Seven former Trump supporters are interviewed about their experiences of disillusionment of the former US President and the backlash they faced for their change of heart. Joe Walsh is a Tea Party Republican, former US Congressman and talk radio host. Batya Goldberg is the former head of Brooklyn Teen Republicans Club. Chris Gibbs is a farmer and rural advocate. David Weissman is an army veteran and former right wing troll. Nathan Munson, and Ron and Cindi Hawthorne are Evangelical Christians.
This documentary is broken into five segments for each category to explore different facets and areas that Trump influenced the Republican base and each gives the source of their disillusionment. This was a fascinating insight because it’s rare that Republicanism in the United States is framed in a multi-faceted way, and shows you exactly why the former US President was so appealing. I found the agricultural aspect particularly interesting, especially the consequences of a water bill Obama pushed and the backlash from Trump pulling out of a very prominent trade deal.
It’s also goes distinctly personal and psychological in describing the somewhat cult-like behaviours Trump’s supporters tend to possess. We get interviews from former cult members and current advocates for deconversion, as well as those who have analysed demagoguery in Trump’s rhetoric and presentation. It’s likely stuff you’ve heard before if you follow any of the man’s antics and the discourse surrounding him, but contrasted with the accounts of former supporters it really cements this picture of what those getting deep into this rhetoric may be thinking or pushing upon themselves. It’s strong filmmaking.
It’s also careful to show the more personal, intimate reasonings that shaped these people’s worldviews and how they were challenged. One of the most famous examples is David Weissman, a vocal Trump supporter whose change happened when Sarah Silverman compassionately responded to him on Twitter. It utterly smashing the way he trained himself to look at his political opponents. Batya Goldberg is another example, whose staunch values were challenged by Trump’s soft defense of the alt-right at the Charlottesville rally. It resonated with her due to her own Russian Jewish heritage with family who were in the Holocaust and living in the USSR.
I definitely felt the extra speakers and experts can be a little clumsily inserted into the narrative and disturb the flow a little. Particularly because it feels like they’re repeating a lot of points in parts. I also think it can be cut down for time here and there, especially in the final segment. That’s likely a consequence of coming last in a line of testimonials and being focused on several more people so it doesn’t centre as well as the one-person segments. While they obviously had to bring up Trump’s loss and the fallout from that, and going into the importance of continuing this narrative due to the mass support he has, it’s something that feels rushed while it’s a vital lynchpin to the entire doc.
Having said that, I really enjoyed The Game is Up. It’s a nuanced take on an issue that can be simplified a lot or simply brushed off in order to dehmanise certain swaths of people and not examine why Trump won or why he garners so much support despite his numerous scandals and failures in the past 4 years. There’s fantastic context given by looking into deprogramming and demagoguery. However, it keeps the major focus on the personal stories of those who felt let down by those who supposedly held their principles or realising how too far into the rabbit hole they had dug. Really interesting and informative doc.
Watch the trailer for The Game is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories: