I saw Death of a Nation, the latest film of Dinesh D’Souza, on Saturday with my bride and son. Overall I was disappointed by it. The review is below the fold and the caveat as to spoilers is strictly in force.
I have liked the previous movies by D’Souza but this one left me cold. The major thesis of the film is that the Democrat party under FDR had much in common with the fascist states of Italy under Mussolini and Nazi Germany, and, to be blunt, this is laughable. D’Souza is on firmer ground when he contends that fascism is a variant of socialism and that fascism is a leftist phenomenon at its roots.
I did also enjoy his evisceration of the truly pathetic alt right movement:
Likewise when he attacks the contemporary Antifa movement as being a fascist movement he is on target. However, this attempt to prove that contemporary Democrats are far closer to fascism than Trump and his supporters detracts from what could have been an interesting comparison between Lincoln and Trump. D’Souza in the film compares the Secession Movement with the over the top resistance movement against Trump. However, D’Souza completely missed the main element in common between Trump and Lincoln. Their elections signaled the death knell of old political orders and the start of new political alignments.
Trump grasped this instinctively with his slogan Make America Great Again. He capitalized on the fact that most Americans believe the country is badly off course and the failure of the two major parties to carry through policies to correct this. Likewise the old Whig and the Democrat parties failed to deal with slavery, and a fusion party, the Republican party, arose to solve a problem that had vexed the country for four decades. I was hoping that D’Souza would explore this in his film, but he did not.
Previous films by D’Souza had a fair amount of humor, and this important element was missing, except at the beginning where Democrat commentators are shown melting down as Trump won on election night in 2016.
There are parts of the film that are well done. I found the sequence on the White Rose, the doomed young college kids who were executed in 1943 by the Nazis for their non-violent resistance activities, and Sophie Scholl to be very moving. In the best scene of the movie a smirking SS officer who has just told Scholl that she will be executed asks her whether it was worth it. She responds,
“An end in terror is preferable to a terror with no end.”
The movie ultimately is a mish mash of disparate elements that fails to jell. It has the feel of a rushed thank you note by D’Souza to President Trump for his pardon. The film obviously is filled with good intentions, but good intentions are never an excuse for poor execution.