Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is a 2016 American political documentary film about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and an examination of the history of the Democratic Party, written and directed by Dinesh D'Souza and Bruce Schooley. The film had a limited release on July 15, 2016 before a wide release on July 22, 2016 and accompanies a book by D'Souza by the same name.
Although the film was a box office success, critics panned it; it was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, and won four including Worst Picture (a first for a documentary film), and Worst Director and Worst Actor for D'Souza himself. D'Souza reacted to the nominations by calling them "petty revenge" for Trump's election.
Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative author and commentator who co-directed Hillary's America, is known for also directing 2016: Obama's America (2012), which criticized incumbent president Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential election, and America: Imagine the World Without Her (2014), which portrayed United States history in a positive light, arguing against perceived liberal critiques of its history, including the theft of Native American and Mexican lands, black slavery, contemporary foreign policy, and its capitalist system.
The film begins with scenes of D'Souza at the halfway house where he spent time due to a conviction for making an illegal political contribution. (D'Souza and some of his defenders believe that his prosecution was too harsh and his sentence was excessive.) The film then switches to examining and criticizing the history of the Democratic Party, from Andrew Jackson to the present day. D'Souza is portrayed going into a basement archive of the "Democratic Headquarters" where he reveals secrets of the party's history.
The film briefly outlines the origins of the Democratic Party, then examines the blatant racism of one of its founders, President Andrew Jackson. It goes on to describe how Jackson and the Democratic Party passed and signed into law legislation that brutally expelled Native Americans from their land and created the reservation system. This is followed by an examination of the historical record of the Democratic Party in the North and South in supporting and defending the institution of slavery, and ensuring the spread of slavery into the western territories. It examines the founding of the Republican Party as a reaction to the support of slavery by the Democratic Party and their endorsement and defense of fugitive slave laws.
The film then examines the historical record of the Democratic Party, including their opposition to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, their close ties to the Ku Klux Klan in both the 19th and 20th century, including the support of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson for the KKK and racial segregation, their opposition to anti-lynching legislation, their manipulation of New Deal legislation in the 1930s to ensure African Americans would not benefit, and their opposition to the civil rights legislation of the 1960s which was passed with significantly greater support from the Republican Party than from the Democratic Party.
The film also examines the validity of the common argument made by leaders of the Democratic Party that the parties "switched" positions, with the Democratic Party becoming progressive and Southern racists becoming Republicans, which it rebuts by demonstrating that fewer than 1 percent of Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation changed parties.
The film examines the record of the Democratic Party in its use of social welfare programs and machine politics, particularly in urban areas, to create what has been described as a new plantation system, enabling the Democratic Party to exploit and coerce residents. The film then describes the rise and activities of radicals such as Saul Alinsky, who was ultimately a huge influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The film proceeds to examine and criticize the actions of Clinton, questioning her ethics, honesty and motivations. The film ends after playing patriotic music.
D'Souza presents various interviews in the film, including:Carol M. Swain – political scientist, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, and former television host
Jonah Goldberg – conservative syndicated columnist, author and commentator
Peter Schweizer – author, political consultant, and author of the book and movie Clinton Cash
Hillary's America had a limited release on July 15, 2016, played in three theaters in Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix, and making a box office of $77,500. The success of the film during that period was described as "massively frontloaded" because it made about $41,000 on the first day. On July 22, 2016, Hillary's America was released nationwide, being released to 1,217 theaters. This date fell between the end of the 2016 Republican National Convention and the beginning of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. On its opening weekend, the film's box office was $3.7 million, in the top ten that weekend. On July 23, 2016, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers released the music video "Stand Up and Say So (Hillary's America)", a song they wrote and performed for the film.
Hillary's America: The Secret of the Democratic Party, became the highest grossing documentary of 2016, grossing $13.10 million at the box office.
Hillary's America was universally panned by professional film critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 4%, based on 27 professional reviews, with an average rating of 1.7/10. The critics consensus on the site reads, "Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party finds Dinesh D'Souza once again preaching to the right-wing choir – albeit less effectively than ever." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 2 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". The film has the second all-time lowest score in the site's history.
Reviewers from The Washington Post and The New York Times described the film as politically partisan.
In a review for IndieWire, film critic David Ehrlich wrote, "This is the same old dog and pony show upon which D’Souza has built his brand. It’s his usual shtick of piggybacking a baseless personal attack onto a pseudo history lesson, a feature-length dog whistle that’s blown at a pitch so high that only the most ignorant or paranoid of people are capable of hearing it." Writing in The Guardian, Jordan Hoffman described the film as "paranoid" and "so demented that no synopsis could do it justice" and D'Souza as a "simpleton". He goes on to say that the basis of the film, the "purposely misunderstood fact" that "the Republicans used to be the good guys when it came to the issue of racial equality in America" is as surprising a discovery as the Soviet Union being an ally of the United States in World War Two because: "things change, and labels are semantics, and the concepts that bind a political party then might not be the same ones that bind them now." Dann Gire of the Boston Herald called the film "an embarrassment to propaganda films", full of "mind-boggling conspiracy theories" and "fried thoughts and lapses of basic journalistic practices".
Reviewing the film, Alan Zilberman of The Washington Post stated that "any conservative voters who check out the latest film ... will be disappointed by what they find. Incurious to a fault, it’s also too incoherent for serious argument." In addition, Kurt Hyde of The New American called the film "a mixed bag", stating that, among other reasons, although "parts of the movie were well-researched, the accounts of numerous other events, especially those more than 100 years in the past could have been researched more thoroughly" and that "[t]here isn't any great difference between the two parties", contrary to what the film claimed.
John Fund of the National Review stated that "[the film] is over the top in places and definitely selective, but the troubling facts are accurate and extensively documented in the D’Souza book that accompanies the movie [and that] the film is intensely patriotic".
In response to the Golden Raspberry Awards nominations, D'Souza stated that he was "actually quite honored" and called the nominations "petty revenge" in response to Trump's election victory and that "the film might have played an important role in the election." After winning four of the nominations, D'Souza continued to be "a good sport" and repeated his view that the nominations were an upset response to Trump's election victory.
On July 23, 2016, Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee (and eventual victor) against Clinton, called on supporters to see the film.