Michael Moore: Democrats Made Fatal Mistake in Not Taking Trump More Seriously in 2016

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In July, 2016, Michael Moore wrote a column titled “Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win.” In it, Moore wrote, “Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, 'cause you'll be saying them for the next four years: 'PRESIDENT TRUMP.'” He went on to list the five reasons why Trump would be elected: Trump’s focus on the Midwest, “The Last Stand of the Angry White Man,” “The Hillary Problem,” “The Depressed Sanders Vote” and what he called the “Jesse Ventura Effect”—people voting for Trump simply to disrupt the system. We talk to Michael Moore about his predictions and how Democrats failed to take Trump more seriously.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to our conversation with the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His new film, out today, Fahrenheit 11/9. I spoke to him earlier this week.

AMY GOODMAN: In your film, you start with that remarkable day, but you actually start before. And you were talking about this way before. You wrote in July 2016, again, before Trump was elected—

MICHAEL MOORE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —”5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win.” In it, you wrote, quote, “Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, 'cause you'll be saying them for the next four years: 'PRESIDENT TRUMP.'”

You went on to list the five reasons you believed Trump would be president: Trump’s focus on the Midwest, “The Last Stand of the Angry White Man,” “The Hillary Problem,” “The Depressed Sanders Vote” and what he called the “Jesse Ventura Effect”—people voting for Trump simply to disrupt the system. You were predicting this well in advance. And you show anyone who says something otherwise in the corporate media. This moment of George Stephanopoulos and Keith Ellison is priceless.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes. OK, first of all, I take no pleasure in being right. I never wanted to be more wrong when I wrote that. But I had just come back from the U.K., where my last film, Where to Invade Next, had just opened, and so I went and did press throughout the U.K., in London, in Sheffield, ending up in Belfast, and a lot of crowds and theater screenings with the working class of the United Kingdom.

This was the week before Brexit, and I saw what I see and hear a lot in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Ohio and elsewhere, where people didn’t necessarily like or were in love with the idea of Brexit, but they loved being able to have the chance to go into the voting booth and throw a Molotov cocktail into the middle of a system that had left them broke and in despair.

And when we left the U.K. there just before the vote, you know, we were all saying—my crew and friends—”Wow, this just sounds like many parts of the United States, and it looks like Brexit’s going to pass,” even though all the polls said that it wasn’t going to. We came back here, and of course all the polls—you know, Brexit did pass—and all the polls here were saying that Hillary had it in the bag.

AMY GOODMAN: And the day that Brexit passed, Donald Trump flew into Scotland to sell his—you know, to push the sale of his golf course.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And a young comedian stood up right before he spoke on this windswept precipice and said something like, “Donald Trump’s balls are available in the golf shop.”

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And he’s showing these red golf balls—

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —with swastikas on them.

LEE NELSON: These are the new balls available from the clubhouse as part of the new Trump Turnberry range, and I forgot to hand them out before.

UNIDENTIFIED: That’s that comedian, isn’t it?

MICHAEL MOORE: There were people who were trying to warn everybody else to not treat this as a joke, to take Trump seriously. And so, I immediately started—I wrote that piece that you just referred to, and I went on Bill Maher, and I told the audience there that Trump was going to win, and he was going to win by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the three states—electoral states that he won by. And I got booed. I got booed on Bill Maher. People did not want to hear it.

And I said, “Look, I’m not saying it because I want that to happen. I’m saying it that we’d better realize they’re having the Democratic convention this week, and they’re popping the champagne corks as if it’s a done deal.” Because everybody’s mindset then, throughout August and September and October, was that, “How could she lose, to this guy?” And, in fact, she won. She won by 3 million votes. So that part, people had right. But I just kept telling people, “Look, you’re not looking at the right picture here. You’re all liberal arts majors. You suck at math and geography. This is going to come down to the Electoral College. Are you counting this?”

Yes, in those popular vote polls, she was ahead, but that’s unfortunately not the way the president gets picked. And because the Democratic Party and others have led no fight to get rid of the Electoral College since President Gore won in 2000—you’d think, after that, people would go, “You know, this Electoral College, I think it’s time for it to go.” No.

Now, there have been good people who have got the national popular vote thing going, and they’ve got it passed in a lot of states. If you haven’t heard of this, go on NationalPopularVote.com. We have to get enough states to pass this law. The law says—can I go into this? Can I just explain this? The law says that if you pass the—in your state, that your state’s electors will go to whoever wins the popular vote. But we’ve got to get enough states where we get the 270 electoral votes. We’ve got enough states now that have passed this where we’re up to 172 electoral votes. So we just need enough states that have 98 electoral votes left, and then that’s that, and now the winner who actually wins the popular vote will be the president of the United States. So there’s a possibility of fixing this without having to go through the machinations of changing the Constitution.

So, to get back to what happened in the summer of '16, I couldn't get anywhere, and I couldn’t convince Democratic Party leadership types. I couldn’t get people who vote Democratic to listen to me. I started to feel that I must have communication skill issues, because somehow I’m not getting this through to people: “You’re not taking Trump seriously.”

AMY GOODMAN: And you were talking about the blue states that—

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —that Obama had won, that you thought Trump was going to win.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes, right, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Ohio and your home state of Michigan.

MICHAEL MOORE: And Pennsylvania, right. And I just couldn’t get anybody to listen. Nobody thought it could happen, because—”Are you kidding? He’s such an idiot. He’s crazy.” I said, “That’s why he’s going to win. You don’t understand. He’s an incredible performance artist.”

People love The Apprentice. I mean, people between the Hudson River and Interstate 5 love The Apprentice. They loved him on it, because here’s what he did every week. Whoever the biggest jerk was on the show that week got to hear, “You’re fired.” And everybody works with that jerk. Wherever you work, there’s that one jerk. And the cathartic feeling you got watching The Apprentice, of hearing somebody fire that jerk—people loved that show, and they loved Trump, and they loved hearing him say, “You’re fired.”

But I couldn’t get anybody to listen to this, because on the coasts, within the bubble, within the bubble of the Democratic Party infrastructure, they don’t watch The Apprentice. They also don’t watch The Bachelorette either, by the way, which is a great show. I’m just saying that I pay attention to what my fellow Americans are watching and listening to.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where does Gwen Stefani fit into this picture?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, Gwen Stefani—this is what I have known from the beginning of this, is that Trump found out—he was in negotiations for re-upping The Apprentice with NBC, and he found out that Gwen Stefani, who is one of the stars of The Voice, another show you’re not watching—

AMY GOODMAN: You can’t say that about me, but you’re looking at the audience right now when you say that.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes. I’m look—I’m actually looking at the entire audience, the people watching right now who know that they don’t watch The Voice or The Apprentice. Well, you can’t watch it anymore; that one’s off the air. Anyways, he found out that somebody else was getting paid more than him on NBC. And not just somebody else—can I say it?—a woman. A woman was being paid more than Donald J. Trump. And that, you know, makes him go—like this.

So, he decides that he’s going to show NBC. He contacts another network to put them in competition for each other for The Apprentice, and then he comes up with this idea of holding an announcement—not for real, just it’s going to be a pretend thing. He’s going to hold an announcement announcing he’s running for president, and he’s going to have a couple rallies, and he’s going to show these networks just how much the American people love him, out there in that vast, wide swath of land.

And so that’s the big plan. But then—so he comes down the escalator, makes the announcement and goes off the rails and starts calling Mexicans rapists and criminals and murderers and whatever else. And a few days later—

AMY GOODMAN: And the people cheering?

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes. Well, the people are cheering—people are cheering—if you’ve seen that escalator—I think, by now, most people have seen the escalator, coming down with Melania. The people cheering down there are extras, and he has paid extras $50 apiece to be there in Trump T-shirts and holding signs and all of that. It’s all fake. It’s all fake. It’s as fake as the gold-plated escalator he’s coming down. It’s gold-plated, folks; it’s not real gold. He comes down, he says this about Mexicans, and within days NBC fires him.

DONALD TRUMP: They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

MICHAEL MOORE: It goes completely against what he thinks is going to happen, and now they don’t want him at all, and now he’s lost his job because of his racism. And he’s already booked and paid for these two events. I believe one was in Phoenix and one was in Mobile, Alabama. And, you know, they’re paid for. They’ve rented the arenas or the auditoriums or whatever. And now, this is the part that I’m not privy to his conversations with Don Jr. and Eric, although I usually am, but not this one.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to ask you about your relationship with Jared, but that’s coming.

MICHAEL MOORE: OK, I’m ready for it. I’m here. This is full transparency. But they decide, “We’ve already paid for it. Let’s go and do the rallies.” So they go and do the rallies. And we show in the film the look on Trump’s face. There’s 40,000 people in that stadium in Mobile, Alabama, and he cannot believe it. I mean, he’s never been in front of 40,000 people. He’s never had that experience, like you and I have.

But there is something when you stand on a stage and there’s a lot of people. OK, I’ll—it happened to me at the University of Florida. They changed me from the auditorium into the basketball arena. It had never happened before. And they were people just coming to hear me talk, and there’s 14,000 people in the arena. When you step on that stage and 14,000 people are cheering, you’re like, “Wow! I’m glad I didn’t listen to my guidance counselors.”

And so you see the look, though. I show the look in his face in my movie. You see the epiphany taking place in his head. It’s like, “Well, maybe running for president isn’t such a bad idea. To hell with NBC and The Apprentice.” And he decides to actually go ahead with it.

Remember early on where pundits and people were saying, “There’s no campaign apparatus. There’s nobody in charge. There’s no place—how do you donate to the campaign?” Right? It was all that, “He’s not really running. He’s not really wanting to do the job. This is just some kind of stunt.” I mean, it was kind of obvious to everybody. But I actually show how the stunt got launched.

And then we end up being the losers for it in the long run, because he decides he likes it. He loves these crowds, and they just keep getting bigger. And the rest is history.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have people like Les Moonves, now disgraced, who was saying things like, you know, “It’s great for us. It just may not be great for America.”

LES MOONVES: Who would have thought that this circus would come to town? But, you know, it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. That’s all I’ve got to say.

MICHAEL MOORE: Les Moonves, who was the head of CBS, and Jeff Zucker, who is the head of CNN, both kind of copped to the fact that they were putting him on the air a lot for free. He didn’t have to pay for any of this. It’s why Hillary—if you look at what she spent, she spent—well, he spent about $300,000—I’m sorry, $300 million. She spent almost a billion on her campaign. He didn’t have to spend a billion, because he got all this free airtime from the mainstream networks. And in the film, I show Moonves and Zucker yukking it up over how great it is that Donald Trump is running, because it was very good for business and they sold a lot more ads.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have the red carpet treatment from the networks, you know, wall-to-wall coverage of his speeches. Often, I mean, the other candidates, like, for example, Bernie Sanders, got nothing, nothing like this—

MICHAEL MOORE: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —even though he had some of the largest crowds of any of the candidates, Republican and Democrat.

MICHAEL MOORE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And I want to go back to that moment of George Stephanopoulos and Keith Ellison, the congressman from Minneapolis.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah. So Keith Ellison is on the Sunday morning show that George has on ABC. And Keith says, very seriously, “You know, you should take Trump seriously. He could end up leading the Republican Party ticket.” And George Stephanopoulos just starts laughing hysterically, and our good friend Katrina over at The Nation, she’s there on the panel. She’s laughing. I mean, everybody was laughing. People watching this show were probably laughing. I mean, nobody really took it seriously, because it just—that is not—”A lot of bad things can happen in this country; That is not going to happen.”

REP. KEITH ELLISON: This man has got some momentum, and we’d better be ready for the fact that he might be leading the Republican ticket.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you don’t believe that, but I want to go on to Maggie [inaudible]—

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Sorry to laugh.

MICHAEL MOORE: But a few people, like Keith Ellison, were trying to warn people, “You’ve got to take anybody seriously when they say something like this.” And I think now, after all this time, we realize that Donald Trump is always lying and he’s always telling the truth. And you have to be able to operate on both levels with him.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, when he says, “I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it,” you know that he’s not going to shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue—I hope—but you know he could get away with it. I mean, both are true. And it’s always that way with him. So, I pay close attention to him when he says things that sound crazy and you think he’s just being crazy. I always go, “Well, you know, he may mean that.”

I mean, even in the film, when he says that about, “We’re not going to arm teachers”—you know, after Parkland, Florida—”We’re not going to arm teachers,” and then, within two seconds, he goes, “Well, maybe 20 percent of them.” And then, two seconds later, “It could be 40 percent. It could be all”—he just—it’s like he says one thing that could be the truth, but he switches it up within seconds. This happens all the time. He’ll switch something up the same day, or within a day or two.

Part of that process—and this is the evil genius of Trump—is that he knows how to keep, especially liberals, all scatterbrained and not knowing—”Well, what—what’s he—what’s going on? What? Wait a minute. He said that. But, no, he said that. No, he said that.” But we take people—when people say something, we take it literally. He knows he can just say stuff, get everybody discombobulated, and he becomes the master distractor. He knows how to get people off the topic and on to something else so that we won’t really be paying attention to what he’s really up to.

AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His new film Fahrenheit 11/9 is out today. We’ll be back with more of Moore in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “If I Was President” by Las Cafeteras, here in our Democracy Now! studio. To hear the whole song and interview, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return now to our conversation with Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His new film, Fahrenheit 11/9 opens today around the country. This is a clip from the film about the recent wave of teacher strikes that began in West Virginia.

REPORTER: This was the chilly scene outside Point Harmony Elementary Friday morning. Upwards of 50 teachers lining the sidewalk, all on a mission.

MICHAEL MOORE: The teachers decided on their own to go out on strike and do it by themselves, one school district at a time.

JUSTIN ENDICOTT: All of Mingo County is on the courthouse steps.

UNKNOWN: People are chanting. We’re Facebook Live streaming that. And other counties are commenting on there and saying, “I wish I was there.” It escalated really quickly. So four go out. Then seven go out. And then—

NICOLE PORTER: —55 of 55 counties. The strike will go on in all of them tomorrow.

CROWD: [chanting]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s from Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning filmmaker—it’s his latest film. These teacher strikes, Michael, and teachers in this country, what they’re going through.

MICHAEL MOORE: There’s an uprising going on right now with teachers all over the country, and it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. These teachers in West Virginia, they’re fighters. Their union, their own union, their leadership tried to discourage them from going out on strike. They wouldn’t listen to them. They went out on strike. They got all 55 counties to go out on strike.

CROWD: [inaudible chanting]

MICHAEL MOORE: And then when they finally got the governor to give them what they wanted—

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Justice.

MICHAEL MOORE: Governor Jim Justice. [laugh]. I know. You can’t write this stuff, right? The bus drivers and the lunch ladies and everybody else were also on strike with the teachers. He would only give the raise to the teachers, and they said, “No, you’ve got to give it to the bus drivers and the cooks and the janitors and everybody else.” And he wouldn’t do it, so they wouldn’t go back to school. They stayed out on strike until there was justice for the custodians and the people in the lunch room and the bus drivers. That kind of solidarity, if we all ever get together and support each other, and not cross each other’s picket lines, that is the scariest thing for these people, because they won’t know what to do. They won’t be able to run their businesses, they won’t be able to run their schools, they won’t be able to do anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of running, talk about Fitbits.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, this was the crazy thing, that this governor, they were trying to think of ways to reduce the health care costs. So The first idea was, “Well, let’s charge the teachers more for their health care. Like let’s double what they’ve got to contribute. And then let’s make them wear Fitbits.” Where they’d have to buy their own Fitbits, and the Fitbit would send how many steps they’re taking, what physical activity they’re doing—

AMY GOODMAN: This is a little watch, like a bracelet.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah, it’s like a little bracelet, but it records what you’re doing. And in this case, in West Virginia, it would send to a central computer at the Board of Education just how active you were being. If you by the end of the month or the end of the year or whatever, if you didn’t take enough steps, if you didn’t do enough physical activity, you were fined something like $500. And they knew everything you were doing from this Fitbit. So that was the other part of the negotiations—the Fitbits had to go.

AMY GOODMAN: [laugh]

MICHAEL MOORE: And they were successful in getting rid of them.

AMY GOODMAN: And teachers selling their blood?

ANDREA THOMAS: My husband, he even sells plasma—you know, his own plasma—when things get super tough. It has caused us—

AMY GOODMAN: He sells his blood?

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes. [laugh]

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes. Well, this is—I mean, this is a scene I had in Roger & Me 30 years ago where the people of Flint were going to sell their plasma at the plasma center because either the job they had didn’t earn enough money to keep them above the poverty level, or they had lost their General Motors job. And so you would walk into this plasma center and you would see all of these chairs that were like medical chairs with everybody being tapped.

UNKNOWN: I only do it with my right arm. It’s not so bad. They don’t track it up. They only do it in two places.

MICHAEL MOORE: It really looked like a scene from Soylent Green or some kind of weird Sci-Fi movie, where, in the future, everybody’s blood was being sucked from them.
And the fact that 30 years later I would be dealing with the same thing is just—I can’t tell you how angry I am, frankly, that we are still living in this kind of society.

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