Dinesh D’Souza does not just prey on the ignorance of his followers. He preys on the ignorance of his adversaries too. Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is his third attempt at documentary filmmaking and his most recent attempt at seeing just how foolish and incompetent his detractors really are.
As should be clear from its title, D’Souza’s film serves a dual purpose: the first is to catalogue a long record of inhumanity and opportunism by the Democratic Party; the second is to portray Hillary Clinton as a villain of apocalyptic proportions. These two initiatives are carried out through a cinematic reenactment of D’Souza’s recent personal troubles with election laws. In 2014 he was charged by federal prosecutors for exceeding the legal campaign contributions one could make to a candidate. He did so by making donations in the names of other people—a detail he omits in the film, instead suggesting he just thoughtlessly gave too much money to a friend of his running for senator. D’Souza believes his prosecution was a political kangaroo court meant to silence his criticisms of the Obama administration. “They’re trying to teach me a lesson,” he says after the judge sentences him to eight months of overnight stays at a “community confinement center” in addition to weekly community service and psychological testing throughout his probation. In the penal halfway house D’Souza has his epiphany that sets off the remainder of the story: Democrats are not envious, manipulative, power-hungry ideologues—rather they are envious, manipulative, power-hungry criminals, who are merely interested in taking over as much wealth and decision-making as they can trick others into giving them.
According to D’Souza, this Democratic deceit has convinced the American people that throughout history, their party has been an institutional advocate for justice and equality. To make his case, D’Souza begins at the Democratic Party’s conception—originally an inauthentic alliance of Southern populism and East Coast aristocratic libertarianism—then works his way up the current elections, pausing along the way to record evil acts perpetuated by Democratic politicians or liberal activists against the very people they claim to have historically defended. Some of his targets include Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party’s first president-elect and also a slave owner and anti-Indian crusader; white chauvinist Woodrow Wilson, who segregated federal offices; Margaret Sanger, abortion advocate and eugenics proponent; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose social security programs were structured to exclude African-Americans. Finally, Lyndon Johnson is depicted as a man with all the subtlety of a cartoon villain when he describes his plan to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a ruse to win “the black vote for the next hundred years.” The film depicts Johnson saying this on Air Force One while a black waiter serves him and his white co-conspirators drinks—a toast to conspicuousness perhaps.
D’Souza then moves on to contemporary targets, specifically the Clintons. (President Obama is in the last year of his second term so it makes little electoral sense to waste time attacking him, nor, it should be noted, does Obama fit the bill of D’Souza’s criminal-rather-than-ideologue assessment if we judge from the content of D’Souza’s first two documentaries—2016: Obama’s America and America: Imagine the World Without Her—which treat the standing president as a devotee of third-world, anti-colonialist ideology.) Here, Bill Clinton is a serial adulterer and in all likelihood a rapist. At one point, D’Souza draws parallels between Andrew Jackson’s sexual abuse of his female slaves and Bill’s gross harassment of interns. Hillary is there to cover up her husband’s tracks, whether that means bullying his victims or lying on his behalf to the press. Why, the audience is meant to wonder, would a wife stick around for such a compassionless and disloyal spouse? Because, the film argues, she craves political power but lacks the charm and sly finesse to obtain it on her own. Fortunately for her, her husband has both these attributes in spades, so she keeps him around as an instrument of her own expediency.
In Hillary’s America the Clinton Foundation—with its expressed mission statement of “bring[ing] people together to take on the biggest challenges of the twenty-first century”—is a sham company, set up by the former president to conceal the unseemly relations the Clintons have with some of the world’s worst oligarchs, military dictators, and hate-peddlers. For instance, millions of dollars donated to the foundation for the 2010 Haiti earthquake never found their way to the tiny island republic. What funds did get there were mostly funneled off to relatives and associates of Clinton Foundation donors for nefarious business ventures.
The documentary pats itself on the back for exposing the progressive whitewashing of history and the actual truth of events revealed. Laid bare is Hillary’s use of her husband and her marriage as well as the abuses she has committed against women along the way. The film ends with an electoral call-to-arms: “The party of Reagan and Lincoln must come to the rescue” of America, to stop the Democrats from taking the country “from us.” An orchestra plays as a little girl sings the national anthem.
Those now anticipating a defense of the Clintons or of the Democratic Party will be disappointed. On the other hand, those looking for a defense of truth, integrity and intellectual consistency, even in the face of such omnipotent chicanery, hopefully will not be. Given the amount of errors, falsehoods and disgraceful distortions in Hillary’s America, it is not possible to dissect and ridicule all of them. A couple, however, should be addressed out of civic duty and to demonstrate just how much an affront to the intellect D’Souza’s so-called “truth-telling” really is.
That Democratic politicians defended slavery on the constitutional basis of minority rights (property-owners) is correct. During the historical segment of his film, D’Souza illustrates this point by having actors regurgitate the speeches justifying slavery made by some of these congressmen. One of the congressmen D’Souza chooses, John C. Calhoun, was such a good liberal Democrat that Russell Kirk decided to give him a whole chapter of praise in his right-wing canonical work, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. Here is Kirk quoting Calhoun as he summarizes a key ingredient of his political philosophy, “These great and dangerous errors have their origin in the prevalent opinion that all men are born free and equal—than which nothing can be more unfounded and false.” The conservative Kirk follows up the quotation with this approving remark, “He means his observations to be applied particularly to negro slavery, but one may lift them out of their transitory significance and fit them to the tenets of conservatism in our day [my emphasis].” And for those who might try safeguarding D’Souza’s intellectual probity by suggesting he perhaps has never read Kirk’s book—and that he is just less familiar with the history of political ideas than he lets on—you can visit D’Souza’s website, where he lists Kirk’s book as one of the “twenty-seven books every conservative should read.” So he is either ignorant or dishonest.
D’Souza endeavors to dispel another progressive myth, the “Big Switch,” where racist southern Democrats left the party in a mass protest over the Civil Rights Act. Yet one of D’Souza’s own conservative heroes, William F. Buckley, said it was balderdash to pretend Dixiecratic politics represented mainstream Democrats or that the modern Republican Party was a continuation of Lincoln’s. If the latter were true, politics would certainly make for strange bedfellows, as Karl Marx wrote a letter to Lincoln—on behalf of the Working Men’s Association—to congratulate him on his reelection victory.
Rather than studying the arguments, motives and forms of expression of these politicians and intellectuals, D’Souza merely takes note of their descriptors, strips them of any historical or institutional context, and then makes a movie based on this deprivation of language and thought. He parrots the criticisms made by radicals, socialists, and progressives of the Democratic Party—such as the Communists denouncing the New Deal as racist and vaguely fascistic—but then ideologically lumps them together with the very party they would never join. Moreover, he tangles himself in terminological inexactitude—for him “Democrat,” “progressive,” “liberal,” “socialist” are interchangeable.
Hillary’s America demonstrates two things: first, that conservative intellectuals are given free rein to make up their own facts so long as liberals obsess over their own moral fortitude, and second, that those who play loose with the facts long enough will, before they know it, lose their grip on reality too.