Knock Down the House is a sobering and uplifting account of four formidable grassroots female candidates (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, Amy Vilela and Cori Bush) running for office against Democratic incumbents during the 2018 primary. This intimate documentary illuminates the obstacles these working-class women faced on the campaign trail while trying to navigate a political system that is openly hostile towards progressives advocating for real change.
All four candidates are members of the Justice Democrats political action committee formed by Bernie Sanders supporters in 2017 following the contentious 2016 election and their politics reflect his influence. Sanders’ name is never mentioned but his campaign stickers, t-shirts, and books are noticeably visible. He is the undercurrent moving the tides of progress forward while igniting a firestorm of activism across the country.
Like Sanders, the four women in Knock Down the House are viewed as “political outsiders” who don’t accept corporate PAC or corporate lobbyist money. This means their resources are severely limited but the film provides viewers with an inside look at their campaigning methods and demonstrates how important a good ground game, that encourages local involvement and door-to-door outreach, can be.
Only one of the four candidates wins their race, the charismatic Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but the rest put up a damn good fight. The powerful takeaway is that although it isn’t easy, citizens can challenge the unwelcoming political system but they will have to overcome incredible obstacles in order to succeed.
Say what you want about Bernie Sanders but there’s no denying that he has become an extraordinary source of political inspiration. As the 2020 election begins to heat up it is plainly apparent that many of the “radical” ideas he introduced such as Medicare for all and government-funded college education are now mainstream. They are parroted by his primary opponents and discussed as viable options among political commentators who previously dismissed them. But most importantly he has influenced a new generation of political activists, many of them working-class citizens and women as Knock Down the House documents, who will hopefully help move the country towards a more progressive, diverse, and democratic future.
Filmmaker Rachel Lears has captured a critical moment in our collective history that has profound implications for us all.
by Kimberly Lindbergs, originally posted on Letterboxd