We have a new leader in America. Known for his distinct regional accent and often seen wearing a baseball cap at rallies, he starred in a show on NBC, and holds strong opinions about guns and the NRA. He may not be the leader you saw coming, but you’re going to see a lot more of him: Michael Moore. The documentary filmmaker shuns the activist label he is often given. In a recent LA Times interview Moore asserted, “I’m not an activist, I’m a citizen. It’s redundant to say I’m an activist. We all should be active.” Moore has been very active, and has made films that take on some of America’s most complex and controversial topics — globalization, gun violence, 9/11, our healthcare system, the economy, war, and most recently, Donald Trump, someone he did see coming. Unlike the Democrats.
Moore tried to warn the left in July, when he wrote a piece titled simply “5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win. In it, he did not mince words: “Go ahead and say the words, ’cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: ‘PRESIDENT TRUMP.’ Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now.” With his midwestern directness and efficiency, Moore then proceeded to list how and why Donald Trump was going to win.
A week after Trump’s election, Democrats and progressives are still raw with shock and grief. The agony is acute. The mood of over half the country? Political satirist Barry Crimmins nailed it in a tweet, saying “We’re now kids trapped in the back of our blowhard, road-raging, shitty-driver, dad’s car for a 4-yr trip and he’s issued a “No Talking” edict.”
Liberals feel aimless and powerless, falling all over each other trying to figure out what happened. Like teenagers at a party that went off the rails, some are locked in the bathroom crying, some are fighting amongst themselves, others are telling everyone it’s going to be fine, and some are standing on the kitchen table yelling, trying to restore order in futility. The left needs a designated driver, and Michael Moore is already in the driveway with the car warmed up, waiting for Democrats to pull themselves together and get in.
After the election, Moore posted another 5-point list, this time, a” Morning After To-Do List.” Item number one? “Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.” It might sound like pointing fingers, or running for office, but it’s not. It was statement of tough love telling us what was necessary to lay the groundwork for an effective movement against Trump. Two days later, in an interview with LA Times reporter Steven Zeitchik, he said he that he wanted to head that movement:
You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, the don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage, and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen.
Hillary Clinton won the widest margin of the popular vote in the history of presidential election defeats, but lost in electoral votes — and her supporters are still losing their minds. Also, on the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote, electing the first female president seemed like it was meant to be. Now, Twitter reads like a manic-depressive’s drunken journal, riddled with earnest hashtags desperately trying to unify the bloodied left, and gloating trolls on the right who were all absent from gym class the day the other kids learned what sportsmanship was.
After appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” along with Rudy Giuliani and Paul Ryan yesterday morning, the in-demand Moore took time to answer questions from Boing Boing:
Maureen Herman: Do you see yourself as a leader or what role do you see yourself in now?
Michael Moore: I am doing my part to help lead the opposition, and will work with others to do so. Less meetings, more action. I tried to warn people about Trump winning — I now have a responsibility to stop him from doing any harm. At least now people are listening to me.
He was right when he said Trump would win, but his article did not go particularly viral at the time, considering Moore’s general popularity. It didn’t get re-posted, re-tweeted, or shared the way the left, myself included, spread around self-soothing articles on our preferred candidate or editorials painting Trump as an impossible joke. Maybe Moore’s perspective was not taken seriously, or it was ignored out of fear of facing the reality we are in now. Maybe we thought that embracing the possibility of a Trump presidency would jinx the election. Whatever the reason, we didn’t listen, and we also didn’t listen when he said back in 2015 that Trump was going to be the Republican Party’s nominee.
“That doesn’t make me feel good, the fact that I was right. I never wanted to be more wrong,” the outspoken liberal director said in an LA Times interview. “I just don’t live in the bubble of New York and L.A. and I was worried with what I was witnessing in the Midwest, the Rust Belt, what I call the ‘Brexit’ states.”
Moore does not make his predictions based on algorithms, polls, and self-satisfied soothsaying. He pays attention to the root causes, he sees how systemic problems play out in individual lives — it’s what he has always done in his films. Michael Moore is as woke as they get. He kept his eye on the ball while the rest of us looked away, assuming it would land in our glove. Well, it got dropped and we lost the game.
There’s no Red Cross for losing an election, but that’s the kind of thing people are looking for. Sure, there are existing Democratic organizations, and nonprofits that work for liberal concerns, like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and NAACP, and donations are coming in. People want to do something. But they need to do something different. Well, yesterday, Michael Moore posted a handy to do list on Twitter:
#1. A massive nationwide opposition movement has exploded. It must continue. I am part of this. You are, too.
Must quickly and decisively form an opposition movement, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. I will do my part to help lead this, as I’m sure many others (Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, MoveOn, the hip-hop community, DFA, etc.) will, too. The core of this opposition force will be fueled by young people who, as with Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, don’t tolerate B.S. and are relentless in their resistance to authority. They have no interest in compromising with racists and misogynists.
#2. Prepare for Trump’s Impeachment now. Narcissism and greed and the fact he’s a sociopath will lead to him breaking the law.
Prepare to impeach Trump. Just as the Republicans were already planning to do with President Hillary from Day One, we must organize the apparatus that will bring charges against him when he violates his oath and breaks the law — and then we must remove him from office.
#3. Plan now to join millions in civil disobedience when Trump nominates his first Supreme Court Justice.
Must commit right now to a vigorous fight (including civil disobedience, if necessary) which will block any and all Donald Trump Supreme Court nominees who do not meet our approval. We demand the Democrats in the Senate aggressively filibuster any nominees who support Citizens United or who oppose the rights of women, immigrants and the poor. This is non-negotiable.
#4. The DNC must apologize to Bernie Sanders for trying to rig the fight against him, for defaming him, for cheating.
Demand the DNC apologize to Bernie Sanders for trying to fix the primaries against him, for spinning the press to ignore his historic campaign, for giving Clinton the questions in advance at the Flint debate, for its latent ageism and anti-Semitism in trying to turn voters against him because of his age or religious beliefs, and for its anti-democracy system of “super-delegates” who are elected by no one. We all know now had Bernie been given a fair shot, he probably would have been the nominee and he — as the true outsider and “change” candidate — would have inspired and fired up the base and soundly defeated Donald Trump. If no apology is soon forthcoming from the DNC, that’s ok — when we take over the Democratic Party (see yesterday’s To-Do List, #1), we will issue the apology in person.
#5. Obama must appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the FBI Director’s illegal interference in the election.
Demand that President Obama establish a Special Prosecutor to investigate who and what was behind FBI Director James Comey’s illegal interference into the Presidential election 11 days before the vote was held.
#6. Abolish electoral college and electronic voting; Election Day held on the weekend, restore voting rights of former prisoners
Begin a national push while it’s fresh in everyone’s mind for a constitutional amendment to fix our broken electoral system: 1. Eliminate the Electoral College — popular vote only. 2. Paper ballots only — no electronic voting. 3. Election Day must be made a holiday for all — or held on a weekend so more people vote. 4. All citizens, regardless of any run-ins with the criminal “justice” system, must have the right to vote. (In swing states like Florida and Virginia, 30-40% of all Black men are prohibited by law from voting.)
#7. President Obama: send the Army Corps of Engineers to Flint to replace the water pipes. The water is still unusable.
Convince President Obama to immediately do what he should have done a year ago: Send in the Army Corps of Engineers to Flint to dig up and replace all the poisoned pipes. NOTHING HAS CHANGED; the water in Flint is still unusable.
Will try to get these done by sundown. More To-Do tomorrow…
It is not just Moore’s accurate political predictions or successful films that make him the right person to lead the left out of the darkness, and it’s not his common presence on major talk shows that inspired me to write this article. It was my personal experience with Michael Moore during the 2000 presidential campaign that revealed the kind of guy he was, his core values, and what he thought was possible for America. Sustained, passionate and authentic concern for the welfare of others is hard to find, and even harder to fake. That is what I learned that Michael was all about.
We met the night of the 2000 MTV Video Awards, when a video he directed for Rage Against the Machine was nominated for Best Video. I became friendly with him and his wife, was invited to see him speak at a Ralph Nader for President rally, and a few weeks later, out to dinner. It was at dinner that he spoke eloquently and personally about his hopes and dreams for America, always peppering his points with the stories and struggles of real people. He was so full of belief in the promise of real change, and most importantly, in the ability of everyday people to come together to make it happen. He was supporting Nader’s campaign with gusto, and in fact, that nights, he inspired me to vote third party for the first time. Moore left New York not long afterwards to work on what would become the Oscar-winning documentary, Bowling for Columbine. We all know what happened in the 2000 election, when votes for Ralph Nader ate up Al Gore’s margin and won George Bush the presidency. I plead guilty.
For as right as he’s been, Moore is just as able to admit past mistakes, which he demonstrated famously on Bill Maher’s Real Time, when he and Maher literally begged Ralph Nader not to run for president again in 2004. It was not a stunt. He learned the hard way something very profound and critical from the 2000 election: that real change only happens from the bottom up. In a 2010 interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now, Moore reflected on his changed stance about third parties:
I have this basic position about Ralph. I’ve known him for many, many years. He has done so much good for this country. I also believe that he doesn’t really have a handle on what the proper strategy is to get this country in our hands. I don’t see him ever working with the grassroots or with the people or being in touch with the people in any way, shape or form. if we really want to try and get this power in our hands, in the people’s hands, in the hands of the working people of this country, then we should, on a very grassroots level, from the bottom up, be doing things — whether it’s running for local office, or taking over the local Democratic Party.”
The game is rigged in America when it comes to third parties. There’s no way that that’s ever going to work. And so, then how, instead of letting the game, I guess, rig us, what can we do to the game itself? And if the game is, well, we have these two political parties which are really very much like one party, why don’t we make sure that one of those parties actually is a second party and start locally and do that? And that’s what I encourage people to do. That’s my approach.”
If earnest optimism and the belief in significant change were Moore’s greatest flaws in 2000, they are now an asset that over a half of the country desperately needs. What he learned from that election and every one since, is reflected in his to do list. This is not just wild revolutionary posturing. This came from being in the trenches. It came from losing and understanding what it takes to win. It came from seeing the impact of an election on the working folks who have inspired his life’s work, and wanting sincerely to stop the suffering.
So the morning after the 2016 election, when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow very accurately posted the very real impact of third party votes, it echoed the frustration of 2000. So if anyone was wondering why Moore and others who initially supported Bernie Sanders didn’t go “Bernie or Bust,” like our younger counterparts, it comes from what voters like myself experienced firsthand, having lived through eight years of a Bush presidency.
– Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) November 9, 2016
Moore is not afraid to call the Democratic party out on its mistake with Bernie Sanders, and the role that played in the election, and he makes that clear on his to do list. He doesn’t blame third party voters for Trump — He holds the Democratic party responsible for leading them there. He knows there are other factors, like the impact of prisoners without voting rights — people who are subject to punishment under the law, but not allowed to participate in the system of government. He recognizes that even if Hillary had won, things are still very broken, just by virtue of what happened to Sanders. Moore’s razor sharp focus is on changing, the Democratic party from the inside.
Just catching up on all the economic anxiety in my inbox pic.twitter.com/wo2BlkcBV8
– Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 13, 2016
Moore is also careful not to blame racism for the election results. He is very aware of and concerned about the racial tension in the country, but he stresses that it should not keep us from looking at the very real economic issues that put Trump in the White House, as he told the LA Times:
The Democratic Party doesn’t seem to get it. Working people that are both African American and white — don’t make it a racial thing — have suffered at the hands of both Republicans and Democrats,” Moore said. He grew more fiery. “The DNC has to resign. They all have to resign.”
Maureen Herman: People would love to see Trump ousted from office, but most think it’s unrealistic. What do you say to that?
Michael Moore: We must work every path that leads to stopping Trump — legal, popular opinion, mass protest, forcing elected officials to obstruct his every negative move.
In his “Morning After” list, Moore warned that Democrats in Congress who were not ready to fight “must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.” In the LA Times interview, Moore doubled down on the goal of removing Trump. “I don’t believe anyone in the media who says we’re going to have four years of Trump. This is a man who doesn’t have any ideology; the only thing he believes in is Donald Trump. And that’s usually a one-way ticket out of office.”
Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
Maureen Herman: What can people do immediately to get involved with this movement?
Michael Moore: Find the protests in your area and show up. If there are none, start one. Post photos and video on social media. Stay aware of other things going on and get involved!
Another documentary filmmaker, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, posted a text message to his daughter, in answer to her asking how he was doing after the election. It sums up where a lot of us are, or need to be right now:
Numb, but it’s just put the fire back in me. It’s time for me to make a big noise. Protect your rights, protect the gays, protect minorities. This will wake up the strength and good people. I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of good will come from this. Too many good people just got a huge wake up call. It’s OK to be sad and scared, but love, the real beautiful kind of love, comes out of times like these. We’re the new 60s. Time to love and kick ass, and stand up to sexism and racism.
The dumbest thing anyone does at any protest, rally etc will be the first thing seized upon by the media and/or your enemies.
– Barry Crimmins (@crimmins) November 14, 2016
So all hands on deck. Get in the car with Uncle Mike. And yes, we can stop at Denny’s on the way home. You’re going to need your energy.
With additional reporting by Katie Schwartz