Last month, Dutch journalist Max Westerman announced the release of “My Friend, the Mayor; Small-town Democracy in the Age of Trump”, a documentary film he has made about a liberal Democratic activist and long-term AIDS survivor’s campaign for mayor of a conservative small Pennsylvania town that voted for Donald Trump. The film can be watched on Amazon Prime.
“When Sean Strub, one of my most liberal and politically active friends, told me he was running for Mayor in a small town that voted for Donald Trump, I didn’t think he had a chance,” said Westerman, who has known Strub since they both attended Columbia University in the late 1970s.
“When I visited Sean during the campaign, I discovered not only that he had a chance, but I saw the adage “all politics is local” in action. Ultimately, Sean gained support because his constituents saw him as a neighbor, more so than as a partisan label.”
My Friend, the Mayor is an inspiring story of how grassroots democracy can be vibrant, healthy and successful at a local level, even while the two-party political system at a national level flounders in extreme partisan deadlock.
Among the first to be hit by the AIDS epidemic, Sean Strub describes his life as having been “hijacked” by the AIDS epidemic. His political ambitions took a backseat as he struggled to survive in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead he became an activist, founded POZ Magazine for people with HIV, produced AIDS-related theatre and organized demonstrations and protests.
When the introduction of effective therapy in the mid-90s brought him back to health, he relocated his life and refocused his activist energy in rural Milford, Pennsylvania, a small county seat 75 miles from New York City. My Friend, the Mayor follows his two-month campaign through to its nail-biting finish.
Max Westerman is a Dutch journalist who spent much of his professional life in the United States. From 1991-2006, he was the U.S. correspondent of RTL4 Dutch Television and covered all the major stories from that period: four presidential elections, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Oklahoma city bombing, the O.J. Simpson case, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, and of course, 9/11.
His reporting on those stories, as well as his features on various aspects of American society, have earned him much critical acclaim in the Dutch press.