New documentary charts US political rifts leading up to midterms


‘A Hard Road’ documentarian Hawker (left) with former Penn Center Executive Director Emory Campbell | Photo by Andy Brack

A just-released documentary about the divisive political mood of South Carolina and the rest of the country in 2018 shows emerging political fissures that exploded in this pandemic year with national protests over civil rights and race.

The second episode of the film, A Hard Road: Travels in Trump’s America, features discussions of race, religion, President Trump and politics in South Carolina. Among those interviewed are current Republican congressional candidate Nancy Mace of Daniel Island, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort, former Penn Center Executive Director Emory Campbell of Hilton Head Island, and authors Herb Frazier, Nathalie Dupree and Jack Bass, all of Charleston. Charleston City Paper publisher Andy Brack directed the five-part series, now available on YouTube.

Producer and correspondent Bruce Hawker, former chief political adviser to an Australian prime minister, led a documentary team that interviewed more than 130 people in seven states in the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. The film, which also includes episodes filmed in Arizona, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, focuses on the people, issues and culture of America that impacted the 2018 fight to control the U.S. House and Senate. 

Hawker said the purpose of the documentary was to show how Trump’s presidency impacted the lives of everyday Americans.

“Traveling to such diverse parts of the United States as South Carolina, Minnesota and Arizona, we were struck by how diverse and complex American society really is,” Hawker said. “Issues like trade with China are critically important to Minnesota’s farm economy, but are barely part of the political discussions in South Carolina. The border with Mexico and associated issues dominated Arizona politics, but made little impression in northern states.”

He said a common theme across America in 2018 was how divided Americans were. 

“Now in 2020, it feels like the rift is even wider,” Hawker said. “I think the effects of the pandemic on people’s health and the economy have heightened tensions. The one concern that almost all the people we interviewed had in common was their desire to see less political division. However, we didn’t see much evidence of a willingness by anyone to make the necessary concessions. Time will tell how that division will be resolved.”

In 2020, the team expected to travel across the country to follow-up on what it discovered in 2018. But the coronavirus pandemic changed plans. For the last two months, the team has been recording footage for a new film by blending interviews taken by independent videographers across the county with long-form interviews via videoconference. A new film is expected early next year.

Hawker told ABC News Radio in Australia today there is a big difference in what he heard in 2018 compared to this year.

“When we went to the U.S. in 2018, what we found were there were a lot of people who believed that he [President Trump] still deserved the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “They had worried about the way he tweeted, his attitudes towards women and even his attitude towards minorities. But you always, they had the word ‘but’ coming after their concerns — ‘but he’s a businessman’ or ‘but he wasn’t elected to be a politician’ or ‘but he’s getting the economy going.’

“Since then, of course, we’ve had a major upheaval in the American society, just as we’ve seen around the world. Their economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and that has changed the political and social landscape significantly.

“For many people, including African Americans, the annoyance they had in 2018 about Trump and his racially-motivated statements has now become anger and fear in many people’s minds because they see him as potentially unleashing mobs against them.”

Political divisions sowed by politicians likely will impact voting in two weeks, Hawker said.

“What I think he’s really up against now is a sense among a lot of people in middle America, suburban America, that he has driven the country into two camps to the point where some people think they’re on the verge of a kind of civil war and this has to end. And they think, I believe, that Joe Biden is more likely to bring the country together than Donald Trump, who can only survive by continuing to drive people apart.”

Learn more about the film at AHardRoad.com.

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:

UP NEXT FROM

FEATURE

11/28 COVID-19 update: 12.9% positive, 1,797 cases; 0 deaths

Charleston City Paper Staff

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,797 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, with 28 additional confirmed deaths. With 13,915 tests reported Saturday, 12.9% were positive. As of 3:46 p.m. Nov. 28, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 201,354 (+1,797)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,803Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,043 (+28) Note: […]

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Chanukah at The Bend making the switch to drive-thru

The largest annual Jewish event in the state is still on, but moving to a new location for the same festive atmosphere at a social distance and from the safety of your car. Join family and friends for Chanukah at The Bend starting at 4 p.m., Dec. 13. Shifted from the traditional, annual Chanukah at […]

11/28 COVID-19 update: 12.9% positive, 1,797 cases; 0 deaths

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,797 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, with 28 additional confirmed deaths. With 13,915 tests reported Saturday, 12.9% were positive. As of 3:46 p.m. Nov. 28, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 201,354 (+1,797)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,803Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,043 (+28) Note: […]

Brack: Here’s to two good friends who will be just a click away

In this season of thanks during a year that’s challenged everyone in new ways, let’s remember and honor friendships. Friends make our lives richer. They open new worlds and ideas. But they’re so familiar and comfortable that you kind of want them to never change and always be there.  Two longtime friends, cookbook author and […]

Before You Go: Record holiday spending projected; Groups ask McMaster to address long-term care

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 1,777 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, with 28 additional confirmed deaths. With 14,392 tests reported Friday, 12.3% were positive. As of 2:46 p.m. Nov. 27, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Confirmed cases in S.C.: 199,538 (+1,777)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 19,803 (+709)Negative tests in S.C.: 2,440,321 (+12,615)Deaths in S.C. from COVID-19: 4,043 (+28) […]