Around 4:30 a.m. on November 6, Michael Moore was on Facebook Live celebrating Christmas early: Joe Biden would win the presidency over Donald Trump. Of course, the major news networks had yet to call the most exhausting presidential election of our time — that wouldn’t happen until the morning of November 7 — but he felt confident, so he read a parody written by Basel Hamdan, the executive producer of his podcast, called “‘Twas the Night Before Trump Removal.” The documentarian and leftist agitator has a long history of predicting the will of the electoral college. In the summer of 2016, he warned self-assured liberals that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton, and as those same self-assured liberals were wringing their hands over the early 2020 results, he was predicting a Biden victory. During a phone call before the cable news tally, we discussed why the Democrats won, the case for packing the Supreme Court, and where progressives go from here.
Have you gotten any sleep?
Yes, I’ve had a good three to four hours a night, every night, so I’m good. You can do that for a week.
Have you been watching anything else other than election returns?
I just watched a movie on Turner Classic Movies from 1950 starring Joel McCrea, called Stars in My Crown. People have told me to watch it for years. It’s set in the late 1800s and an epidemic breaks out in a town with a group of white supremacists. They’re harassing this elderly Black man because they want his property. The preacher believes only in God, not science, and so he doesn’t listen to the doctor when he comes down with a fever to isolate himself. And he helps to infect the town. Then he realizes he’s done that, and that it has to be both God and science. And this is 1950. It was just stunning to watch this play out. Now I know why people have been telling me to watch this.
Why do you think the media took so long to call the election results for Biden?
They’re afraid. Republicans make more noise. They’re very good at intimidation and bullying. The left, not so much. I think they also want to make sure they’re right. It’s a very, very close election, but it’s not like it’s gone back and forth. The trend for three days in Pennsylvania, Georgia — it’s Biden, Biden, Biden, Biden. Once they started to count all the ballots, it was clear what was going on. The majority of the country, just as they have in seven of the last eight elections, don’t want the Republican in the White House.
Just think about this. Four years ago, the Republicans had the White House, the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, yet the majority of Americans didn’t vote for them. At some point you can’t keep calling this a democracy. It’s dangerous to have people in office that are serving not the will of the people, but at the will of a system that was set up to appease the slave states, the Electoral College.
What do you think is going to happen in terms of a transition of power?Oh my God. Well, we’re in a very dangerous zone here. Because the words lame and duck feel quite appropriate for Donald Trump. He will not like that. And his behavior this week has been unhinged. I hate the fact that that soldier is still around him carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes. But I’m also convinced that generals have never put the actual nuclear codes in that briefcase. And somebody will write a book someday about the Trump presidency and they will reveal that the codes were never in there. It was just a number for takeout pizza or something.
I think we have to be on guard. The press has to do its job. Don’t relax because we’re all kind of relieved. Don’t not pay attention to what’s going on. If he continues to be more unhinged, then we’ll have to consider the 25th amendment. Maybe some of the Republicans in the Senate would actually consider impeachment just to get him out of there.
Biden himself is a fairly centrist candidate. I understand we may have averted the worst-case scenario, but do you also think that maybe we’re just kicking the can down the road?
Well, I feel in some ways our job is going to be harder now. If Trump were to have won, the easy part of the job being in the opposition is that the enemy is clearly identified, because he identifies himself as the enemy. You don’t have to do anything to convince people that he’s a bigot, that he’s a misogynist. He’s self-identified as all those things.
People are like, “I can’t believe this.” After four years of him behaving like this, you still can’t believe it. You should have been believing him a long time ago. This is my bone I’ve had to pick with New Yorkers for some time now. People in New York knew Donald Trump for decades. He was foisted upon the rest of us who did not know him — who only knew him from a reality show. New Yorkers knew for four decades that he was this aspiring psychopath, and did nothing to stop him. He got away with everything. Never went to jail. Lied and lied and lied. They called him “the Donald.” He didn’t give himself that nickname.
Honest to God, a fraud like Trump in Detroit, you never would have even heard of him nation-wide. He would have been taken care of. And I don’t mean floating in the Detroit River. I just mean it would have been dealt with.
Pelosi has already called for Democrats to move toward the center, and disavow progressivism for the sake of the Georgia Senate races. Whereas in fact, centrist candidates lost a lot of their elections.
I knew they would do this. “This is how we’ll win the Senate races in Georgia. We need to be more like Republicans.” Why would people vote for something pretending to be more Republican than the original, actual thing itself? They’re not going to convince anybody with this. They’ve already got their candidates, they’ve already got their party. So I think it’s a huge mistake.
The only reason why Biden won, and the only reason that [Nancy Pelosi] preserved the house, is because of progressives and African Americans and young people. It was Black voters and Black Americans and young people that made that happen. We won by at least 4 million votes. The American people weighed in, during a pandemic, and they came out on the side of the Democrats.
Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez], I think, just tweeted something. You can look at the graphs, where the Democratic Party’s efforts to register new voters bottomed out once the pandemic started. There’s hardly any new Democratic Party registrations across the country. But as soon as Black Lives Matter and the demonstrations in the summer, you can see the spike just shot right up for people registering as Democrats across the country.
Do you think it’s time for a new Speaker of the House, then?
No, [Pelosi] just needs to take maybe a little time to study the demographics of what happened here a little better. I think Pelosi has pulled off some incredible things. The whole impeachment. I think she’s on some gutsy things. I mean, to rip up his speech after the State of the Union. Geez. She’s not the kind of politician that just goes off her rail. She’s very thoughtful. So I don’t think that’s the problem.
I think just … stop listening to the pundits. Because they say these things: Don’t say the word socialism or don’t say “defund the police” or don’t support Black Lives Matter. These are all racial comments coming from white, somewhat liberal people, and they really should think about when they say this stuff. Because they’re expressing their racial anxiety that this is a Black and brown and young and female country. So instead of fighting it, embrace it. And they’ll do well. But if they try to misconstrue what’s going on because of their own racial anxiety, it’s not going to go away. Because the police won’t stop shooting unarmed Black men.
And everybody knows what they mean when people have said “defund the police.” They mean, take some of this money away from the cops, and give it to people who can handle things the cops actually don’t want to handle anyways. They didn’t sign up to be social workers. They didn’t sign up to be substance-abuse advisers, family counselors, dealing with family disputes. That’s not why they wanted to be police. And that’s not what they’re trained to do. So if the Democrats run away from any of this, they’re doomed. And they’ll get their lights punched out in the 2022 midterms. Because young people, progressives, Black voters — if they see the Democrats have deserted them, they will desert the Democrats. No question in my mind about that.
Have you had any conversations with Biden or the campaign?
I didn’t communicate with the campaign. Except for in the last two weeks, I did get a call from somebody connected to the campaign to ask what to do about how to get out the vote in Flint. The first thing I said was show up. Hillary didn’t come. Hilary didn’t go to Wisconsin. You’ve got to go. And then Biden when he’s there has got to say on day one, “I’m sending in the Army Corps of Engineers. I’m digging up the poison pipes.” If you do that, then that will go such a long way. They got there last weekend; Joe and Obama went to Flint and Detroit and got Stevie Wonder there to go with them.
Does it make up for the water stunt?
After the speech was over, you saw somebody’s video of Obama hitting that great three pointer in the gym. I thought, oh, that’s cool. And then, wait a minute. I know this gym. And there on the gym floor it said Northwestern. He fired off that three-point shot from the exact spot where he fake-drank the Flint water during the 2016 campaign. And then I started hearing later that day, the next day, from people in Flint who saw the same thing. Now you’d have to be from Flint. Nobody reported this.
This is the first time I’m talking about it publicly. I didn’t want to say anything before the election, but everybody in Flint knew. And I just thought, please don’t have people give up. Something about this triggered that reminder that the Democrats let them suffer and be poisoned by this water and did nothing to help them. I just thought, Mike, don’t say anything till the election is over. There’s nothing I could do about it anyways. I can’t undo what happened.
All [Biden] would say is he would guarantee that that wouldn’t happen in any other city. Okay. I mean, people there are still drinking bottled water.
That is still appalling.
It is appalling. But I’m not going to stop on it.
On Facebook, you wondered aloud a little bit about why more Americans didn’t repudiate Trump …
I feel a bit better today. Because that late, late night on Tuesday, I wasn’t so sure about Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and New Mexico. But it looks like at least five Trump states got flipped by Biden, whereas Trump flipped no states. When all the votes are counted this could be a 52-48 election. We don’t have 60/40 elections. So if you can get past the 51 mark, it’s almost considered a landslide.
So I think it is a significant repudiation. Not the one I would have wanted, because you still have to square the fact that 70 million Americans wanted Donald Trump to have four more years after living through this.
What does the future of the Democratic Party look like?
We need better strategy, better outreach. There’s still [millions of] non-voters. Reach out to them. See if we can give them a reason to vote — not convince them to vote, actually, through our actions, make them want to vote because they see that Democratic politicians are really working in their best interest.
What would you say to people who think Bernie would have done better than Biden in the general election?
I don’t know how you could scientifically prove that?
Of course you couldn’t.
It certainly would be wrong to say, “Oh, so glad we got Biden there. We never would have done this with Bernie.” That’s not true. But let me just say something about Biden too. Biden may surprise a lot of progressives. Because it’s in Biden’s head that he may just do this for one term and that this is going to be his legacy — this is how people remember him — I think he’s going to want to go out being remembered as doing some very profound things.
Where do you see the Republican Party going after this election?
Well, that’s a good question. It depends on whether it’s the Republican Party or, really, the Trump Party. Because he has a huge cult following, and they repeat him like it’s gospel. All the conspiracy theories. I don’t think they can last long as a party. That’s my gut feeling. Mainly because you can’t get any new people, any young people, to be with you. How long can you last?
Well, through, gerrymandering, controlling the courts. They were supposed to die out in the last election, but they cling on to power in all of these anti-democratic ways.
Right. Basically, the country is three political parties: The Christian right. The people who are socially liberal, but are big believers in capitalism. So they’re the economic conservatives, the Wall Streeters. And then the progressives who are socially progressive, and who believe either that social democracies are the best way to function on this planet or they believe in the old form of capitalism [as] Adam Smith said, “This won’t work without a conscience. Capitalism won’t sustain itself, won’t survive, and the barbarians will be at the gate at some point.” I’m just paraphrasing.
Most young people — I would say most millennials, most of the Zoomers, and the ones that come after them — are going to believe my version of how I described this: That everybody has to have a seat at the table, and everybody gets a slice of the pie, and there’s a safety net surrounding everybody. The goal is that nobody falls into a crack. I think that’s how people, especially in the future here, are going to want to live, and part of the future is already here. There’s a million Gretas. They’re going to lead, they’re going to run for office. The future is Rashida [Tlaib]. The future is not Judge Amy [Coney Barrett]. Judge Amy has such a reach back into the 17th century. Those days are over.
But she’s going to be there for a bit.
For your entire life. But that’s okay. We need to reform the court anyway. We’ve got the same number of justices that we had back when the population of the U.S. was, what, 80 million people? There’s no other part of our system that doesn’t expand or hasn’t expanded with population. So forget about expanding it because [Republicans] packed the court. They stole a couple seats, forget all that. It simply needs to be expanded because we’ve expanded.
And they should do it with the entire federal judiciary. I can tell you from my experience in Michigan; there’s only two districts for the federal courts in Michigan, Eastern and Western. The Western is everything from down to the Indiana border, all the way up to the top of the Upper Peninsula. The whole Upper Peninsula in the Western District. It’s crazy. The federal judiciary needs to be expanded. And they should go ahead and do this and not be afraid. And don’t listen to them crying about packing the court. Oh, my God. What a joke.
In 2016, we talked about the importance of reality television in understanding the American electorate. It’s something that I think about a lot still, especially considering most people interfaced with Trump through reality TV. Moreover, he really plays into the rhythm of reality TV, even though he’s running the executive branch.
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this. I mean his wife and his son also had coronavirus. Only on a fake television show would the dad leave the wife and child who are also sick behind when the ambulance arrives. Why not take them, get them the best treatment? But no, no. Forget about whether you’re liberal or conservative? What dad would do that. Well, a reality-TV dad, maybe? He’s the one you would root against on The Bachelorette.
Is there anything that Democrats could have done for a more resounding victory?
Nominate Michelle Obama. Draft her for the good of the country, and tell her we’re really sorry, because we know how much you don’t want to do it. But we need to crush this, we need to crush it bad. So it never comes back. And then you’d have 80 to 100 million votes for Michelle Obama, and an absolute ass whooping of Donald Trump. That’s how it could have been better. The lesson for 2022 is, let’s make sure we pick winners and the people that are going to win and get our U.S. Senate back.
What do progressives do next?
Let’s get out there and support Biden when he’s doing the right thing. And when he’s sort of doing the right thing, let’s nudge him. And when he’s doing the wrong thing, let’s play offense here. Okay, yes, [Biden] is not for Medicare for All. But if a universal health-care bill comes on his desk, that has passed the House and the Senate, do you think he’s going to veto it? No. So anything we could do to make it more progressive, I think he’ll go along with. Because he’s not fundamentally opposed to everybody having health insurance. He’s not fundamentally opposed to women having equal rights.
So we’re all on the same page. He might do it a little differently. He might do a little more the grandpa way. And we need to do it the Ariana Grande way. That’s where our heads should be at. Let’s push for the things we believe in and let young people lead. Because young people and women of color gave us our largest demonstrations in the Trump era: the Women’s March, the March for Our Lives organized by the Parkland kids, and the Black Lives Matter uprising. So let’s get behind them. I think we’re going to have more success than we realize, if we realize how much power we really hold in our hands right now.