During one of the few visually compelling moments of the documentary The Accidental President, a tangle of red lines spread like spider webs across a field. The red lines represent a tweet by Donald Trump, which users then share and re-share across Twitter, ensuring that his message dominates the discourse.
In voiceover accompanying the image, former Chief Scientist for Twitter Deb Roy describes the viral nature of Trump’s tweets, noting that they seem to spread uncontrollably.
Roy’s description perfectly captures the film’s approach to covering the Trump campaign. According to press notes, director James Fletcher made The Accidental President to answer one basic question, “How on earth did Donald Trump win the election of 2016?” The movie’s answer is equally simple: “Donald Trump won the election of 2016 because he couldn’t be stopped.”
The Accidental President treats Trump’s ascent to the presidency as simultaneously unexpected and unavoidable. In the film’s estimation, Trump benefited from a perfect storm, the convergence of national divisions and dissatisfaction with standard partisan politics, the latter personified in Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
In other words, The Accidental President recycles the same tired messages that media pundits have been repeating since 2015.