaramucci said in the same video conference. “There’s an entertainment element to it. People are getting invited into your living room for the next four years. If the president loses, some of it could be fatigue. Some of it could be [voters saying], ‘The show needs to be cancelled now.’”

The Accidental President hits Video on Demand platforms starting October 27.

The Accidental President - Trailer

Kiko Martinez is a film journalist and critic based in San Antonio, Texas.