Michael Moore had spent the last days before the election warning, both in person and with his new film, that Hillary Clinton was in danger of losing to Donald Trump.
So you could forgive the filmmaker for sounding an I-told-you-so note--if ruefully --when asked 48 hours after the Trump upset about his accurate forecast.
“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 a phone interview on Thursday. “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 made his push via a movie called “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” a live-shoot of an Ohio performance of a Spalding Gray-esque theater piece he’d recently written. The one-man show riffed generally on the election and sought to make a case for Clinton’s worthiness, part of an effort to stimulate what he called a depressed Democratic vote.
At the time of its release several weeks ago, with Clinton leading heavily in many polls, Moore was accused of alarmism and opportunism--tweets during the New York premiere elicited allegations of both. But the director said that he was simply observing behavior in his native Midwest and had no interest other than to call it like he saw it.
(Among his warnings that premiere night. “If I leave here tonight with people thinking this is a nice, funny show and we’re not in any kind of trouble and Trump has imploded, then I’d have failed.”)
If his message didn’t get out, he said Thursday, don’t blame him--outside of a few MSNBC talk shows, most outlets didn’t want to host him.
“It was a rare moment when anybody would have me on,” he said. “I’m not faulting anyone in particular. The media had a story, a narrative they wanted to tell, about Hillary, and they didn’t want anyone bursting it. They reduced people to numbers. The game that 538 and other sites play is dehumanizing and not in touch with real people.”
He continued, “I felt the Trump vote was being undercounted and the Hillary supporters were doing an end-zone dance when they were only at the 50 yard line.”
Moore has often made movies during elections in a presumptive bid to influence them--"Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), “Sicko” (2007), “Where to Invade Next (2015) and “TrumpLand” all came out during campaign seasons. Whether he’s ever meaningfully moved the needle is unclear; even his most widely seen film, “Fahrenheit,” didn’t deliver the election to the Democrats.
“TrumpLand” had no formal distributor and went into a number of theaters at the same time that it went digital. It spent a few weeks high on the iTunes charts.
Moore said he believes the movie helped close a gap in the all-important Midwest, where he’d concentrated his efforts.
“I read this stat last night that if you took the combined [differential] amount in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and put it in the University of Michigan football stadium, it wouldn’t even fill the whole stadium.” [The total discrepancy at the moment in three states--Michigan has officially not been called--is about 108,000; Michigan Stadium’s official capacity is almost exactly that.] “So the fact that I got it to a place where the vote difference would be that small I’m happy about. But I’m one person. There’s only so much I can do.”
He said it became clear to him that, in Michigan, at least, Clinton was in serious trouble.
The state that went red for the first time in 28 years--where Moore lives part-time—had, he said, felt betrayed by the Democrats as a result of several incidents, both coming on top of Bernie Sanders’ surprise primary win in the spring. One was President Obama traveling to Flint, Mich., earlier this year and saying the city’s water crisis was over when it wasn’t (“We like Obama and are going to miss Obama and nobody wants to say anything negative but I’m going to,” Moore said).
The other was a question reportedly fed to Clinton before a debate by Democratic political analyst Donna Brazile. “People forget that debate took place in Flint, Mich.,” Moore said. “And the people there felt like a prop.”
Moore had largely been quiet for much of the campaign, in part because he was writing the movie. He said that period was coming to an end now as he saw the activism of the past few days--protests have sprung up around the country, most notably and at times violently in Portland, Ore., on Thursday night--as the start of a larger movement.
“I’m going to be one of the people leading the opposition to him, that’s going to stop him. It will be a mass movement of millions that will dwarf Occupy Wall Street,” Moore said.
He added, “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.”
When “TrumpLand” was released, Moore had also sounded a conciliatory note toward Clinton, with whom he sometimes has had an ambivalent relationship--"I have a lot of hope” in her, he noted at the time. “There’s a lot of good.”
But Moore was back on Thursday to making a more progressive cri de coeur.
“We’re not going to fix the Democratic Party--we’re going to take it over,” he said.
He suggested that the race was as close as it was because Clinton embraced some of Bernie Sanders’ progressive positions, and that the Democratic establishment should respond to the loss not by tacking to the center but continuing in the other direction.
“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.”
Asked if he saw his role as that of an activist as Trump prepared to take office, he demurred, saying he didn’t like that term.
“I’m not an activist, I’m a citizen. It’s redundant to say I’m an activist. We all should be active.”
On Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT