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FOCUS | Michael Moore: 'We Have the Power to Crush Trump'
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=43659"><span class="small">Owen Jones, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Friday, 19 October 2018 11:09

Jones writes: "It falls to Michael Moore's empty stomach to help explain to me the difference between hope and optimism."

Filmmaker Michael Moore. (photo: Chris Pizzello/AP)
Filmmaker Michael Moore. (photo: Chris Pizzello/AP)

Michael Moore: 'We Have the Power to Crush Trump'

By Owen Jones, Guardian UK

19 October 18

The director’s latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9, is a broadside against both the president and the Democratic establishment that failed to defeat him. He explains why a leftwing comeback is on the cards

t falls to Michael Moore’s empty stomach to help explain to me the difference between hope and optimism. “Right now, I’m hoping that somebody will feed me today,” he says. But that hope is passive. It may whet his appetite, but the disappointment will be all the more crushing if it isn’t satisfied. On the other hand, he explains, optimism is constructive, strategic. “I’m in a first world country, and somewhere I have a wallet with a credit card and some money in it. So the optimist in me has credibility, because it’s safe to say I will eat. Does that make any sense?” I mull it over, and I think so. While hope is passive, optimism determines the actions we will take.

Throughout our conversation – mostly in a London hotel as he munches on vegetarian dumplings – he scrambles around for these illustrations: some work, some don’t, sometimes he gets lost down a rabbit hole. But it is an insight into the mind of one of the western left’s great communicators: an almost obsessive desire to popularise political issues and causes, to trigger an emotional reaction among audiences that spurs them into action.

For young leftists, myself included, Moore’s work was something of a political life-raft back in an era when the traditional left was all but sunk. Fahrenheit 9/11 – his indictment of George W Bush’s so-called war on terror – courageously advanced otherwise marginalised ideas: it suggested that a proposed gas pipeline through Afghanistan may have played a role in the war, and noted links between the Bush administration and the Saudi regime. Moore has called for Bush administration officials to be put on trial. All this strays from the respectable centrist critique of the invasion, that it was simply the wrong war at the wrong time, or a “dumb war”, as Obama put it, rather than a crime.

His documentaries are designed not simply to inform, but to mobilise people. “Yeah, I was hoping to stop the Iraq war, hoping to end gun violence, to ensure every American has health insurance,” he explains. But he is keen to emphasise that his new film, Fahrenheit 11/9 (9 November 2016 being the day Donald Trump was declared US president-elect), is different. “It’s not some single issue, it’s not just about Donald Trump,” he says. “There’s nothing I can tell you about him that you don’t already know. You’d be wasting time and money to watch that.”

Moore is right: that would be a tediously by-numbers film. Trump’s average disapproval rating among Americans has not been below 50% since March 2017; in the UK, more than three-quarters have a negative view of the self-described “very stable genius”. They don’t need a film to tell them all the bad things about Trump. When I last met Moore, on the eve of the EU referendum, he predicted that Trump had every chance of winning the presidency. For much of the pundit class and Democratic politicians, such an event was less likely than an asteroid slamming into the Earth: their cocky predictions that, no, don’t be silly, Trump is going to lose, are mercilessly paraded on the screen in the film. Why did he see it coming and they didn’t?

For me, one of the strongest elements in the film was his J’accuse against the Democratic party establishment. He seethes with profane rage when he talks about their failures. He makes a parallel with his documentary – he’s down a rabbit hole again: if it’s a great film, if the critics like it, then he’s done his bit as a director, he hands his raw materials to Vertigo, the UK company in charge of distributing the film, it’s on them to make it a success.

It’s an allegory for the Democrats, he suggests. The polling shows that on the key issues, such as progressive taxation, or abortion rights, or healthcare, or gun control, most Americans side with the progressive side of the argument. In the past six out of seven presidential elections, he notes, the Democrats won the popular vote. “So the Democratic party are handed a population which agrees with their entire platform,” he says; they even have more voters. “Yet they’re still unable to put themselves and us in power.” If his film distributor kept doing that, it would go out of business. But here is what happens, his film posits, if the Democrats become too much like the Republicans, too in hock to a corporate agenda.

Here’s what I wanted to find out about the absurd, frightening antagonist in Fahrenheit 11/9: what Trump could be capable of in certain circumstances, how he could take advantage of a crisis to concentrate power in his hands. What would happen if there was a major terrorist attack? That should worry everyone, Moore says. “He’ll immediately propose militarising the local police. He’ll give police and prosecutors wide latitude to make sweeping arrests. He’ll, say, temporarily suspend habeas corpus, things like that.” All will be justified on the basis of the need to protect the US, but things would not go back where they were, these would not be temporary measures, and he would keep piling on authoritarian measures.

I mention countries such as Turkey, Poland and Hungary, where authoritarian leaders keep the formal trappings of democracy – there are still elections and opposition parties – but its substance is hollowed out. “Yes, I think that’s a better model for democracy: they’ll keep up the appearance of democracy, but their leader becomes more and more autocratic.” And here’s a chilling, under-discussed scenario. What if Trump is just the starter, the foreshadow? What if his role is to shift the terms of what is deemed an acceptable Republican candidate in favour of a more sophisticated authoritarian leader? “I think they now know the formula of what they need to win an election,” is how Moore puts it. “You need someone who people are familiar with, someone comfortable being on television.”

But there is a source of hope – or indeed optimism – in the film. To paraphrase George Orwell: “If there is hope, it lies in the young.” The survivors of the Parkland massacre confront not just the US gun lobby, but an older generation they believe has failed them. “We appreciate that you are willing to let us rebuild the world that you fucked up,” one survivor told US host Bill Maher.

The old trope is that the young begin as naive leftists then drift rightwards with age. This is something Moore refutes – “As I get older, I become more angry, not pacified, in my political thinking” – and it is not backed up by the data. In the 1984 presidential election, under-25s were more pro-Reagan than Americans in their 30s and 40s, and only marginally less so than pensioners.

And Trump is not popular among today’s young. In the 2016 election, among Americans under 30, he lagged about 20 points behind. Why? “When we were that age, my generation, if we went to college, we’d graduate debt-free. That world was our oyster: we could do whatever job we wanted to do, or not want to do any job – a lot of people took off, put on their backpack, went to Europe, got a Eurorail pass. The so-called ‘American dream’ seemed like a reality.” But what has happened in the US mirrors Britain: a neoliberal system promised freedom but instead delivered insecurity and stagnating living standards.

“The reason they’re more active and more aware is because they saw the writing on the wall, probably from middle school, definitely from high school. That there were not going to be good jobs for them, that they were going to be in a debtors’ prison for the first 20 or 30 years of their life. They’re angry – but not angry enough, in my opinion.”

In Moore’s film, the Democratic former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi slaps down a young, leftwing voter with: “I have to say, we’re capitalists, that’s just the way it is.” But it is striking that in 2018 – nearly three decades after the end of the cold war, in the nation of red scares and McCarthyism, in the very citadel of free-market capitalism – polls show most younger Americans prefer socialism to capitalism, “whether Pelosi likes it or not”, says Moore. He thinks back to how the socialist senator Bernie Sanders – whom he backed – casually launched his presidential bid in 2015. “He didn’t even realise how vast what was about to take off was. If he’d started a couple of months earlier, infrastructure in place, who knows what would have happened.” Will he run run again? “I believe he will,” Moore says, optimistic that Sanders can win both the nomination and defeat Trump. He tells me of an unreleased poll in West Virginia – which Trump won by a 42-point margin in 2016 – that has Sanders beating Trump in a head to head. “Even if people don’t agree with Bernie, they know he’s honest – what you see is what you get.”

But the Democratic establishment is on the run, he believes: he points to the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old New Yorker who defeated one of the Democrats’ big wigs in a primary election in June. “We covered her when nobody even knew she was running.” At the root of the Democratic civil war are fundamentally different interpretations of what happened in the 2016 election. The Democratic left believes it represented the nemesis of centrist orthodoxy, failing to capitalise on the anti-establishment mood against a system that is fundamentally broken, while the Democratic right believes Trump supporters need to be won over, and blame so-called “identity politics” for the loss.

Moore gives winning over Trumpists short shrift, spluttering: “A waste of time! Oh my God! If you’re still for Trump [after] two years, [with] everything you’ve seen, you’re gone, no one can convince you of anything!” What is pejoratively labelled identity politics – civil rights for black people, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights – has “reinvigorated politics”, Moore suggests. “It’s getting more people out to vote. You’re never going to convince people who hate gay people – that’s a waste of time. Our energy has to be getting our own people to polls.”

He keeps drifting back to the November midterm elections, and it’s clear that his film is, in part, a get-out-the-vote operation. It’s desperately needed: young voters who favour the Democrats are least likely to vote. Why? “They don’t feel that the political system is going to help them – that’s the biggest problem.” He keeps meeting US voters on his travels, “filled with a lot of despair. I could see some had given up.” They would vote, he suggests, but they wouldn’t end up bringing 10 other voters with them. He will be campaigning in swing districts, and has been using the money he has saved as a beneficiary of the Trump tax cuts to back Democratic candidates.

It’s here that Moore comes into his own, full of righteous fury. “I’ve seen films where you’re so reinvigorated that at the end of the film, you can’t wait to get to get out of the theatre and go out and do something. I love those kinds of films … A film like the one we’ve made asking people, not to give up or give in, but to realise how much fucking power and strength we have! We have a power on 6 November to fucking crush Trump, the uber rich who are thrilled with his performance, the old white male establishment that thinks they’re going to keep running the show, when their show was long, long over.”

Firing up what he sees as America’s progressive majority is why Moore is so dismissive of accusations he preaches to the choir. “The choir need a song to sing – that’s why they’re the choir! They need a song to pull them out of despair, and need to light a fire underneath themselves.”

He sees the Republicans’ nemesis as what he calls “the avengers” – women, young people, “who’ve had the future ripped from them”, people of colour – who history would record “got together and crushed the forces of evil”. But he is very clear: there cannot be a return to the corporate Democratic agenda of the past, and it is clear he sees himself having a big role to play. “People like Sanders and myself and Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez] and Rashida [Tlaib, a socialist Democrat set to be the first Muslim congresswoman], we will be the ones steering the ship, and we’ll do thing differently than the Democrats in the past. We’ll essentially give the people what they want: equal pay for women; ending mass incarceration of black people; protecting women’s reproductive rights; creating a living wage for everyone.”

But Moore’s optimism is not delusion. Earlier, he soberly told a London cinema audience that he cannot promise them a happy ending. He’s right not to. Whether Trumpism can be defeated will surely, in part, depend on who wins the battle for the soul of the Democratic party: its rootless, corporate-backed wing or a new insurgent left offering an alternative to a broken system. If the latter triumphs, history will surely record that Moore, now in what he wistfully calls “the final third of my life”, played a significant role.

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Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2018 11:39


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+70 # Wise woman 2018-10-19 12:40
Surely i hope enough of the righteous left will vote to begin overturning the crazy evil that is plaguing this country. The daily dose of it has become unbearable. Things must change. A corner must be turned. Young people, women and people of color must turn the tide now before a tsunami hits.
+60 # tedrey 2018-10-19 14:35
In short, it *can* come out right enough if we all follow through; it *can't* happen if we don't.
"We" absolutely including you and me, friends. Don't hold back.
+56 # Carol R 2018-10-19 18:41
It astounds me that otherwise intelligent people can look and hear Trump and not think he is totally vile. He speaks lies, degrades people, alienates allies, promotes dictators, looks down on ‘shit hole’ countries in Africa that are poor, takes children from their parents, hates immigrants, destroys the environment, attacks women, creates fear and division and works to get more power and money for himself. He sows disbelief in our government and our justice systems. He is like a monster that never stops and the GOP are sycophants. I’m sick of every single day getting up and reading one more new foul story that he has created. Why doesn’t he ever wear out? He is the epitome of ugliness both on the inside and outside. He enjoys creating chaos and destruction.

Will there ever come a time when we are rid of him? Will our democracy ever recover since his loyal followers will always proclaim how great he is? He has money and will never shut up.
+14 # fresh aire 2018-10-19 22:25
Does a insecure naughty child ever wear out? That insecure child craves attention continuously and will do ANYTHING to soothe his weak ego.
+5 # Moxa 2018-10-20 21:03
If Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination we will be rid of Trump in 2020. If not, all bets are off.
-19 # Depressionborn 2018-10-21 12:27
Carol R 2018-10-19 18:41

Everyone here likes everything Trump is doing. Our jobs are paying more; kids are all working; Churches are full. Best of all, no big wars.

Sorry Carol you are not doing well. What's wrong?
+22 # JCM 2018-10-19 19:33
The question is who do we vote for? There are some who say only for progressive candidates or third party candidates or even stay at home. In this regard I believe the only way to win this election is to vote for every Dem you can. No matter how badly you think the Dems have failed you, they are a far better choice than having the republicans still in power. Sometimes, if necessary, hold your nose but any Dem is better than any repub. If we splinter our vote the repubs win. We can’t let that happen.
It’s not about not voting for the least of evils, it’s about voting to keep the worst of evils from winning.
+12 # BetaTheta 2018-10-20 10:58
Yes, this is really our only path. "Leaders" do not really lead, but jump out in front of ongoing parades. If we constitute the parade and hold their feet to the fire, they generally respond. Even lousy Democratic politicians are vulnerable to this.

Sitting back in high moral dudgeon and refusing to compromise by voting for an imperfect candidate is self-defeating, and only makes one feel good about oneself.
+9 # Freddy 2018-10-20 11:35
Who to vote for? I found a good starting place in
+3 # JCM 2018-10-20 18:44
Great candidates: left a donation. Thanks
+2 # economagic 2018-10-20 11:49
I can't agree that "any Dem is better than any Repub," because it simply isn't true. There are several Republicans (though none on the Judiciary Committee and likely none in the entire Senate) who are better than, e.g., Joe Manchin. Similarly, there are surely some Republicans somewhere who are NO MORE supportive of the dead and deadly corporate agenda than Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and D W Schultz.

But that's where it gets complicated and many dimensional, with no clear greater or lesser evil, so requiring judgement, humility, moral vision, and what can only be called "faith" in the sense of being willing to act on incomplete information and take responsibility for any damage that results. We all want answers, preferably in black and white, but the world does not work that way.

I have not voted for any Republican since Gingrich's 15 minutes of fame, and maybe not ever. The fact that this is not a presidential year makes it easier to vote FOR Democrats in every race and not just against the greater evil, and I will continue to avoid criticism of anyone who takes your position. But I will also continue to point out that further empowering Democrats who collaborate with Republicans to advance corporate interests may in the long run have worse effects than not voting at all.

The critical races in that respect are the primaries, and the Democratic "leaders" have for many years resolutely run corporatists against anyone who challenges the orthodoxy in any way.
+9 # JCM 2018-10-20 18:12
economagic: There are many ways to approach "any Dem is better than a repub,". Sometimes the simplest is the best. Any Dem is better than any repub because the Dem is likely to vote with the Dems on many more occasions than the repub. And if an repub is elected he will, for the great majority of his votes, vote along party lines and, most importantly, could be the extra seat to give the repubs the Senate or House. In the present political situation we cannot afford that chance. Now more than any other time in my lifetime is it essential to vote against any possibility that the republicans could win.
As far as the, “Democrats who collaborate with Republicans to advance corporate interests”, as you basically say, the best time to deal with them is the primaries. If we could get enough Progressive candidates into Congress we would then have a chance to improve the party.
+1 # economagic 2018-10-21 17:56
I am in no way downplaying the corruptness of the current regime, which I see a pure evil and the wet dream of Republican party misleadership for decades. Your take is a little more sophisticated than bare LOTE, but only a little, and now extended from individual candidates to entire parties. Thank you for noting my point that the only way we can ever "get enough Progressive candidates into Congress" is through the primaries, but you failed to acknowledge that the DLC/DNC continues to put a lot of money and effort into blocking that path.

Since the current misleadership is determined to continue to replicate itself as members depart, that looks like a long, slow slog. Unfortunately the only visible alternative, developing a viable third (or second) party, is also a long, slow slog, and we don't have time for either.

I consider myself an optimist, and I am personally a pacifist so unwilling to suggest that others undertake violent revolution, which is almost certainly a fool's errand anyway. For those reasons, since Kerry caved in 2004 I have been saying that electoral politics is at best a rear-guard action, and that if we are to be saved it will be through the advice of one of Garrison Keillor's fictitious sponsors, "Xavier Onassis," by building resilience for the coming storm at the local level by reinvigorating local communities and economies. I thought that I was making some headway in that direction, but maybe not. I still vote, but only to buy a little time.
0 # JCM 2018-10-22 18:58
I am equally frustrated about the parties actions on progressive candidates. It could be political calculations that progressive candidates can’t win in certain areas or even worse, a result of Citizens United, making decisions for their corporate donors. It does take money to run a party and they aren’t willing to trust individual donors as of yet. If the progressive candidates win well this year it might help in next election, if the party’s decisions are based more on political calculations than corporate donors.
We might have much in common and I appreciate the conversation.
+7 # JCM 2018-10-20 19:11
Rereading your comment, what stands out to me was, "with no clear greater or lesser evil,". Unless I misunderstand, To me it couldn't be more clear what is the greater evil in our political environment. The republicans, to include rump, legislate only for the wealthiest. More pollution, more financial theft, much less SS, Medicare, Medicaid, less healthcare for millions and support worthless insurance policies, less public education, less taxes on the rich which only increases the deficit, less civil rights, less voting rights, less research and development including for renewable energy, less money for libraries and they try to privatize the Post Office Department. They have destroyed the EPA, the State Dep, Dep. of Education, of Health and Human Services, of Housing and Urban Development, the FDA and probably many more. They try to destroy Unions and worker rights. Want to sell off national parks and rip up protection of endangered species. They support the subsidizing of the fossil fuel industry. Inhuman treatment of immigrants and intolerance of minorities’, women and the handicapped. Supports legislation that helps create income and wealth inequality. They disenfranchise millions, and are in charge of the Interstate Crosschecking System that disenfranchises countless more voters. And finally, they don’t believe in CLIMATE CHANGE. Surely, the Democrats do not come close to rise to this ultimate evil.
+1 # kyzipster 2018-10-22 19:41
..if you had posted this at RSN prior to the 2016 election, you would have gotten dozens of 'down' votes.

I don't disagree at all with the problems with the Dem establishment but it's a shame that it takes someone like Trump to wake people up. As if Bush wasn't enough, such short memories.

If we don't vote in large numbers, we can't very well demand change from the establishment. The last midterm brought about the lowest turnout since the 1940s. Millennials were the very lowest demographic, 17%. I hope they're no longer asleep.
+1 # JCM 2018-10-23 14:36
Actually, I did post many comments back in 2016 similar to the ones above. And there were many down votes. I hope we all go out and vote and for every Dem we can. Our Democracy depends on it.
+1 # kyzipster 2018-10-24 14:54
I did also, I fully supported Sanders and voted for Hillary after he conceded the nomination. It was explained to me repeatedly how I was part of the problem and I was just too ignorant to see it. The proposed tax cuts alone were enough to vote against Trump, and of course they sailed through.

We saw the same thing in 2000. After a few years of Bush and the invasion of Iraq, even Chomsky changed his tune.

It's not a difference in belief, it's a difference in opinion on how best to move forward. Republican voters have shifted the GOP even more to the right by coming out and voting. We can do the same on the left imo, if we vote in large numbers. It's already happening, getting true progressives nominated for office since Trump was elected.
+1 # JCM 2018-10-25 10:26
If Democrats came out as consistently as the republicans, particularly during the 2010 and 2014 elections we wouldn't be in this mess. I hope we have all learned this lesson.
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-10-20 10:54
Of course we have the power to crush Trump. Actually he is a rather weak president. His base is fairly small and they don't have much political power. He has only weak support from republicans and the members of his administration.

but if "we" are going to crush anyone or anything, we'd have to be an organized force. Right now we are not. We have a leadership in the Demo party that is old, outmoded, and totally committed to their own income from wealthy donors. Very few people are willing to join their movement. The tried to create "Resistance Summer" in 2017 and "Summer of Rage" in 2018 but very few people signed no. The ones who did were mostly paid to demonstrate.

People would join a crush Trump movement led by Sanders and genuine progressives. But the Demo party would be against them. They'd have to crush the establishment democrats first.
+2 # EternalTruth 2018-10-21 22:15
This place is weird RR. I can’t figure out the thumbs. Based on the the commentary of the readers here, I’d expect this comment to get lots of up-votes. But it’s even right now. Either you’re getting down-votes because of other issues (Russia-gate), which is really lame, or the Dems have paid trolls watching sites like this one and attempting to make it look like opinions critical of the Dem’s are unpopular.

Anyway I agree with you, and what you wrote seems so obvious to me that I’m quite curious to hear from any of the “down-thumbers” as to why they disagree.
0 # Depressionborn 2018-10-22 18:11
Quoting EternalTruth:
This place is weird RR. I can’t figure out the thumbs. Based on the the commentary of the readers here, I’d expect this comment to get lots of up-votes. But it’s even right now. Either you’re getting down-votes because of other issues (Russia-gate), which is really lame, or the Dems have paid trolls watching sites like this one and attempting to make it look like opinions critical of the Dem’s are unpopular.

Anyway I agree with you, and what you wrote seems so obvious to me that I’m quite curious to hear from any of the “down-thumbers” as to why they disagree.

They will ever say. They either can't, or don't know the why of their posts. Sad, really.
0 # kyzipster 2018-10-22 19:51
Trump is a populist president, it doesn't matter what establishment Republican politicians think of him, here in Trump country, he's as popular as ever. The GOP establishment understands this, they dare not speak against him. The more we 'leftists' are outraged, the more they love their Trump. It's a phenomenon that's feeding Trump's popularity.

The left does win elections when we get off our butts and actually vote and we will this midterm, that's the one good thing about Trump's outrageousness, but the opposition is as strong as ever.
+3 # economagic 2018-10-20 13:04
I would define hope and optimism and the difference between them somewhat differently. I see hope as being open to the possibility that "things COULD get better," in sharp contrast to the insistence that things cannot get better and we are doomed. That is despair, though not in quite the way Kierkegaard defined it. I see it occasionally in RSN forums, more often elsewhere.

Optimism then is an active effort to find ways to actually make things better, which implies having acknowledged the possibility that such a path may exist.

Genuine hope is not entirely passive, as it is a choice not to assume the worst.
+13 # Elroys 2018-10-20 14:12
trump is clearly a vile criminal with no human ethics or morals, his only concern is his family's bank account. We can all agree this dirtbag must, and will go.
Now, let's move on to THE most dire existential threat humanity has ever faced - global warming - climate change. As the best and most recent science tells us in the recent IPCC report, If we do not significantly reduce global CO2 - greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and by 2050 STOP all CO2 emissions, we are ALL cooked. To say the China is the chief culprit is pure nonsense. Yes, as a nation they are #1. However, Americans are #1. We are each responsible for over 20 tons of CO2 emitted per year. The Chinese people emit about 7 tons each. We are responsible for the majority of emissions already sitting in the atmosphere. America must lead, go first, and yes, "sacrifice" some of our comforts and habits. If we don't change, kiss your children's future goodbye - and make sure you are honest. Tell them the truth as to why you wouldn't sacrifice for their future.

One "easy" change, that some will say, "oh, this is too hard, a sacrifice": cut your meat consumption by 50% as a start, then move to a plant based diet. My wife and I did 3 years ago - after t 30 days, it was easy. We're both in our 60s. Lost 40 pounds, healthier than in years. If you love your children and want them to have a future, do something, now. Crush trump - definitely. Destroy the Repugnant party, please. Now go big! Climate change.