Review | How To Win the US Presidency

January 30, 2018
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Film, Film Reviews

How To Win the US Presidency Review

Director Cal Seville
Writer(s) Cal Seville
Network Netflix
Release Date August 1, 2016

Whats this?

This fifty-minute documentary takes you through the recipes that have won the presidential elections since 1776. When America first won back its freedom from the clasp of England. There are some names you may be very familiar with and some you may not. Either way, it seems under examination that this formula has helped open doors.

So what’s the formula in How To Win the US Presidency?

The documentary takes you through six different methods which seem to persuade the public on making their choice as to who their president should be. It starts off with money to celebrity status, religion, looks to the portrayal of your family life and, lastly, the message the individual running has to convey. Many different presidents are used as examples, some more rememberable than others.

It obvious money matters, isn’t it?

Not always. The documentary does show examples of how old money doesn’t help, however, Nelson Rockefeller and Patrick Kennedy are brought up. In the case of Rockefeller, his family was originally in the oil business, which was lucrative and gave Nelson the means to get himself where he needed to be to start the race. Kennedy, which is a popular name when it comes to American politics, was of Irish descent. One of his distant relations came to America on a week-long boat ride and they grafted to earn what they would eventually have. Kennedy’s sister was a television and film producer and his brother was a lawyer. Although these vocations vary, it shows the opportunities that were given thanks to their financial status. The documentary quickly flashes through the billions now spent on election campaigns, which includes advertising, endorsements and all the other spiel.

Wouldn’t celebrity status be a new notion for a president?

Not at all. Just like money, this documentary shows how celebrity status has always mattered. Warren G Harding, who served as the 29th president from 1921 until 1923 following his death, was previously a journalist. He knew how to advertise himself. He also surrounded himself and had himself endorsed using key people to increase his profile. This could have very easily improved his profile and made people vote for what was more a celebrity than a politician. Of course, you can’t forget Ronald Reagan, the 40th president in the U.S.A from 1981 until 1989. Reagan was quite a big deal in Hollywood in his twenties, and it’s amazing to think that a career in acting turned into an eight-year stint in the White House. The documentary could have reeled example after example on this matter, but thankfully it knew when to move on, which should be appreciated.


Surely religion isn’t hard to leverage in an election?

It seems that it was. This documentary highlighted cases from Alfred Smith. Although he had built himself up from being born in 1873 in a working-class environment and had strong supportive beliefs of immigration and gained most votes from women (who had just gained the vote in the time he was running for presidency), his devoted Christian beliefs scared the public into thinking the pope would have a hand in running the country, which was not a forward-looking view. So it seems there is a mixture that must be had. The documentary talks about how it is important for the president to show he has belief, but not an all-consuming one.

So now for looks? Surely it’s time we talk about Obama?

Yes, we can. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself). How to Win the US Presidency highlights the number of photos taken of Obama with his sleeve rolled up, walking through his garden looking healthy and happy. It seemed to work for Barak Obama, who was president for a total of 10 years, the maximum a president can be in office for according to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S Constitution. The documentary points out a paternal connotation the public holds when thinking about who should be the face of their country. Which brings us nicely to family.

29B83B6F00000578-3129094-Host_President_Obama_appeared_relaxed_and_in_high_spirits_at_the-a-2_1434630644017How does family matter?

The documentary talks about family in two different senses. Firstly there is that of the immediate family. We are all aware of the way families are used to show the wholesome family man, which in turn signals a provider, going back to the paternal connotations of the family man. It also shows a togetherness and warmer picture. If anything is going to damage your image its when there is controversy surrounding your family. The documentary also discusses familial ties and how they can be very important, as for the case with George W. Bush. His father was George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. George also had distant family involved with politics which made him a strong choice for the public.

What was the last one again?

The message. This apparently isn’t the whole manifesto of goals that a candidate for the presidency has, no, this is his slogan. We’ve already mentioned Obamas “Yes We Can” slogan, but there are so many more. Some may have been a bit bland and to the point, like Zachary Taylor (12th president of US), “For president of the people,” or “Don’t change horses in midstream,” from Abraham Lincoln (16th president of US). And some may have been more fun, for example, “Ma-Ma where’s my Pa?” used against Grover Cleveland by James G Blaine, as Cleveland was suspected of fathering an illegitimate child. How to Win the U.S Presidency shows how something as small as a slogan can make a huge difference.


Although this review seems long, this documentary is not. With so much information coming at you at once, fifty minutes really isn’t a long time, especially considering there’s so much more in the documentary. If nothing else, consider this a US Presidents for Dummies guide.

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