Michael Moore sounds warning on election

According to the polls as of today, Donald Trump would lose handily to Joe Biden. But Michael Moore warns that Democrats may be getting suckered into complacency like they were in 2016, and that there is a real risk of them losing again.

The documentary film-maker Michael Moore has warned that Donald Trump appears to have such momentum in some battleground states that liberals risk a repeat of 2016 when so many wrote off Trump only to see him grab the White House.

“Sorry to have to provide the reality check again,” he said.

Moore, who was one of few political observers to predict Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, said that “enthusiasm for Trump is off the charts” in key areas compared with the Democratic party nominee, Joe Biden.

“Are you ready for a Trump victory? Are you mentally prepared to be outsmarted by Trump again? Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win? Are you content with the trust you’ve placed in the DNC [Democratic National Committee] to pull this off?” Moore posted on Facebook late on Friday.

Moore identified opinion polling in battleground states such as Minnesota and Michigan to make a case that the sitting president is running alongside or ahead of his rival.

“The Biden campaign just announced he’ll be visiting a number of states – but not Michigan. Sound familiar?” Moore wrote, presumably indicating Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race when she made the error of avoiding some states that then swung to Trump.

In general, when there is an election where the president is running for re-election, the strategy for the incumbent is to paint a rosy picture of the current state of things, that everything is better than it was four years before when they took office, claim credit for the improvements, and promise better things to come.

But Trump cannot do that. The stark effects of the pandemic, the mass unemployment and hardships that people are suffering, and the widespread unrest due to police brutality due to systemic racism, cannot be lied away, however much he tries. So he has taken the tack of arguing that the bad situation is due to the party not holding the White House and that if the Democrats win, things will get worse and that it is only he who can make things better. He is trying to run as a challenger, not as an incumbent. This is an implausible argument in that since he is the one in power, these bad things are all happening on his watch and if he could make things better, why hasn’t he done so already? But reason and logic have long since disappeared in the Trump era. This strategy is meant to give his supporters a reason to stick with him.

When an incumbent president runs again, the election is usually a referendum on them and people tend to vote on whether they are happy with the way things are going or unhappy. But another factor that Moore points out is enthusiasm. It has to be conceded that Trump voters, with their cult-like devotion to their Dear Leader, are probably more enthusiastic about him that Joe Biden voters are about him. But what does enthusiasm translate into in practical terms?

I think that Trump voters will vote for him and those who hate Trump will vote for Biden. Where enthusiasm plays a role in the willingness of ordinary people to actively go out and campaign among their friends and neighbors and their community. The people who are willing to do that are the ones who are enthusiastic about their candidate, not those who simply hate the opponent. This is why it is not enough to paint the opponent in a dark light. It is important to excite people about your own candidate. The wins by insurgent candidates in down-ballots races were because those candidates excited voters who were willing to put in long hours to gain the wins. It is imperative that the Biden-Harris ticket excite voters to vote for them, not just against Trump, and that means putting forward an agenda that people can get excited about.


  1. says

    I admit that some things feel remarkably like 2016. In Pennsylvania I have, so far, seen one Biden sign, and it’s small and back from the road. There’s zero enthusiasm for Biden (as there should be) just like there was for Clinton. The democrats are basically doing the same maneuver -- instead of taking things for granted because Hillary was so obviously a great candidate (she wasn’t) they’re taking things for granted because Biden is so obviously a great candidate (he’s not) and COVID.

    Moore’s a grade-A asshole but that doesn’t mean he may not be right. Doubtless there aren’t a lot of Biden signs in his gated, white, community in Potomac, MD., either.

  2. billseymour says

    I, too, observe that the right are enthusiastic about Trump while many on the left don’t care much about Biden. I also agree with Marcus that, although Moore is a stopped clock, he might very well be correct at present and a Trump win is a distinct possibility.

    But I also observe the Republicans cranking up straw man arguments to eleven; and I think that that may well be a winning strategy by itself. You don’t win McCloskeys* by appealing to their intellect; you win McCloskeys by making them afraid.

    You can see it in TV ads where I live. The ads by Nicole Galloway, Missouri state auditor and Democratic challenger for governor, and Jill Schupp, state senator and Democratic challenger for 2nd Congressional District U.S. representative, are mostly about issues. The ads by Mike Parson, incumbent governor, and Ann Wagner, incumbent representative, are all “liberal mob” and “left-wing terrorist”. Indeed, one of Wagner’s ads actually suggests that Schupp is in favor of sexual predators. I’m not making that up.


    *I’m using “McCloskeys” as eponymous bad guys, kind of like I might use “Karens”.

  3. consciousness razor says

    It is imperative that the Biden-Harris ticket excite voters to vote for them, not just against Trump, and that means putting forward an agenda that people can get excited about.

    It’s kind of late for that, isn’t it? Their policy-free convention came and went, and they keep backsliding on the vague half-measures they were promising earlier. The party keeps setting my expectations lower and lower, and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. If it’s going to amount to anything, I think it has to be bottom-up, not top-down.

    It would be sort of reassuring if the many not-enthusiastic people who will nonetheless vote for Biden would honestly and convincingly make the case that they will hold the Dems’ feet to the fire, no matter how things turn out in the elections. No excuses, no distractions, no whining, no waffling, no blaming it on Republicans or anyone else — none of that — this is just what they will do, full stop. (Calling such people “supporters” is often too strong, and even “not-enthusiastic” may be a huge understatement, but hopefully you get the point.)

    And it should be plausible that they’ll take it as their own responsibility in the future to get leftist/progressive Dems in office and totally reject the neoliberal/conservative Dems who have nothing good to offer us. That is, it can’t be regarded as the job of a few so-called “radicals” who they treat antagonistically, since all of these voters will commit to doing this themselves because it’s what they themselves want.

    So if lots of these ordinary voters said, more or less, “Joe, we know you’re a dishonest asshole of a politician, not a leader, not decent, not respectable, etc. But you’re going to be working for us, like it or not, so listen very carefully….” and if they did the same for other Dems in Congress, right now and next year and in the years to come, then I would consider that progress.

    What’s not encouraging is thinking such voters will just let the Dems get away with the same crap they’ve been doing for decades, because they’re so “enthusiastic” about the product the Dems have been peddling. And think about it this way: the blind, fanatical, slavish, cult-like devotion that many conservative voters have for the Republican party (certainly not just Trump), no matter what it ever does in the real world, is not something we should admire or hope to imitate. That’s something we should definitely avoid. (Does it come with certain strategic electoral advantages? Maybe or maybe not. Looking at the big picture, their target audience seems to be dying off and shrinking, and only a relatively small number of cults have ever been very “successful” for long.)

    If we’re going to have a healthy democratic system, ordinary people need to be thinking for themselves and standing up for themselves, not passively accepting whatever a class of wealthy “leaders” is willing to do, so that (for once) we can have some real power in this country and won’t just hand it over again and again to anybody who’s able to grab it. I mean, I don’t want to sound optimistic here, because I’m definitely not. But if nothing was different about our current situation except that there was a large amount of “enthusiasm for Biden,” it kind of makes sense that I should be even more worried in that case, because that implies even more people would be ignorant and/or indifferent about our situation. So you could also look at it as a very tiny silver lining on the big dark cloud.

  4. says

    To consciousness razor’s point (which I agree with) there were actual democratic candidates people were excited about in 2016 and now -- but the dem machine weeded them out of the running because it was Hilary’s turn (and the same could be said about safe Biden) -- the time for enthusiasm is past, we’re on to “the lesser of two evils” again. Way to go, dems! (Yawn)

  5. Dunc says

    According to the polls as of today, Donald Trump would lose handily to Joe Biden.

    National polls are at best useless when it comes to the US presidential election, and at worst actively misleading. You have to go state by state and account for the number of EC votes. Surely we’ve learned that by now?

  6. brucegee1962 says

    It is starting to look as if covid will be taking a back seat in the upcoming election, and black/white conflict in cities will be THE issue. Whichever candidate manages to make the other look weak on this issue is going to win.
    As such, Biden needs to come up with a detailed plan for exactly how he’s going to handle the problem. Or put Kamala in charge of coming up with a plan — she can justify her place on the ticket by claiming that, as a tough prosecutor, she knows what it will take to fix the police, while she can also reach out to the Black community for obvious reasons.
    They need to needle the repubs on their lack of a plan. (Note: “more tear gas” does not qualify as a plan.) They need to decisively reject “defund the police” as a slogan, and explain what they would do instead: “retrain the police,” “reform the police,” or even “disarm the police” if they want to go that far. Come up with a set of laws and policies that can be instituted at the federal level that will mandate harsh penalties for police who can’t keep their guns in their holsters. Their message MUST be “Police must be there to make law-abiding citizens of ALL colors feel safer.”
    Trump will continue to hammer on images of rioting and burning and claim that this is “Biden’s America.” But of course, it’s really Trump’s America — Biden MUST NOT let him get away with that message.

  7. garnetstar says

    I still think that Biden will win the popular vote and the EC, no matter how unehelpful his campaining, because Trump just isn’t up to running as an incumbent, and his campaign people are mostly quite inept.

    But, Trump will cheat in every possible way, with full support of congressional Republican, and will be blatant and out-in-the-open about it, again because 1) he doesn’t care, and 2) his campaign and Republican enablers are too inept to be clever about it.

    Then, we’ll see a contested election that goes on for months, real riots which actually may require the military to subdue (which Trump will not do) and many deaths, with no settling, not even by SCOTUS. And if Trump manages to get it thrown to the House, and his cheating “wins”, an almost open real civil war.

    They say the only way to avoid such prolonged catastrophe is for Biden to win by a landslide, and, as noted here, he’s not up to it.

  8. Allison says

    I wish people would stop focussing on the Presidential race to the exclusion of all other races.

    I’m no fan of Biden, but right now, speaking only of the Presidential election, if we (=USA) don’t get Biden, we get Trump. There is no third option. You can choose not to vote, but you’ll still get one of the two, just like the rest of us. And if I have to actually point out that Trump is in every respect far worse than Biden, you’re a lost cause anyway. End of discussion.

    Where people can make a difference is in the down-ticket elections. A president can only do so much without the support of Congress. You want to change things? Get progressives elected to the US Senate, to the House, and — most important!! — the state legislatures. (Remember: the states control the gerrymandering redistricting.

    I’m heartened by the way the 2020 primaries went in my county. A number of old-line party hacks got replaced by more progressive people. (Based on what they said. We’ll see what happens if/when they actually get into office.)

  9. Allison says

    … the polls that do break it down state-by-state (as does this one from The Economist) still have Biden as the favorite.

    Maybe today. But they aren’t all that far apart, either. Things could change in 2 months. I agree with Michael Moore: this is no time for complacency.

  10. consciousness razor says

    Fivethirtyeight’s forecast has had the chances of Biden winning around 70-80% since it started in June.

    Their “snake chart” is a pretty useful way to show what the model says about individual electoral college results. (BTW, you can click on each one for more info.) Currently, it says there are 13 states with a 1% or higher chance of being the tipping point:
    PA: 23.1%
    FL: 22.2%
    WI: 10.8%
    MN: 8.1%
    MI: 7.2%
    AZ: 5.3%
    NC: 4.3%
    OH: 3.1%
    NV: 2.7%
    CO: 1.8%
    GA: 1.8%
    VA: 1.3%
    NH: 1.2%
    That adds up to 92.9%, leaving 7.1% for all others combined. And it is worth noting that out of the ones listed above, only North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia are leaning for Trump. (His chances in those states: 54%, 58% and 68%, respectively.) Biden’s chances in all of the others are around 60-80%, except Arizona which is only 54%.

    Say what you will about its flaws or limitations, but this is much better than what pundits feel in their bones.

  11. says

    All polls are dependent upon the honesty of those polled.

    If those polled sandbag the pollsters, then the opposition may be lulled into a false sense of security.

    As an election strategy this works.

    The race was over following the North Carolina Primary.

    From where I sit, Trump will win in November and the DNC will have only itself to blame (although they’ll be pointing fingers everywhere but at themselves).

    I take no joy in saying any of this, but, like Moore, I called the race in 2015.

    We learned nothing.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @11: IIRC, just before the election in 2016, fivethirtyeight had the probability of a Clinton win at about 70%.

  13. consciousness razor says

    Rob: Yep, the last update was 71.4% for Clinton. As you know (but for anyone else reading this), that means a Trump win 3 out of 10 times.

    Because of the pandemic, there will be more voters who make use of early/mail-in/absentee voting this year (in states where they have the option), so the November 3 election day is less relevant in that sense. For many people, it will effectively be about a month earlier than that, and in Illinois early voting starts September 24 (looks like the first or close to it), which is just 3.5 weeks away.

  14. Holms says

    Michael Moore from OP:
    Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win?

    I don’t see anyone giving a 100% chance Biden will win.

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