Documentary filmmaker and provocateur Michael Moore is promoting his new film called "Michael Moore in TrumpLand." He appeared on MSNBC's "All in With Chris Hayes" on Monday night, and the conversation turned to Moore's understanding of the angry, white male, working-class, Trump voter.
If you know something of the progressive themes of Moore's prior films and his criticisms of liberalism's failures, from a progressive point of view, you might be surprised to learn of his background. He grew up -- and still lives -- in a working-class neighborhood of auto workers, many now unemployed, in Flint, Michigan.
Moore understands these dejected white men and recognizes the legitimacy of their right to be angry. Not that he agrees with them about Trump; but he understands them. In his film, he is not so much trying to tear Trump down as he is making the case for Clinton and a progressive approach to the problems we face. Moore was an enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporter who now is vigorously hoping to elect Hillary Clinton.
His conversation with Chris Hayes turned to these Trump voters. Chris framed it this way: "Part of why this election is so viscerally intense is because it feels likes we're answering the question: Whose country is this? Who gets to say 'It's our country, and we run things.'
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Moore: "It's actually a changing of the guard, which actually started many elections ago, culminating in the American people -- our fellow citizens -- twice electing a man whose middle name was Hussein. And now this is the end. They should play The Doors' song at the beginning of every Trump rally, "This is The End," because they know it's the end.
"And that's why they're so angry. That's why it's so crazy this year. They're so out of control. Because, if you've held power for so long . . . [in] a conservative country and [now] . . . . "That's over. We live in a liberal country.
"Our fellow Americans take the liberal position on every single issue, whether it's pro-choice, whether it's women should be paid the same as men, whether it's the environment . . . go down the line. And last week, the last issue that Americans weren't liberal on -- the latest poll now shows that the majority are now opposed to the death penalty. So, they're against the death penalty, they're for the decriminalization of marijuana. Go down the whole list. It's all liberal, liberal, liberal . .
"And if you're a conservative, if you are a Republican, if you're a Trump supporter, this is like a cacophony of madness, that you have let power slip away. And, if you want to look at the macro of it, men, white men, have been in power for a very long time. A good 10,000 years at least. . . . And it's been a nice run, Chris, that you and I and the others have had. And now it's over. And the thing is, we've let it happen on our watch. Pappy and Grandpappy handed this down to us. And now the men of our time are letting the women, and the gays, and the blacks take over.
"People I grew up with. Auto workers, people who have lost their jobs, people who used to be part of the middle class. That's all over for them. And so they are angry. Trump, to them, and I've had many guys tell me this. . . I've had three guys working on my film crew tell me they're voting for Trump. They say, they don't really like him that much, but they want to see the system blow up. Trump is the human Molotov cocktail that they want to go in that voting booth and go 'bing!'"
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I've read this now from a number of different sources, saying that a lot of Trump voters are not so much for what Trump would bring or what he would do. It's more of a fuck-you howl against a society that has spun out of the orbit they are familiar with and comfortable with -- and where they feel they had a place. And they no longer have it.
And that is not imaginary. It is literally true. It's partly the loss of manufacturing jobs and the economic inequality, but it's also the cultural changes that have displaced the white, heterosexual man from his position in charge. That's perhaps why immigration and refugees have taken the brunt of their rage. To these men, these 'invaders' are the scapegoat for their feeling that something, or some people, are displacing them from their position in the world.
I don't think we should simply dismiss those concerns by telling them to "get over it. Nor is the solution to reverse these changes. But, in our anger at Trump and those who feel empowered by his rallies, Michael Moore is telling us that some of their anger is legitimate and that they need to be understood, and they need help to feel that they still matter, too.
What these men are experiencing cannot be equated with the enormity of oppression -- from slavery and up through 2016 -- that is expressed in the liberating message "Black Lives Matter." But their retort "All Lives Matter" now has a little more context, thanks to Michael Moore's empathy for these angry men.