Michael Moore saw this coming. Last summer, when Hillary Clinton was enjoying a seemingly insurmountable lead over Donald Trump, the documentary filmmaker correctly predicted that the billionaire businessman would capture the White House. What's more impressive is that Moore, the director of Roger & Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Bowling for Columbine, knew that Trump's victory would come down to recapturing a group of Rust Belt states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) that had been reliably Democratic.
Moore takes no joy in being right. He's alarmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency and believes that the Obama agenda will be swiftly dismantled by the Republican-controlled Congress. Moore spoke with Variety about why liberals lost, what Democrats need to do now, and who he'd want to run in 2020.
Journalist Salena Zito said the press took Trump "literally, but not seriously," while his supporters took him "seriously, but not literally." Do you take him literally or seriously?
I've taken him literally and seriously since day one. That's why I've been able to be active and energised since the election. I went through my five stages of grief months and months ago when I realised he was going to win.
You do have to take Trump at his word. I still hear people say, "Oh, he's not really going to build the wall." Oh, he is going to build it. He knows that he's got to deliver at least a version of the wall.
Will he ban Muslims from entering the U.S.?
Absolutely. What you're going to see is, on day one, he's going to rescind a dozen or more of Obama's executive-branch regulations. On day two, Republicans will start printing laws the way you print fliers for a homecoming dance. Before the liberals and the Democrats can get their heads screwed on straight, they'll have 20 laws passed. Building a wall. Creating a Muslim ban. He's shown how he's going to do it. He's going to get away with it by making it a ban on Muslims who come from the following countries. He needs just enough cover for his crowd to say, "Oh, he's being reasonable there. He's not banning all Muslims."
Have you met Trump?
I met him in 1998. Roseanne Barr – after her sitcom was over, they gave her a talk show. I was on, and Trump was there in the green room. He sees me, goes to the producer, and says, "I can't be on the same show. I saw that General Motors movie, and he's going to attack me."
"The Democrats lost because of the Democrats."
The producer said [to me], "Is there any way you can help me?" I said, "Oh brother, I'll go talk to him." I walked over, shook his hand – it was very clammy. I don't honestly remember the size, but it was moist. He said, "We don't have to mix it up out there." I said, "Why do you assume that about me? I'm from Michigan. We don't really know you. The only thing that sticks in my head is you were one of the few guys that was on the cover of Playboy." He laughed. I said, "It's Roseanne. She's a comedian. You have nothing to worry about here."
He stayed, and we did the show. And it wasn't until last year that it hit me: People think he's stupid – he's not stupid at all. He played me; he got me to not be myself, to not talk any anti-corporate talk. I thought I was going over to relax him. What he was doing was undoing me so I wouldn't be Michael Moore. This guy is good.
Are you worried about Trump having access to the nuclear codes?
Absolutely. I wish he had to go through a psychological evaluation, because I'm pretty sure that it would come out that he is a malignant narcissist. Any criticism is met with the scream of the banshees. What time was he up tweeting about Meryl Streep? It was before the sun came up. With all that's going on the world – the shooting in Fort Lauderdale, the shooting of police in Orlando, North Korea saying they have an ICBM that can hit us – and he woke up being consumed with Meryl Streep.
What did you think of her speech at the Golden Globes criticising Trump for mocking a disabled reporter?
I had tears in my eyes. It was so powerfully delivered by the perfect person. She was talking about human empathy. It was not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It was about: Have you no decency, sir?
Trump has been accused of harassment and was caught on tape bragging about assaulting women. Given those allegations, why did more than 40% of women vote for him?
I've had to listen to guys, liberal guys, all my life, when they're single. One lament of the liberal, feminist, single guy is that women would rather date assholes. I'd say, "Don't say that. That's not true." But every heterosexual guy has seen this since high school. Guys will say, "I'm nice. They don't want nice." Listen, I don't know the psychology of this, but men have been running the show for a few thousand years, and it's not unusual throughout history for the oppressed to come to identify with their oppressor.
Did the Russian hack of the DNC play a decisive role in swinging the election to Trump?
We need an investigation into the hacking, but the Democrats should not be thinking that they lost because of the Russians. The Democrats lost because of the Democrats. It's the second time now in 16 years where the Democrats won [the popular vote] but lost. That is so revolting that the old guard of the Democratic Party should all resign. They let us down, the majority, now twice. I'm done with it. I'm going to help lead the charge to take over the Democratic Party.
"Don't be afraid. You don't have to convince the majority of Americans that this is bad."
There were people like me who live in Michigan who were crying out to the Clinton campaign, "Please come to Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin." They decided not to play by the game. It's a bad game. The electoral college should be changed, but it wasn't gotten rid of, so why were they ignoring these states? It's disgraceful.
You said Democrats should nominate Tom Hanks for president. Why?
Tom Hanks should be the template of who the Democrats should run. He is beloved by tens of millions of people, and he's smart, and he operates from both his brain and his heart. As far as I'm concerned, he has good politics.
What advice would you give Americans who are scared about Trump's rise?
Don't be afraid. You're in the majority. You don't have to convince the majority of your fellow Americans that this is bad; it was done for you by Donald J. Trump. Look at other movements. What did the suffragettes go through? How did they convince all male legislatures to give them the vote? Civil rights, antiwar – any time these movements begin, they're always in the minority, and they have to try to move public opinion. We don't have to do that this time.
So be brave. Be bold. Get up off the couch. Get active. Get involved. No week should go by without you calling a member of Congress or one of your two senators. Make that part of your weekly routine now. Some people need to think about running for office themselves: school board, city council, precinct delegate. It's not going to change until some of us start running.