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Showtime’s ‘Lincoln Project’ doc, like the super PAC, is noisy, but not as effective

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Showtime’s five-part docuseries on The Lincoln Project, the super PAC founded by multiple well-known Republican strategists and operatives with a shared disdain for Donald Trump, reminds me a lot of the organization’s work in 2020: noisy but not necessarily as effective in achieving the stated goals.

I understand the desire for a documentary about the organization because it ticks boxes that make the average viewer curious about its inner workings. There is scandal, egos, Trump and money.

I understand the desire for a documentary about the organization because it ticks boxes that make the average viewer curious about its inner workings. There is scandal, egos, Trump and money.

It’s not that the founders of The Lincoln Project shouldn’t be proud of the house they built. It increased $90 million to fight Trump. It is also to its credit that the organization repeatedly provoked the former president’s ire during the 2020 elections with its advertisements – which garnered several hundred million views. Those videos consoled people who were angry and depressed about the era of politics that Trump had provoked.

But as we learn right away from the first few minutes of episode one — and throughout the entire series, which premiered Friday — the founders were way too proud of themselves.

Directed by Karim Amer and Fisher Stevens, this docuseries captures the unprecedented super PAC from its formation at the start of the 2020 presidential election and its meteoric rise to its equally rapid fall from public favor. after a sexual harassment scandal and ask about how it spent the big one Funds Raised to Stop Trump’s Re-election. The problem is, it’s done in a way that’s reminiscent of a reality show — in this case, about a group of attention-seeking political advisers.

On the plus side, viewers get to see the backstory of the organization’s founders. It’s a great reminder of how rooted these people were in the Republican Party.

The public should see co-founder Rick Wilson in photos with former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and ex-Vice President Dick Cheney. We should know that, according to Wilson, Steve Bannon targeted him in 2015, and it gave him more drive than ever to defeat Trump and his enablers.

Even if many of us know the story, we too must revisit co-founder Steve Schmidt and his history of leading John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign – who exalted former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, someone many believe helps to pave the way for Trump’s political rise.

However, this docuseries takes an unnecessary step. There’s way too much backstory for too many different people – including numerous staffers – and much of it seems to have nothing to do with the group and its alleged mission to save democracy.

There is way too much backstory for too many different people – including countless staff members.

We certainly didn’t need pictures of all the male co-founders at a shooting range – looking like extras from “Yellowstone” or something.

It all comes across as filler. The same goes for the recurring repetition of Trump’s controversies. If the intended audience is those who believe the former president is a threat to the US and should be held accountable for it… something, I’m not sure if it’s necessary. After all, Trump opponents already have an ongoing list of complaints.

We also definitely didn’t need that much footage from various fans – including celebrities – and Lincoln Project members talking about how cool, popular and awesome the organization is.

It’s okay to take yourself and your work seriously, but overconfidence doesn’t make for entertaining viewing – at least not in this context.

To be fair, there has been a mention of criticism of the organization from a senior staffer, who said that by the end of the election, the leaders wanted to show that they were all more than just former Republicans making viral ads.

There is at least a degree of self-awareness of the organization’s shortcomings, especially considering that The Lincoln Project is in 2020 $12 million spent attempting to beat the incumbent GOP senators in seven key races, and the Republicans scored 7-0 in those games.

In addition, studies executed by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA during the election, the Lincoln Project’s ads, while a hit on Twitter, didn’t have the same impact when presented to win over undecided voters.

At the time of that unveiling, even The Lincoln Project wasn’t disputing it. Reed Galen, a co-founder of the group, told The Daily Beast: “We were pretty clear about the trajectories of our strategic outreach from the start. The first, making the most noise, was in front of the audience of one. Those were the things that targeted Trump, the campaign, the White House and the family.”

They kept telling themselves that this was a winning strategy, despite all the signs to the contrary.

I’m not the type to yell back at the screen, but I was really tempted to do more than these five hours.

I’m not the type to yell back at the screen, but I was really tempted to do more than these five hours.

When a network like Showtime makes a comprehensive documentary about an organization and its founders, many people would understandably believe that the organization and the individuals behind it had done something important.

And while I won’t deny the coverage The Lincoln Project amassed during and after the 2020 election, is it so hard to troll someone like Trump?

The best parts of the docuseries include senior advisor Stuart Stevens acknowledging his role in helping the GOP become “a white grievance party.”

Many of the founders are followers of strategist Lee Atwater, brain of ‘the southern strategy’, which exploited racial hostility for political gain. It’s a strategy Trump took, but repackaged to become louder, more aggressive, and arguably more successful.

Stevens said he and the co-founders felt a personal responsibility to defeat Trump and Trumpism. I wish we saw more of this kind of introspection from the group’s founders.

As we see over the course of several episodes, despite all their political work over decades, they didn’t use the best tactics.

It’s a point Jennifer Horn, the only female co-founder of the group who left in 2021, tries to make. The former New Hampshire Republican Party head, who described herself as a conservative New England grandmother, was the only one to remind the men around her that the purpose of their ads and work was to get people to vote for Joe Biden. – don’t troll people.

Of course, there is also the matter of John Weaver, a co-founder who: 21 men accused of online harassment — an accusation that has severely damaged The Lincoln Project’s reputation. Weaver, who is not as present in the documentary, has denied the claims.

All the verbosity of Wilson and others is less apparent when asked to deal with the aftermath of the scandal, which isn’t entirely surprising.

There is a casual insensitivity to the document—an insensitivity that some of us have longed for the Republicans.

An example of this is Wilson’s interaction with a video editor, who is visibly uncomfortable with the idea of ​​using images of George Floyd’s grieving family in an ad.

“You achieve emotional resonance in people,” Wilson explains her. “It’s not exploitative.”

After that is arranged, he tells her that he is going to have a very nice dinner.

One such comment, and others throughout the series, exposes The Lincoln Project for what many thought it always was: a bunch of Republicans fleeing the monster of a party they helped create and now trying to find new ways. to maintain relevance and ensure that money.

Some of those involved in the project seem more sincere about their efforts than others. But it won’t be long before a viewer understands that people who seriously want to save democracy by defeating Trump should do their business elsewhere.

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