Photo by Wes Wilson Photography.
How did I, a committed liberal and resident of deep blue New York City, find myself in Delbarton, West Virginia filming the campaign of a Christian conservative running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate? Well, as people who share my politics have been saying a lot recently, I blame Donald Trump.
The most shocking presidential election result in modern history was nowhere more shocking than it was in New York. Surrounded mostly by fellow travelers on the left and following the polls, we were not prepared for Trump’s victory.
But as upsetting as the election was and remains to us on the left, it also revealed that something was going on in the country that we didn’t understand. Many people were willing to take a chance on Trump because, in their view, the system had so deeply failed them. That wasn’t my experience, but in the wake of the election, it seemed like something I ought to know more about.
Around that time, I first encountered Bo Copley in a New York Times article about residents of West Virginia who voted for Trump. I watched Bo’s meeting with Hillary Clinton and was struck by his genuine feeling and respectful tone even as he explained to Clinton how forcefully he disagreed with her. Even after losing his job and hearing that the industry he had worked in needed to disappear, Bo was someone who seemed committed to that much sought after, but rarely found quality: disagreeing without being disagreeable.
I immediately thought Bo would make a great subject for a documentary. But as I just-short-of-stalked him over the next five months, it wasn’t quite clear to me what the story of the film would be.
When he decided to run for Senate, everything fell into place. While the unemployed coal miner and everyday working class person are stock characters in our political dialogue, it’s rare to see such a person actually make a run for real political power. And like any real person, Bo is much more than a stereotype; he’s his own individual who brought a unique story to his campaign. And it's safe to say that the campaign was one of the most meaningful times in Bo’s life. I hope that by bringing it to a wide audience, I can help people on the right and the left look past stereotypes, empathize with each other, and recognize that all of us have stories worth telling.
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