Documentary film “All In: The Fight for Democracy”, which was released on Amazon Prime in last month, is a passionate argument on the importance of voting in the American democracy. Via its sobering presentation on the long history of voter suppression in the American society, the documentary effectively raises a big alarm to its main audiences, and you will find yourself becoming more concerned about the upcoming result of the 2020 US Presidential Election, which will certainly affect the voting right of numerous American citizens out there in one way or another.
One of the enlightening parts in the documentary is the one which shows us that the origin of the voter suppression in US was already there when the American government was established in the 1780s. When George Washington became the first US president, the only citizens eligible for voting were white male land owners, and that was only a few percent of the entire population at that time. Of course, more citizens were allowed to vote as time passed by, but women and black slaves were still blocked from voting in the early 19th century, and even the addition of three amendments to the US Constitution after the Civil War did not help much.
In case of millions of Southern black slaves who became liberated after the Civil War, they were mercilessly oppressed once the US government decided to lessen the control over the Southern states. During the reconstruction period following the war, the freed black voters in the Southern states willingly voted for the black politicians representing them, and that led to the entry of a bunch of black congressmen and senators to Washington D.C., but the following rise of KKK, which was incidentally glorified by D.W. Griffith’s notoriously racist classic film “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), completely wiped out this brief progress. As a consequence, less than 5% of the black population in these states were registered voters in 1945.
Nevertheless, the demand for the changes in the American voting system gradually grew over the time. The voting right for American female citizens came to be recognized and protected in the early 20th century, and the documentary makes a small but acerbic point on how black female activists were unfairly marginalized despite their considerable contribution to the American female suffrage movement during that time. As the American society entered the 1950s, its black population came to demand more freedom and rights including voting right as headed by a number of prominent activists including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the whole nation soon became shaken by their protests and the following backlashes from numerous racist politicians and authorities in the Southern states.
The key moment in King and his fellow civil rights activists’ political movement happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7th, 1965. When hundreds of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators including late John Lewis tried to march across the bridge on that day, the local policemen were already on the other side of the bridge as being ready for suppressing them by any means necessary, and what inevitably occurred between these two opposing groups, which happened to be recorded and reported by many journalists around that spot, shocked the whole nation.
The considerable efforts and sacrifices of those Civil Rights movement demonstrators eventually led to more political power for President Lyndon B. Johnson and his government to get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law. During next several decades, the act was expanded and prolonged more for the inclusion of not only black citizens but also many other minority groups in the American society, and we see how this significant progress received bipartisan supports from both Democrat and Republican politicians.
This progress ultimately led to that historic moment at the end of the 2008 US Presidential Election, but, unfortunately, the dramatic triumph of President Barak Obama caused far more backlashes than before. In 2013, the US Supreme Court virtually nullified the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and this controversial legal decision led to more voting suppressions committed here and there around the nation under superficial excuses including the prevention of voter fraud, which has actually happened far less frequently than many American right-wing pundits and politicians claim. As a result, millions of citizens were denied of their right to vote, and, not so surprisingly, this was one of several big factors contributing to the shocking political rise of the current US president.
While clearly and grimly recognizing the ongoing crisis of the American democracy, the documentary also shows the continuing efforts of many good American people fighting against voter suppression, and that is particularly exemplified well by two different interviewees in the documentary: Desmond Meade and Stacey Abrams. While Meade has fought for the voting right for ex-cons like him in Florida, Abrams ran for the 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial election as the first African American female major-party gubernatorial nominee in US, and we come to sense considerable spirit and defiance form them as watching them trying to bring changes into their society. Although she eventually lost due to many obstacles set by her Republican opponent in advance, Abrams, who also participated in the production of the documentary, does not lose her spirit at all, and she keeps emphasizing to us on why even one vote does matter.
In conclusion, “All In: The Fight for Democracy”, which is directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, is not only informative but also compelling in its skillful presentation of the main subject, and I sincerely hope that the documentary has really motivated more potential voters out there in the American society. Yes, there is still hope for the American society to restore its democracy as well as sanity, but things remain uncertain and alarming as before, and we can only wish the best for its good citizens.