It falls to the empty stomach of Michael Moore to help me explain the difference between hope and optimism. "At this moment, I hope someone will feed me today," he says. But that hope is passive. It can whet your appetite, but the disappointment will be even more overwhelming if you are not 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 is safe to say that I will eat. Does that make any sense at all? "I reflect it, and I think so. While hope is passive, optimism determines the actions we will take.
Throughout our conversation, mostly in a London hotel while eating vegetarian meatballs, look for these illustrations: some works, some do not, sometimes it is lost by a rabbit hole. But it is an idea of the mind of one of the great communicators of the western left: an almost obsessive desire to popularize political problems and causes, to unleash an emotional reaction among the public that impels them to act.
For the young leftists, including me, Moore's work was a kind of political life raft in an era in which the traditional left was almost sunk. Fahrenheit 9/11 – his accusation of George W. Bush's so-called war on terror – boldly advanced marginalized ideas in another way: he suggested that a gas pipeline proposed through Afghanistan could have played a role in the war, and pointed to links between the Bush administration and the Saudi regime. Moore has asked that the officials of the Bush administration be judged. All this moves away from the respectable centrist critique of the invasion, that it was simply the wrong war at the wrong time, or a "stupid war," as Obama put it, rather than a crime.
His documentaries are designed not only to inform, but to mobilize people. "Yes, I was hoping to stop the war in Iraq, hoping to put an end to violence with guns, to ensure that every American has health insurance," he explains. But he wants to emphasize that his new film, Fahrenheit 11/9 (on November 9, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was declared president-elect of the United States), is different. "It's not just a problem, it's not just about Donald Trump," he says. "There's nothing I can tell you about him that you do not know, you'd be wasting time and money to see that."
Moore is right: it would be a movie of tedious numbers. Trump's average rating of disapproval among Americans has not been below 50% since March 2017; in the United Kingdom, more than three quarters have a negative view of the "very stable genius" that describes itself. They do not need a movie to tell them all the bad things about Trump. The last time I met Moore, on the eve of the EU referendum, he predicted that Trump had every chance of winning the presidency. For much of the class of Democratic experts and politicians, such an event was less likely than an asteroid to crash into Earth: its arrogant predictions that no, do not be silly, Trump will lose, display mercilessly on the screen in the film. Why did he see it coming and did not?
For me, one of the strongest elements of the film was its actress against the establishment of the Democratic party. Filled with profane rage when he talks about his failures. He makes a parallel with his documentary: he's back in a rabbit hole: if it's a great movie, if critics like him, then he has served as director, he delivers his raw materials to Vertigo, the British company in charge of By distributing the film, it is in them to be a success.
It's an allegory for the Democrats, he suggests. The survey shows that on key issues, such as progressive taxation, abortion rights, medical care or gun control, most Americans are on the progressive side of the argument. In the last six of the seven presidential elections, he notes, the Democrats won the popular vote. "So the Democratic party has a population that agrees with its entire platform," he says; They even have more voters. "However, they are still unable to put themselves and us in power." If your movie distributor continued to do that, it would run out of business. But this is what happens, says his film, if the Democrats look too much like the Republicans, also in the trap of a corporate agenda.
This is what I wanted to find out about the absurd and frightening antagonist in Fahrenheit 11/9: of what Trump might be able 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, says Moore. "He will immediately propose to militarize the local police, he will give the police and prosecutors ample freedom to make arrests, he will say that he will temporarily suspend the habeas corpus, things like that." Everything will be justified on the basis of the need to protect the USA, but things will not go back to where they were, these would not be temporary measures, and I would continue to accumulate authoritarian measures.
I mention countries like Turkey, Poland and Hungary, where authoritarian leaders maintain the formal traps of democracy (there are still elections and opposition parties), but their content is empty. "Yes, I think it is a better model for democracy: they will maintain the appearance of democracy, but their leader becomes increasingly autocratic." And here is a chilling scenario and little discussed. What if Trump is just the start, the shadow? What if its function is to change the terms of what is considered an acceptable Republican candidate in favor of a more sophisticated authoritarian leader? "I think they now know the formula of what they need to win an election," says Moore. "You need someone with whom people are familiar, someone who is comfortable on television."
But there is a source of hope, or even optimism, in the film. To paraphrase George Orwell: "If there is hope, it is in the young." The survivors of the Parkland massacre face not only the United States lobby, but an older generation who believe it has failed them. "We appreciate that you're willing to let us rebuild the world you screwed up," a survivor told US host Bill Maher.
The old problem is that young people begin when the naive leftists deviate to the right with age. This is something that Moore refutes: "As I get older, I get more angry, I do not reassure myself in my political thinking," and it's not backed by the data. In the 1984 presidential election, those under 25 were more pro-Reagan than Americans between 30 and 40, and only a little less than retirees.
And Trump is not popular with young people today. In the 2016 elections, among Americans under 30, it was delayed about 20 points. Why? "When we were that age, my generation, if we went to college, we would graduate without debt." That world was our oyster: we could do any job we wanted or do not want to do any work: many people took off, put on their backpacks, went to Europe, they obtained a Eurorail pass, the so-called "American Dream" seemed a reality. " But what happened in the United States reflects Great Britain: a neoliberal system promised freedom, but instead generated insecurity and stagnant living standards.
"The reason they are more active and more aware is because they saw the writing on the wall, probably from high school, definitely from high school, that there would not be good jobs for them, that they would be in prison of debtors during the first 20 or 30 years of their lives, they are angry, but not angry enough, in my opinion. "
In Moore's film, former Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, slaps a young leftist voter with: "I have to say that we are capitalists, that's how it is." But it is surprising that in 2018, almost three decades after the end of the cold war, in the nation of red tremors and McCarthyism, in the citadel of free market capitalism, polls show that most younger Americans prefer socialism to capitalism, "whether Pelosi likes it or not," says Moore. Remember how the Socialist senator Bernie Sanders, whom he supported, casually launched his presidential candidacy in 2015. "He did not even realize how vast he was about to take off, if he had started a couple of months earlier, with the infrastructure in place. place, who knows what would have happened. " Will it run again? "I think he will," says Moore, optimistic that Sanders can win both the nomination and the Trump defeat. He tells me of an unpublished survey in West Virginia, which Trump won by a margin of 42 points in 2016, which makes Sanders beat Trump from head to toe. "Even if people do not agree with Bernie, they know he's honest: what you see is what you get."
But he believes the Democratic establishment is fleeing: it signals 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 knew she was running." At the root of the Democratic civil war there are fundamentally different interpretations of what happened in the 2016 elections. The Democratic left believes that it represented the nemesis of centrist orthodoxy, failing to take advantage of the anti-establishment mood against a system that is fundamentally broken, while the Democratic right believes that Trump supporters must be won, and blame the so-called identity politics. For the loss.
Moore grants the victor to the trumpeters, scandal: "A waste of time! Oh my God! If you are still by Trump [after] two years, [with] Moore has suggested: "everything you've seen, you're gone, nobody can convince you of anything." What is called identity policy pejoratively: civil rights for black people, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, has "revitalized politics". "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 to get our own people to the polls."
He continues to return to the November by-elections, and it is clear that his film is, in part, an operation to obtain votes. It is desperately needed: young voters who favor Democrats are less likely to vote. Why? "They do not believe that the political system will help them, that is the biggest problem." He continues to meet with the voters of the United States in his travels, "full of despair." I could see that some had surrendered. "They would vote, he suggests, but they would not end up bringing another 10 voters with them. He will campaign in the Swing districts, and he has been using the money he has saved as a beneficiary of the tax cuts. Trump to support the Democratic candidates.
This is where Moore enters his account, full of just fury. "I've seen movies where you're so revitalized that at the end of the movie, you can not wait to leave the theater and go out and do something." I love those types of movies … A movie like the one we did asking people, not to surrender or surrender, but to realize how much strength and strength we have. We have a power on November 6 to crush Trump, the super rich who are delighted with his performance, the former establishment of white men who believe they will continue the show, when his show was long, long. "
Turning on what he sees as the progressive majority in the United States is the reason why Moore is so indifferent to the accusations he preaches to the choir. "The choir needs a song to sing, that's why they're the choir, they need a song to get them out of despair, and they need to light a fire under themselves."
He sees the nemesis of the Republicans as what he calls "the avengers": women, young people, "those who have taken away the future", people of color – that history would record "joined and crushed the forces of evil". But he is very clear: there can not be a return to the democratic corporate agenda of the past, and it is clear that he himself has a great role to play. "People like Sanders and me and Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez] and Rashida [Tlaib, a socialist Democrat set to be the first Muslim congresswoman], we will be the ones who run the ship and we will do things differently than the democrats in the past. Basically, we will give people what they want: equal pay for women; End the mass imprisonment of blacks; protect women's reproductive rights; creating a living wage for all. "
But Moore's optimism is not a hoax. Earlier, he soberly told a film audience in London that he can not promise them a happy ending. You have the right not to do it. Whether Trumpism can be defeated will surely depend, in part, on who wins the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party: its wing without roots, backed by the company or a new insurgent left that offers an alternative to a broken system. If the latter triumphs, the story will surely record that Moore, now in what he calls "the last third of my life," played an important role.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is published on October 19 in the United Kingdom.