Michael Moore's Election Eve Thoughts: People "Less Complacent," But Don't Underestimate "Evil Genius" Trump

Michael Moore attends the closing ceremony screening of The Specials - Getty-H 2020
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The Oscar-winning filmmaker foresaw a Trump victory in 2016; this time, he makes no predictions but has plenty on his mind as America goes to the polls.

Michael Moore has a lot on his mind in the final hours before the 2020 election. Like, a lot. The Academy Award-winning director of films like Bowling for Columbine and Roger and Me shared many of these ruminations with The Hollywood Reporter in a late night, stream-of-conscience monologue (he says no marijuana was involved) that touches on things like conservative court-packing, civil wars, COVID-19 and the fight to save cinema. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.) 

I don’t think people are complacent this time, and I think most people are not taking a victory for granted until the deal is actually sealed. So that’s good. I’m not making any predictions. Last time, I just said what I saw because I live in the Midwest. I could tell that Hillary was going to lose.

We used to live in a time where our media used to have bureaus all over the country. But they didn’t see it because they’re not there. There used to be an L.A. Times bureau in Detroit. The L.A. Times had their own automotive reporter. All the networks had a bureau in Detroit; now, none. So one of the reasons that we got to the point where Trump could even win is because the citizens, the public, was not informed in the way that they were used to being informed of what was going on. When you have a more ignorant public, bad decisions get made.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m not some genius because I knew that Trump was going to win and win by those three states. It’s just because I live there and I grew up around there and I talked to people and I go to the diner and it’s like, wow. And, also, I’m thinking that whole time, "Where is she? Does she want to lose?" And other things didn’t get reported. People would see my film and go, “I can’t believe Obama went to Flint and drank the water and told me that it was no longer poison.” He did that in May during the campaign, you know.

That didn’t get reported because, again, there’s nobody there noticing that he flew into Flint, held a big rally in a mostly Black high school gymnasium, and he told people the water was OK. He came with the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, the man who poisoned the people of Flint — the knife in the heart that that was to a majority Black city.  That was the end of the election for Hillary as far as Flint was concerned. And sure enough, from exit polls and the studies that have been done, about 8,000 African American voters who voted twice for Obama in ’08 and ’12 did not show up and vote in 2016. They weren’t going to vote for Trump, but they weren’t going to vote for Hillary.

Now you don’t know that in L.A., and people in New York don’t know it, and people in Chicago don’t know it because you have to be there —  you have to have a vibrant media in order to pay attention to these things. I can’t believe four years later I’m still so upset that this did not have to happen.

I know a lot of these guys. I know these militia guys; I went to high school with them. Terry Nichols who blew up Oklahoma City with Timothy McVeigh, he graduated the same year from high school as I did in the high school district right next to mine. These are the white guys I grew up with, and this didn’t have to happen in such a blue state and a union state, a state where you have majority Black cities like Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw, Benton Harbor.

So, that’s why I’m all over it now. Democrats don’t like it when a month ago, I was asking, "Where’s Biden? Why isn’t he coming to Michigan?" I just kept going on TV and my social media and my own podcast: Where’s Biden? Then he comes and the first two trips are only to essentially white communities. He doesn’t go to Black Detroit; he doesn’t go to Black Flint. What is going on? Why are you making the same mistake and why can’t anybody get any yard signs — again! Two months ago: no yard signs. I interviewed [Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign chairman] John Podesta for my film. After the election, I said, “What was the deal with the yard signs?”  He said, 'By having yard signs in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, it reminds the Trump voters, because they get angry every time they see a Hillary sign, so they get angry and it reminds them they got to go vote.'”

So that’s why we don’t have yard signs, because you’re afraid that if they see the sign they’re just going to get so upset and it will trigger them, it will trigger them to what? Vote? Jesus. So, in July and August, early September, [Biden's campaign was] doing the same thing in Michigan. I started complaining on my podcast and I started complaining on TV and sure enough the state was inundated with thousands of yard signs. So, they first tried to say that yard signs are old, they don’t work anymore. That’s not true. In these areas where people drive, and they get debilitated when they see so many Trump signs and Trump flags and they see no Biden signs, it’s not good. It’s depressing. So, anyways, that got fixed. And, where is Obama and Biden and Stevie Wonder tomorrow? All through the state of Michigan, and with Stevie Wonder playing tomorrow night with them in Detroit. So, a big difference from 2016.

I think Kamala Harris has had a healthy impact on the campaign and that has been a good thing. I love every time she laughs whenever Trump says that she’s regarded as "the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate, more liberal than Bernie." And she just laughs because, actually, that’s one of the few times Trump’s telling the truth. She is the most liberal. I’ve tried to kid with Bernie about this. I said, "You know, Bernie, back when you were running in the primary, you were still saying that you were in favor of the filibuster. But she’s not for the filibuster, you know."

I tried to explain this to the Bernie bros, my friends, that OK, yes, Biden’s not Bernie — but look at the good signs here. Biden, when picking the VP could have swung to the right; he could have picked Susan Rice. He swung to the left of the six candidates that were up for it. He went to the farthest left in picking Kamala Harris. Now, there will be centrists and moderate Dems that say, "Mike, don’t say this, don’t say this out loud." But they are so wrong because the way we win is by getting out the majority of people in this country who are progressive and liberal and left and Democrats; that’s the majority of this country. The Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. This is a statistic that never gets repeated and it’s like the most telling that this country already changed a long time ago and it’s the old party hats including the DNC party people that haven’t caught on to the fact that the majority of Americans believe in the progressive agenda and say so in every poll.

Look up any poll, the majority of Americans believe we should have a minimum wage that’s a living wage of $15 an hour. The majority of Americans believe in climate change. The majority of Americans believe in a woman’s right to choose. The vast majority of Americans want gun control laws. The death penalty was the last one that the conservatives hung on to where the majority of Americans agreed that we should have a death penalty — now that’s gone. It’s something like 54 percent of Americans that are opposed to the death penalty.

But since Trump was elected, over 15 million teenagers have become voters. Just in Trump's four years: 15 million. How many of them, do you think, are really excited to vote for Republicans? How many of them are really wowed by Trump? We already know the answer to this. They are the largest demographic now for Biden; they were the largest demographic for Bernie and they’re going to have a say in this election. You saw the stats this week in the early voting? The young-person vote is five to 10 times higher than it was four years ago.

That’s the America I see now, one that’s become much more progressive and is more progressive than the actual candidate himself. So all that means is let’s get Biden in there and let’s work with him to get some of these things that we, on the left, want — and they’re easily attainable.

I think Biden has a good heart; I think he has a conscience. I don’t think he goes to mass on Sunday for show — I think he actually believes and I think actually believes that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us. I think he believes that you have to love your neighbor and you have to love your enemy.

I would much rather be playing offense than defense, and I have played defense my whole life and I’m tired of it. I played basketball when I was in junior high school. I was the tallest kid, I was 6-foot-2, but I couldn’t run worth shit. I carried too much weight. So the coach says to me, "I can see you’re having a hard time. Just go half and cover the back end and get under that basket." They would just fire the ball way down to me and then there I was. I’d always score the most points and that’s what I want to play now. I want Biden in the White House and the Senate and Congress in the hands of the Democrats so we have all three.

I’m recording my final podcast before the election today, and the episode is called "Make America California Again." I want to tell people in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin what happens in California, when you have both houses and the governorship in the hands of the one party, that being our party, and all the stuff that has taken place in California. It’s not perfect, I know. Both of my sisters live in California; they both have packed bags by the door because of the fires. But look at all the good shit that’s happened in California. And it started a little bit under Schwarzenegger. One or two good things you could see, because he’s not really a Republican. And then Jerry Brown takes over and then boom, and you get both the Senate and the House and then boom, and then it’s like all the good stuff that’s passed, there’s no bullshit. You have a preferential balloting where when you voted for Senate last time: Your choice was two Democrats; there’s not even a Republican on the ballot! It’s almost a Soviet ballot where you only vote for Democrats. It’s like, how does that happen?

Well, it should be that way: the top-two vote getters, that’s where your final choice comes from. That’s the best, that’s the most democratic way, small-D democratic way to do it. That was the end of Republicans in California —and I mean, Orange County completely blue! Do you realize when I was a teenager, I mean, Frank Zappa had a song called "Son of Orange County." I mean, this is like the most viciously conservative county in the United States until 2018  — and then every congressional district in Orange County goes blue?

You know, so this is what I tell Michiganders. Every good idea has come from California. Just think about it, whether it’s fashion, whether it’s politics, whether it’s, you know, sex — Summer of Love — it doesn’t matter. I say this to New Yorkers and they’re like, "Well, California ..."  I’m just telling you folks, there’s good things happening out there; nobody here understands it. When we have a Democratic Senate, House and White House we’re going to be in better shape, I think.

But here’s the good news about guns and Americans, and I’ve thought about this a lot since Bowling for Columbine. First of all, the majority gender with 51 percent of the population are not really into guns. They don’t have guns. The chances of somebody jumping out of a bush and shooting you on some dark night and that person being a woman, the chance of that happening is practically nil.

And so that’s number one and my second thought about this is that, there was a Washington Post story last year that said we’re not really a nation of gun nuts. We look like it, but we’re not. And proof of that is that 78 percent of us do not own a gun. It said that we have something like, I don’t know, 360 million guns is the estimate in this country and it said that 3 percent of us own half of those guns. Three percent of us own 180 million guns.

OK, now that’s scary. So, there’s a few million people that have got 180 million guns, we need to deal with that. But the rest of the gun owners, they’re just hunters, or they like to target shoot or they have a legitimate reason they believe for their safety. But, we’re not gun nuts. We’re fairly safe except in a moment like this when a president is encouraging white supremacists and what he calls his "Second Amendment people" to be ready. And, so the 3 percent who are all set to go, that’s kind of scary.

But, here’s two things that those people — the militia people — should be scared about. Number one, it was funny when they arrested those guys in Michigan and they said one of them was complaining that he was mad at the governor for opposing the gyms. You look at these guys and you’re like, good for them, they actually were thinking about wanting to go to the gym. Because they look like they should. What I’m saying to the militias is: "You guys are never going to win as long as I can run faster than you." That ain’t saying much. There’s a problem with your plan here and you need to look in the mirror.

Number two is we have so many great kids in our armed forces, in the army and the marines and everything else, and they have been trained to kill and we don’t have any wars really going on. We still have a few people in Afghanistan, but we aren’t really involved in war right now. They signed up to protect us, they signed up to offer to kill to protect us, the people. If you are going to start a war, if you’re actually talking civil war, let me tell you what’s going to happen: These extremely fit young people, who are highly trained and very good with all sorts of weapons, this civil war is going to be over in about three-and-a-half days. And you are going to be target practice because they have been wanting to shoot something for some time. Wow, would they like a good fight and they want to fight you, all right.

And then we have a third flank: It’s called our police. And what have we learned about our police this year? They like to fire guns. And we’re going to find out that they don’t just like to shoot Black people. If they are told that these crazy militia guys have guns and want to kill the people who live on Sandy Oak Way, these cops are going to come running and firing without asking any questions. That’s clearly what they do. Militia people, if you’re reading The Hollywood Reporter, please put down your guns, do not start any kind of violence. This is going to end up very, very, very bad for you.

Here’s some good news: If you don’t start a civil war, Joe Biden is not going to take your guns from you. You’re going to get to keep your guns, you’re going to get to go play war on the weekends. Whatever security they give you, you can still do that and you’re going to have your freedom of speech. And on top of that — this is what liberals do, this is how crazy we are — when we get healthcare passed for everyone, we’re going to make sure you get it, too.

And when we have free college tuition for anybody who earns under $125,000 a year, we’re going to give that to you, too, even though you’re running around with guns. Even though we don’t agree with you, that’s how liberal we are. You’re going to have free college, you’re going to have free healthcare, you’re going to get $15 an hour, not $7.25, and no government’s going to have their hand on your woman’s, on any women’s bodies because it’s just going to be no government in the bedroom. And you don’t want the government in your bedroom do you? No, you don’t.

Here's the thing about Amy Coney Barrett. Isn't that the way? It’s the way the Nazis; it’s the way all kinds of dictators figure out how to take one member of the group that they are oppressing and use them to help them with the oppression. All dictators of all stripes have done this and it’s a very smart way to consolidate power. How did the British have an empire? They’re a tiny little island with not that many people and yet they literally controlled half the world — because they learned the genius of putting the locals in charge that are going to suck up to the king and queen.

So you look for the Clarence Thomas and you look for the Amy Coney Barrett and you use them — you use them to do it. I was writing this thing the other night about Clarence Thomas and I showed it to a couple of friends and, “Oh, you sure you want to post that?” Because we’re sensitive. I’m white, I got to be careful. But it just struck me that my first thought was, where’s Roberts? The chief justice is supposed to swear you in, always, so where’s the chief justice? And I thought: of course, he refused to do it. He did not want history to record pictures of him participating in a sham, of him participating in a Trump reality show in the White House.

He chose not to do that, and so they put it out as "she wanted Clarence Thomas." Uh huh, right, yeah, she wants to diss the boss of the court on day one; he’s the one that assigns the cases. He’s as young as her. She’s not going to diss him and risk that. This is Roberts deciding not to do it. Roberts, you know, who this week, now three times, decided with the liberals to stop the conservatives from screwing up the postal stuff in the states with the vote counting. You’ve got to know how [Trump] thinks and he’s an evil genius with the emphasis on genius. 

Remember when Fauci cited the "apocalypse number" of 100,000 new cases a day? We’re over 90,000 today in the last 24 hours.  And our business — movies and TV — the people have suffered in this industry as a result of this. I’m also an exhibitor. I’ve restored theaters in Michigan and I set up nonprofits and we run them like beautiful old movie palaces. The fact that cinema — what I would call our indigenous art forms — would be against the ropes in this way is tragic on proportions larger than just what it’s done to our economy. Look at what it’s done to us as, as writers and as artists, creators.

We need some attention paid to this. And when this election is over, we are going to address this in some way. Because we’re not going to let this die and we’re not going to let COVID-19 defeat us. It will not be said when I’m gone that I let something defeat what I did for a living, something which can be killed with 20 seconds of soap and hot water.

We can find the right method to put an end to this and we need to understand that the next virus is coming and why it’s coming and it’s because our beloved environmental movement, which I’ve been part of since the first Earth Day, we took the wrong turn, the wrong fork in the road by putting all of our marbles in the climate change baskets.

That next virus is coming because of the way we’ve treated this planet and nobody’s having this discussion right now — and the next virus will be worse than this one. When Trump said to [Bob] Woodward, “It’s airborne, it’s airborne.” Yeah, airborne. Type in "airborne," see how often the mainstream media uses the word airborne in the last ten months; they don’t use it because it’s a scary word.  It’s used now since the Woodward revelation, but we should have been using it this whole time.  What are we going to do? This is the discussion I want to have. That’s the movement I want to participate in. And, I’m hoping that others want to do that, too.  I’ve thought about it as the subject of my next movie. I don’t want to say, because I don’t know yet. There’s a big part of me that just wants to join Ice Capades.