Why Is American Politics Unravelling? Boys State Film Looks for Answers
The new documentary Boys State opens with a quote from George Washington that warns of the damaging impact of parties in American politics. Political parties, he said “are likely…to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”
It’s an appropriate start to a film that uses the week-long civics camp for high-achieving Texas teenagers as a way to interrogate our national political climate.
“In the summer in 2017, we read that the boys in Texas had voted to secede from the union,” explains filmmaker Jesse Moss, who co-directed the film with his wife Amanda McBaine. “That provocative act got some attention. It got our attention.”
Boys State, a program run by the American Legion since 1935, places teens into two imagined political parties, the Federalists and the Nationalists. During the session, teens must create party platforms and nominate leaders. The culmination of the week—and the focus of the film—is the election of governor.
While the strict two-party structure of Boys State helps create some order, it also manages to
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