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To read more about Episode 203, visit the main episode page.
Michael Moore [00:00:02] This is Rumble and I am Michael Moore. Welcome, everyone, on today’s podcast, I have with me a special guest, one of our great writers, journalists, authors in this country. Her name is Rebecca Traister. And I was going to have her on because of a piece that she wrote recently about how much she’s always disliked Joe Biden for decades. In this piece, in New York Magazine, she talked about the conflict that she seemed to be having with the fact that she was being very pleasantly surprised by much of what he was doing and how could this be. And it’s a fascinating piece.
Michael Moore [00:02:53] And so I wanted to have her come on and talk about it. So she did. And you will hear her very shortly here. But somewhere after about, I don’t know, 40 or 45 minutes, I switch the subject to a different topic. And I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe we would talk about this for 5 or 10 minutes and wrap up the show. But we went on for another 45 minutes and it was wow, and I thought to myself, well, I’ve just done two separate podcasts with Rebecca Traister and I don’t think we’ve done this before in the two 203 episodes that we’ve done at Rumble. But I just said these are separate podcasts. And so there’s going to be a part 1 and a part 2. Part 1 is what you’re going to hear right now with Rebecca and I talking about Biden, what’s going on in the country, et cetera, et cetera.
Michael Moore [00:03:52] And then next week, I will bring you the part two. That was a very good but difficult discussion to have with her. And I’m going to leave it at that and let it speak for itself when I hear it next week. But what we have to talk about today is something I think is of critical importance in terms of getting Biden to do what we elected him to do and finding the moral courage to stick to his guns when it comes to fighting these Republicans. And, you know, it’s not everything that we want, obviously. And you know, he’s not me, he’s probably not you, but man, I have this feeling that we are, we are doing some good stuff here and we are going to stop these Republicans from destroying this country and the planet. And I don’t want to get too over optimistic about that because it’s only going to work when we all do our work. But this is a lot better than I thought it was going to be. And I want to talk about my complicated feelings about that with somebody else who has complicated feelings about it. And that’s Rebecca Traister.
Michael Moore [00:06:21] And now let’s Rumble. Rebecca Traister, my guest today, is one of our great writers on politics, gender, media and culture for the past several years. Her books include “Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women,” “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.” And her most recent book was “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.” She currently writes for New York Magazine, where she’s written some of the most thought provoking essays about the meta reckoning post-Harvey Weinstein and her most recent piece, which I just found to be incredible and really fit in with what a lot of us have been talking about here on this podcast in the last few months. And that piece, if you want to look it up, and actually I’ll have a link to it right here on my podcast platform page. The piece is called Biden’s Big Left Gamble. The president is overseeing a sea change in the world of economic policy and so much hangs in the balance. That is very true. I’m also very pleased to finally welcome to this podcast, somebody that I admire a great deal and love reading her writing. Please welcome to Rumble, Rebecca Traister. Rebecca, thank you.
Rebecca Traister [00:09:30] Thank you for having me. I’m so glad to finally be here.
Michael Moore [00:09:33] I’m happy that it has happened now, especially after this piece that you wrote where you are sort of pleasantly surprised as to how Joe Biden, who has been, if I may say this, on the wrong side, mostly the wrong side of most of the critical issues of the past. Well, let’s just give it 50 years… And how he’s governing and what’s been happening, and I’ve said this before my podcast, that, you know, the political winds have been shifting to the left and Biden has been blowing along with it. I’ve also said to people, and I don’t know this for a fact, please don’t think that I’m in daily communication with anybody that knows anything. But knowing Bernie, I get this feeling that he and Biden are on the phone every other night, like they’re having some kind of, you know, good night talk with each other, because Biden seems to have, as has the country shifted to the left, that we haven’t shifted right. We’ve gone left. But tell me what pleased you with Joe Biden’s performance? And I mean, how can any of us who are of a certain age, we remember what happened to Anita Hill in those hearings.
Rebecca Traister [00:10:47] Yeah, what happened to Anita Hill was probably the formative political or feminist experience my life. I was in high school. Because I think to some degree, my feeling about how Biden’s doing could be framed as a pleasant surprise. So and I should say, I was very publicly and aggressively a critic of Joe Biden and his entry into the 2020 race. But I wrote a probably 3,000 word argument against Joe Biden based on his history with regard not only to his handling of the Thomas hearings, but his history, writing the crime bill as a supporter of welfare reform, as a as a former supporter of the Hyde Amendment and an abortion opponent who had evolved right already by 2019. But I wrote this in 2019 at the beginning of that primary season. To me and I, this was not a secret, I didn’t, I’m not like…I get to be an opinion writer, but it’s not like I had one candidate. I preferred a lot of the candidates who were to the left and I, I wrote most extensively about Elizabeth Warren. She’s somebody I profiled over and over again for years.
Rebecca Traister [00:11:56] But and I don’t think anybody I write about my politics like I was preferring the candidates who are to the left. But the person who I was aggressively critical of in print was Joe Biden, because I thought he represented our past and not our future. And I couldn’t have been more public about that. And my criticism of him persisted through 2020 through the primaries on the day that he was inaugurated, or at least that week. I wrote in New York Magazine a column that was sort of coming to terms with how much I had not wanted him to be the president and how grateful I was that he was becoming the president, both things were true, right? I obviously desperately wanted him to win with every I probably had never wanted anybody to win the presidency more on some sick level. Right? And so I wrote a piece about him at the moment of his inauguration in January after January 6th and everything where I was trying to reckon with some of my own level of relief and also sadness that this is what the answer had to be. And in part, what I wrote in that piece was, was about the kind of middling white patriarchy, the middle of the road, moderate white patriarchy that Joe Biden embodied. And I wrote in that piece, and it’s a grim piece. It’s wrestling with my, what I believe is the revelation that, of course, he was the person who was going to win. Right?
Rebecca Traister [00:13:24] Who should have, like all my argument, it shouldn’t be Joe Biden. Like it was the guy who looked like the past that, I mean, I don’t know, we can’t run an alternate experience where it was Bernie or it was Warren or it was Castro or it was Booker. Like, we can’t know how that would have turned out, but that the comfort that I saw people taking and Biden, Uncle Joe stuff, right? Permitted him to win this most crucial of victories. And I like that’s hard for me to come to terms with because I both acknowledge that it’s true and I find it deeply, deeply depressing. Right? Because a lot of what I care about is not better representation just for the sake of representation, but more diverse and progressive representation. And he does still seem like the past. And what I said in that piece at his inauguration is that I wanted him to take all the energies, the kind of more activist, more forward thinking, more youthful, more diverse perspectives in his party and more broadly on the American left and put them to use. And I sort of was a little sad and saying, like, I know that he’ll get the credit. I want him to be FDR. I want to go big, go big, or go home and take the credit for the work of all these other people. And so this piece is actually looking at some of the people he has, in fact, brought on. And so here’s my pleasant surprise.
Rebecca Traister [00:14:37] It’s not exactly a surprise that Biden himself, but a series of choices that he’s made I think are terrific. And a lot of them are about hiring. A lot of them are about who he’s built his administration around, not necessarily his inner circle, who are a lot of the people, who like him have been in Democratic politics and for over decades. But he has staffed his teams, and I’m writing largely in this piece about economic policy teams with really creative, forward looking, young, diverse perspectives that are very exciting and I think actually building policy that then the questions about whether or not that policy makes it through a very broken Senate process and Congressional process like that, putting that aside, he has brought on a really remarkable team, and that makes all the difference in the world, and so that’s sort of what this piece is describing. Some of that, right, how this process is happening and how this generation of people who I think do think very differently than Joe Biden has either thought or legislated throughout his 5 decade career that we’ve known him for. Right? He actually was elected before I was born. He was elected, I was born in 1975 and Joe Biden was elected in 1972 and came to the Senate in January of 1973.
Rebecca Traister [00:16:02] So, you know, that’s what this piece is doing, is trying to figure out what’s the match here, why did he do this thing? Why did he build an administration, at least in part, not entirely of these really dynamic, in some cases, forward looking people who see government in a different way. And some of the pieces wrestling with what about Joe Biden? Leaves him, makes him open to that kind of generational and ideological shift that I think we’re seeing. The thing about Biden that has been surprising and cheering to me because I think he very well could have governed in the ways that would have matched my worst guesses about him, which would be in the spirit of the 1990s Clintonian into Obama years, sort of centrist, neoliberal, cowering position of what had been until very recently, the contemporary Democratic Party. And I assumed that was how he would govern. And he certainly has elements of that around him. But he has stocked his administration in some cases, the cabinet, but also the kind of 2 and 3 levels down into his administration with a really fascinating group of people.
Rebecca Traister [00:17:21] And the piece that I wrote a few weeks ago, you know, was largely about a kind of economic policy side of things. I think it’s in some cases, it’s true around immigration and climate, we’ll see. But he’s brought a really surprising group of people who are a lot younger, a lot more progressive, a lot more diverse in their thinking, as well as in terms of their identities and their ages. Then then I might have expected and I think you can see that reflected in the policy that they’re making, whether or not that policy gets through and whether or not Biden and the senior Democrats actually know how to fight for that policy successfully and if there is a path to fight for it successfully. These are all open questions. But a lot of what he’s putting on the table is a lot more dynamic, a lot lefter, then I would have guessed. And so the thing that I am pleasantly surprised by is his openness to a new generation of economic thinking and ideals and ideology and political and approach to politics and framing of the government, which I think is really important.
Rebecca Traister [00:18:34] He’s [Biden’s] really open to new ways to cast the role of government as a beneficial force in people’s lives. And I think that is so crucial. And it’s been missing for my entire adulthood, practically my entire life from the Democratic Party – is a willingness to sort of aggressively say the government is a salubrious force, should be a salubrious force, should act to bring support, economic stability, healthcare, dignity to the lives of of people in this country. And he’s brought in a group of people who I think, think differently about that. And he’s permitting them to shape policy. And that’s very interesting to me. And so my piece was noting that and then also exploring what’s made him open to this path and to this sort of new generation of people. And there are all kinds of people who have hypotheses about what about Biden makes him a good match for some of these younger people and the ideas that have come up through decades of activism that’s been happening sort of outside the Democratic Party. And then that has taken shape within the Democratic Party, electorally and has also happened within realms of economic
Michael Moore [00:19:49] My theory is it’s the ice cream. I just, you know, I’ve always felt that ice cream was one of the few things that we have maybe perhaps some proof of a of a higher power on this, because no human could ever invent something that good. That’s just and this guy is nuts about his ice cream, ice cream in the cone especially. But I’ve also said, somewhat seriously, that having been raised Catholic and being a recovering Catholic at this point, I guess, this guy, his religion, his faith, however he, whatever, however he fashions it, he’s the first president in my lifetime that doesn’t fake go to church. He really is going to mass and there’s something about it that perhaps it has been affected by the losses in his life, maybe this final loss with his son, that and I’ve seen this happen with people sometimes where they it’s not just about going and kneeling and saying prayers and all this, but it’s really about the how can I leave this world a better place? And do it not just in my name, but my son’s name and the others who’ve suffered. And I sense this in him. It’s this, his other advisers, his three granddaughters, I think that, just having read and seen interviews with them, they have made their voices as young women heard loudly and forcefully with him about some things.
Michael Moore [00:21:31] And maybe it’s a combination of all of this. I don’t I don’t know right now. I don’t know if I want to know, because today, Rebecca, today, he is still pushing for the over 3 trillion dollar, what he calls the human infrastructure, he won’t let up on it. They’ve told him to stop. Manchin has threatened him. You’ve got to stop this. Or I’m going to. You know, Manchin shows up at a GOP fundraiser this past weekend in Texas. You know, and he doesn’t use the modern Democrat, as you were describing this, a group of people, the Democrats is always giving in, afraid of Republicans, afraid of the word liberal. Remember, you couldn’t use that word…
Rebecca Traister [00:22:12] Oh, yeah.
Michael Moore [00:22:13] So these are the Democrats that we’ve grown up with and as adults just just hated it. And he’s not doing that. He’s not giving up. He’s still just in every day because, you know, I’m like you with this and I’m like, I knew he’d give up on that, you know? And then all of a sudden he comes back today, he goes, hey, what about my 3 trillion dollars per child care and all this other stuff that we’ve got to do? This is infrastructure to and I’m not going to let you define it, I’m defining it because I know this is what the majority of Americans want.
Rebecca Traister [00:22:46] And I think that A) we cannot understate how remarkable it is to have a president pushing for that care economy stuff, I mean, and I’m of the mind that the reframing it as infrastructure is brilliant. There are lots of very smart people who disagree with me about that. But I think it’s brilliant and it is a way to take something that for years has been siloed as a women’s issue and, in fact, and sort of kind of unfortunately masculinized framework that thereby legitimizes it, right in the infrastructure. But it’s also correct, they’re the systems that need to work in order for people to live the lives they want to live and need to live. And so I think infrastructure framing is brilliant. I want to go back to the theorizing about what it is, because you said a couple of things that are very interesting to me.
Rebecca Traister [00:23:41] So this wasn’t in my piece, but a couple of people mentioned it to me. And I think it’s absolutely true. The close relationship with the granddaughters, I think, is really important because he does seem to have a lot of his inner circle in the White House are people who’ve been with him for decades. Right? And a lot of guys who like him. Old white guys sitting around for a long time, but he has clearly a very close familial relationship with these young women. The thing you said about his religion, of course, to my mind, cuts in several directions. And it may be true that his faith guides him. It’s certainly true that his experiences of loss, you know, beginning with the death of his wife and child and his own experience. And this is probably not separate from his understanding of the role that care work plays within the lives of family, his experiences of raising his sons for a period as a single dad up through the loss of Beau and his son’s struggle with addiction.
Rebecca Traister [00:24:46] All these kinds of things give him [Biden] an experience of loss, pain and what you need and the resources that you need at hand to rebuild and stabilize. I think all that’s really true and makes him empathetic, but he’s also had all those experiences. And remember, he’d had those experiences when he supported welfare reform. Right? So that gets us part of the way, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t take us all the way there. And of course, the religion itself is what led to decades of his stance on abortion, which I have to say this among the biggest surprises of this administration and something I care deeply about and that I just have to take my hat off. This budget, the proposed budget, was the first since, I believe, Clinton’s first budget in the early ’90s that did not include the Hyde Amendment. Now, the Hyde will certainly go back into the finished product, but the fact that Joe Biden, who for years was an opponent of abortion and a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, took the Hyde amendment out, the legislative rider that forbids pregnant people from from using who avail themselves of government insurance to use that government insurance to pay for abortion care, which is unbelievably discriminatory, racist, like one of the most unequalizing laws in this country. It’s foul in every way. And it’s just been so absorbed as far as that.
Rebecca Traister [00:26:20] I believe Barack Obama referred to it as a tradition. And the fact that Biden was the person who submitted a proposed budget that didn’t have it in, I just have to take my hat off to him because that shows change that I really admire. And that is about an ability to evolve. And it’s about perhaps listening to people and taking them really seriously and thinking about how what faith, compassion, dignity, loss, equality, taking a look at structural inequalities like he says he’s doing, how that can reshape our ideas and lead us to change our minds, which is what we want from people. There are also more cynical views of this, which is that Biden and the thing about Biden is he is a classic politician, right? He’s the guy like, he is the retail politician. He’s the guy holding babies and shaking hands…Right? He’s that guy. And that guy can lead a lot of us to distrust him for very good reason.
Rebecca Traister [00:27:19] But there’s also something Dorian Warren said to me when I interviewed for this piece, he’s like, we actually want our politicians to respond to our pressure. Right? We want them to take the temperature, to put their finger in the wind and see which way the wind is blowing and it’s the job of activists, whether that means outside, sort of street activism, whether it means activism within a Democratic Party or whether it means activism within like nerd world of economic policy, expertise it’s our job to change the way the wind is blowing and and decades worth of activism, whether it’s occupy and fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter, and Me Too, whether it’s Bernie and the squad and the Elizabeth Warren sort of more regulatory approach, whether it’s this shift in economic policy thinking that I was sort of describing in this piece among a bunch of nerds who are traumatized by the slow recovery coming out of 2008, who were informed by the activism of Occupy Black Lives Matter to rethink a Democratic Party’s approach to economic policy and now are working within this guy’s administration. He’s being affected by all that, all of it. Right? And he’s shifting. And I think that’s a really important quality. And then the other theory that Felicia Wong, who’s the head of the Roosevelt Institute, said to me, that’s very funny and lots of people noticed, but I think there’s actually something interesting that I think you might be interested in, too, she said, kind of a joke and kind of not, just like he’s so old. Right? Some of the reasons I thought he was the party’s past and not his future. He’s so old that he’s actually pre neoliberal. Right? He came of age, politically, even in adulthood, among the remnants of a New Deal coalition. Right?
Rebecca Traister [00:28:56] He [Biden] knows, you know, I mean, I think there are all kinds of arguments to be had about his actual commitments to labor, but he sees himself as a union guy and he came of political age in a period where he understood that there was a different way for Democrats, for Democrats to govern. And he was then a part of the party and a foot soldier of the party that decided to do it differently, being led by Wall Street and markets over a period of 4 decades. But he has the experience, the lived experience of a very different approach to Democratic policymaking. And so some of this stuff may not be the way I understand it. It’s like, it’s new and he’s open to new young ideas, and Felicia Wang’s model is like, these are old ideas, you know, and he obviously knows that. That’s how he talks about Roosevelt all the time. You know the biggest portrait in his office is FDR. That’s his model and that’s an old model…
Michael Moore [00:29:56] And a bust of Cesar Chavez and Bobby Kennedy. I mean, Rosa Parks. He also, the thing about, well, I just want to say, I don’t mean to go back to this Catholic thing again, but last month this guy who supported the Hyde Amendment, all anti-abortion, blah, blah, blah, all through all these decades, and now he’s been declared an enemy of the Catholic Church by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They have voted to deny him to go to communion when he goes to mass. They’ve never done that to anybody. And I think it’s because they see him as a threat. He’s probably there because for all now we’re talking about all the bad things that the Catholic Church does to this planet, to this country, to women, to the LGBTQ community, et cetera, that they are probably responsible for so many deaths, if you lay at their feet what they did to stop any help going to people who had HIV and AIDS, no condom distribution was allowed. None of this stuff. If you were a Planned Parenthood or somebody and you were distributing condoms in the Third World, you’d didn’t getting government money because of condoms, things that would save people’s lives.
Michael Moore [00:31:21] And they [the Catholid Church] have now said that he is their enemy, their personal enemy, and they are going to deny him this thing that he actually believes, he believes that is the body of Christ and and they are not. And I think it’s because he is what he started out of the gate doing here, they’re not stupid. And they see that his values are certainly not theirs. And they do care a lot more about what they call the unborn than the child who is born into poverty, into everything else, hunger, et cetera. The Catholic Church lost its way as an institution a long time ago. And yet, like your grandparents, if you’re Catholic, they still show up to mass. I don’t know. I just think that there is something going on here. But I just want to ask you this, though, for all the positives that he’s doing, there’s still this maddening talk that we have to find common ground that we have to meet in the middle. And you wrote this piece recently titled They’ve Been Calling for Bloodshed the Whole Time, talking about the right-wing and how they’ve supported violence for years. Now, this is a party that has built its power on violence and the call for bloodshed, be it invading another country, be it not re-passing the Violence Against Women Act, et cetera, et cetera. This is in their core belief system. And so my question to you is, how are we supposed to meet in the middle yet?
Rebecca Traister [00:33:07] There’s no middle. That’s horseshit. And so but here’s probably why I’m not a politician, much less the president of the United States. I mean, I think it’s horseshit. And I think it’s been I think treating this kind of this it all goes hand in hand with Democrats stated commitments to civility, which go back like, I mean, for a long time. But this whole notion that the system worked, I mean, and that is something that I will still work up a head of steam about with Biden and his stories of the Senate and his, you know, fought like cats and dogs on the floor with the segregationists, and then you’d go and have lunch or go to the gym or whatever. Fuck that.
Rebecca Traister [00:33:43] I mean, right? The system worked because you’re the people in power in the system. And this, you’re the system. And your fights actually are legislating the realities, the people out there. So it’s working for you because you get your lunch. Right, but it’s not working right? So I am allergic to them. I mean, I remember gosh, I’ve lost what year we’re in, but in the period of the child separation and the summer I guess it was 2017 or 2018. You know, when you had Pelosi and you had people calling for like civility and stop interrupting their date nights and dinners with protesters. Fuck that. But listen, that is a perspective that is very much on the side of a kind of stirred fury and protest culture that I actually believe. Right? There’s all kinds of different schools of thought on this. Right? But I think it’s the culture of protest and that and the interrupting of the dinners of the people who were ripping families apart at the border. Right? And the stuff that is deemed by many in power, including ostensibly on the side of the Democratic Party. Right? Definitely in the Democratic Party and ostensibly on the side of the greater moral good saying, no, no, no, we can’t. This is we need to be civil in our discussions, we need to work together, we need to, right?
Rebecca Traister [00:35:18] I’m on the side of fuck that, protest them. However, I will also say that there are these kinds of challenges and the expression of changing ideas come in many forms. And some of those forms are street protest. Some of those forms are demonstrations. Some of those forms are interrupting the dinners of administration officials. Right? Some of those forms are profane and then they may not, you know, that’s not working. That’s not the system working. Right? It’s not the legislators having their lunches together. Right? In fact, it’s those lunches that are the equivalent being disturbed, but that’s part of the work of again, activism happens in many, takes many different forms at many different times. That’s different from some of the it’s distinct from some of the voter registration efforts, the voter protection movements we’ve seen happen. But yet these things are all different forms of expression of dissatisfaction with the system. Right? And that just dissatisfaction is finding in, albeit in very again, very different forms, it’s finding its way into that Biden administration. So if you don’t have a culture that is mad enough to interrupt dinners 4 or 5 summers ago, or when, again, I have lost time, I don’t, I can’t tell you what year it is, I can tell you what day it is, but I definitely know that several summers ago…
Michael Moore [00:36:43] We’re 2 years before having Medicare for every person in this country, free healthcare for everyone in this country. We’re in that year that’s 2 years before that. I don’t know the number of the year either. Right? I know where I’m at.
Rebecca Traister [00:36:55] Right, several years past you had Maxine Waters, who has always been on the side of protest and the protest as a valid and cogent expression of dissatisfaction at injustice. You had Maxine Waters encouraging protest and you had members of her own party, Schumer and Pelosi, chastising her for it, calling for civility and there are those disagreements coming from the system versus outside of a system. And yet the outside of the system, like things that we saw, contributed to a greater culture. And so all of us knowing that what’s happening around us is wrong and there are people mad enough to say it in whatever form it takes. And of course, that is true when it comes to issues, that’s border issues and immigration issues. And it’s climate and climate protests and the sit-in in Pelosi’s office. Congresswoman Alexandrea Cosio Cortez attends right when she first comes to Washington in January of 2019. Right? That’s protest that happened within the system. All of this gets to Joe Biden eventually, right? That’s part of what shifts. That’s the wind. That’s Dorian Warren’s, it’s our job to shift the wind. And some of that is that impolite stuff. It’s interrupting dinners or it’s doing a sit-in in Nancy Pelosi’s office or it’s AOC running to unseat a Democrat who’s been sitting in his seat for a long time. And she unseats him. And then she’s at Nancy Pelosi’s door alongside protesters. And I mean, this is all part of the larger system of…
Michael Moore [00:38:45] Yes. Yes. So here’s my fear: If the Senate, if we don’t end the filibuster in the Senate and, for instance, get these voting rights bills passed, nothing else is going to matter. We may be on the path to being a permanent minority rule country. Do you think Biden, does he have an endgame here with the Manchins and the Sinemas of this world?
Rebecca Traister [00:39:09] If I understood the scene, one of the things is that I have almost no access to the inner. Like, I’m taking the reason that when I wrote this piece about what’s going on within the within a Biden economic policy team, talking to people, some inside and some outside his administration, I am so distant from what is going on in the head of Joseph Robinette Biden. I can’t even tell you. Right? Like he is a complete mystery to me. He is a president-shaped president. I am very interested in what this president shaped president is doing. And I’m very open to all kinds of guesses about why he’s doing it. And some of them may be sort of guessing it like his psychology and his experience of loss, or he’s really old and is pretty liberal or he’s listening to young people. But the sort of: does he have a plan with Manchin? How could anybody have a plan with Manchin…is my first question. Again, this is why I’m not a politician and not the president, because I’m like how do you deal with I mean, like, I get sort of mad from the outside, like, get your people like, come on, Schumer. Come on, Biden, like collect your people, get them under control, right? You know, McConnell wouldn’t let this happen, but then I think what do you do these. Manchin and Sinema, you know, this is a degree of malevolence, but what do you do? How do you fight it? So I don’t, I wouldn’t have a plan. My, you know, my plan from the outside is pull it together people, be a party, be a party with a tiny majority that is 1 health crisis away from…it’s not a real majority, right? And I mean, even in numbers, it is 1 health crisis away from a minority.
Michael Moore [00:40:49] I have one idea of how I think he could do it, ok, but it’s again, it’s old school politics and not the kind that we like, but I remember Lyndon Johnson getting all those Southern Democrats to vote for the civil rights bill and all of that. And he just brought them in one by one, you know, and I don’t know, he was like 6’5, or whatever and just towered over them and just got out his finger and wagged it at them and said, this is what you’re going to do. But I don’t like that. I’m not suggesting…
Rebecca Traister [00:41:23] Well, there’s also, I mean, who’s their God, right? Because I don’t know, maybe…
Michael Moore [00:41:33] Democrat’s God?
Rebecca Traister [00:41:33] Yeah, who’s Manchin’s God?
Michael Moore [00:41:35] I know what it is: money. Right? You go, you bring them in and you buy them off. You go old school on this and you buy them, you get them a mansion, a yacht, and Sinema, some resort property in Mexico. That’s not how you do it. They want to get reelected. And the best way to do that is just have them come in and just say, tell me whatever it is you need for West Virginia. What do you need for Arizona? You talk about pork. I’ve got so much pork to give you. It’s limitless. And so what can I do? And who would be opposed actually to making West Virginia a better state, better for its poor people? Arizona, just say, what do you need? Because we need your votes to get this voting rights thing passed. We need to pass this infrastructure stuff. And you’ve got to do this. And I am willing to give you things that are not in this budget. I’m going to put them in the budget and I’m going to tell all the other Democrats they’ve got to vote for it. Just make your list. Give me the list. Just give me the list. Does this sound? Does this sound, like, no Mike, don’t go back to those days…
Rebecca Traister [00:42:43] No, I mean, I don’t, I don’t love any of this. Right? So here’s the most optimistic guess about what we can say about what his strategy is: it is exactly how we got into this portion of the conversation, which is, let’s find common ground. It is a fan dance. Right? And I mean, because there’s part of me that’s like, Christ, this can’t be real. Right? You were Obama’s Vice President, you lived through this, you know who these people like, who the opposition party is, what are you talking about? Let’s find common ground. This is performance art here at this point, right? I mean, I think that that’s the only answer as to what is this guy doing.
Michael Moore [00:43:29] I’m really just throwing things at the wall, hoping something will stick. But because we cannot not have these bills passed. They have to pass. Otherwise, he will not win reelection. A lot of people who came out to vote this last time had never voted before, and they came out to get rid of Trump. Now they’ve got to come out to keep Biden and he’s got to give them a reason to keep him. That’s why the voting rights thing has to pass. That’s why these things to help children and others, you know, the living wage, everything that makes life better for the average working person in this country is so important. If the Democrats don’t do this, I’m afraid that we will continue to have, you know, when you when the minority rule against what the majority want, you know, we know what that’s called. They don’t they don’t have the power of the country, the power rests with the people who believe in civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, et cetera, all that stuff. That’s where the majority of us are out for…To us this minority of politicians do not represent anywhere near the majority of this country,
Rebecca Traister [00:44:50] But we have been, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the condition of minority rule is a future. This is the past, remember? Right? We have had Donald Trump. Trump is not the first minority rule president. Right? George Bush won with a minority. And by the way, I mean, think about how this happened. You know, Trump loses the popular vote, he wins the presidency thanks to the Electoral College, which is designed originally to suppress majority opinion. Right? That’s part of the Electoral College’s design is minority rule. Right? And it has worked in a couple of instances. Barack Obama, a popularly elected president, twice has his judicial appointments blocked by Mitch McConnell over the course of 8 years, including a Supreme Court. So the Supreme Court justices, the court that’s going to decide, you know, voting, abortion, labor, climate like health care, all of it are 6-3 court. Those justices have been appointed by presidents in Donald Trump and George Bush, who didn’t win the majority of American voters, and yet they have appointed the majority of justices. So minority rule is our condition over the past few decades. That’s how we are where we are. It’s how we got the court that gutted the Voting Rights Act to begin with in 2013. Right? Also, remember that those justices themselves, right, isn’t it true that Amy Coney Barrett and Kavanaugh both worked on the Bush v. Gore. Her, Roberts and Kavanaugh. Yeah, all worked, three, a third of the Supreme Court actually worked on the legal team that helped George W. Bush win the presidency despite losing the majority of votes.
Michael Moore [00:47:01] Right, this is why when we call this democracy now, everything has gone upside down here and nothing seems real. I mean, we were joking, talking about, you know, the Covid fog that we’re all in. But I think, that’s just the way we’re just trying to laugh off the fact that we somehow, once again, it seems like we may have won, but we’re losing. And it’s, I mean, you’ve written about, you know, the number of women that have gotten elected here in the last decade or so, but nonetheless, you know, we’re only at 25 percent of Congress are women, the majority gender. And yet you control 25 percent of the power that historians won’t look kindly upon us for celebrating the fact that we got 25 percent of Congress is now women. This is like, anybody who thinks this job is over, it’s like, this is, anyways, I just looked this up: I just found it here a few weeks ago, they had a vote in Congress to form an official January 6th commission to investigate the the uprising and the vote was 54 in favor of forming the commission, 35 against, and the 35 won because of this crazy thing. That whole bill must have 60 votes otherwise we’re afraid it will be filibustered and somebody will have to talk on the floor for 10 hours. And this has got to stop. I mean, I just, I don’t know what to say. I’m just so, I’m not the only one, people are livid about this. But, you know, the other thing I wanted to say here to you is that, so you’ve written this thing about you, you know, with all the caveats and all the, you know, things that I say when I say these things about Biden, but I have friends on the left, I don’t know if that’s surprising or not, they refuse to celebrate anything positive that’s happened during the first 6 months or so of this presidency. I mean, if nothing else, the child tax credit, this thing could be huge.
Rebecca Traister [00:49:12] If nothing else, it’s huge. It’s huge and has to be made permanent. I’m going to, like, challenge Rosa DeLauro, who’s been fighting for the expansion of this tax credit for like 20 years. But it has to be made permanent. And this is actually a piece. Ok, I’m not speaking about the execution. There are a lot of things. Some of the people who are in deepest poverty, there’s not I don’t know that there is there’s a lot that has to be done with a policy this big and this different from anything we’ve seen before around execution and selling it and making sure people know that this is happening and that they can get access to it. Because of all the caveats about it, they talk…
Michael Moore [00:49:50] They talk about, oh, it’ll cut child poverty in half. I say, do you hear what you’re saying? This is why it has to be permanent.
Rebecca Traister [00:49:57] It has to be permanent, but with all the caveats about how it needs and it needs to be executed well and it needs to be made completely accessible and people need to go into communities where they probably, there’s not a huge amount of awareness and make sure everybody knows that there’s no job requirement that I mean, it is, all of that said, this is a remarkable piece of legislation. People are going to be getting checks from the government for their children. Yes, and this is crucial and it is huge.
Michael Moore [00:50:27] Look, do you have friends that are upset at you when you say something positive like that, though?
Rebecca Traister [00:50:32] Oh, yeah. I mean, look, part of me is upset when I say something positive. I get it right. There’s, I understand, and by the way, you said something 2 minutes ago where you said the appearance that we’ve won when actually we’re losing there is such a delicate and terrifying balance here. One of my great fears about the level of relief, if even I felt, me who hated Joe Biden for like not just in the 20, 20 years of my life, Joe Biden was everything I didn’t like about the Democratic Party and the relief I felt in his victory scared me a little bit, because I do think that all this stuff we’ve been talking about, the disruption, the activism, the fury, the pushing, everybody being able to see how cruel and unjust things were, and Trump shone a spotlight on that. Right? And I would, like, that’s not like silver linings of Trump. There are no silver linings of Trump. None, none.
Rebecca Traister [00:51:33] But there was an undeniable ability about the venality, right? There was a visibility and a lack of window dressing around the malevolence, the venality, the cruelty, the bigotry that made people aware. And then one of my big fears was we’re going to put a president-shaped bandage on that and we’re going to feel such relief. Right? And the relief is going to be numbing and it’s going to be anesthetizing in a way that’s really dangerous, because it was the being asleep that got us to this point to begin with. Right? It was the passivity and the sort of like gentle feelings of relief. And I don’t need to think about this anymore. And I don’t need to be angry and I don’t need to be unhappy. And I don’t need to post 100 angry things on Facebook every day because it’s true and it’s going to be fine. That terrified me that we were actually going to be too pleased that lots of people who had spent, who had been awakened to how, how, how cruel so many systems in this country are, we’re going to just feel like, well, now we fixed it and they were going to go back.
Rebecca Traister [00:52:38] I mean, the joke is: back to brunch, but that’s what’s been a real fear of mine. And so how do you balance that fear and wanting to keep people vigilant and wanting all your friends on the left and my friends and part of my brain, that’s like, no, come on, this is not good enough. This is like what? What about climate? Where the hell are we on what is happening? There is a heat dome. All these things that are not done that are so dissatisfying. You want to stay vigilant, you want to stay angry, and you have to because that’s how you keep pushing them. But there is also the failure to acknowledge the moments that we’ve won. And I think it’s crucial to have won something. Right? And I think it’s crucial, especially in the effort to maintain vigilance and anger, to see the places where that vigilance and anger and work and effort over decades, right, has created some change.
Michael Moore [00:53:31] Right, I do agree with that. I’m just saying that because in my lifetime, I don’t want to see a Congress that’s just 25 percent women. But at the same time, if we don’t take time to celebrate these victories that we have, it’s hard to keep everybody. We’ve got to keep moving, folks. And it’s like, man, can we just like just get a sip of water here, please? I’m in the desert, right?
Rebecca Traister [00:53:56] You need to. And I think people who have been, a lot of these lessons are things, you know, so many people that I have written about over the past few years and who I have met and talked to and who’s sort of awakening to anger, I really admire a lot of people who didn’t think much was wrong? There’s a whole population of suburban white women, upper middle class white women who were really awoken to injustice during the Trump years. And, you know, there are lots of cynical approaches to take to that population. There’s a lot of really earnest like, you know, this is a very interesting group of people and ideas that I have been reporting on and thinking about a lot. But one of the things I found is that if you do not come from a tradition of protest and struggle, right, if you are not somebody who has been engaged in those fights for most of your life and if your parents weren’t engaged and if your grandparents weren’t engaged and if your community has traditionally been engaged and in fact has been if you’ve been complacent, if you’ve been part of a complacent community, that in fact is on the profitable and abusive end of power and equities, there’s not a great model for how do you put everything out on the line to fight. Right?
Rebecca Traister [00:55:19] Whether that’s registering voters, whether it’s becoming part of whether it’s sort of awakening to various forms of injustice and using your resources to fight them and you and whether it’s just caring, it’s just like people who who care about these things know how painful it is and how often it is likely to be that you’re on the losing side, if you’re fighting from the outside or if you’re fighting for some the top from alongside the bottom right? We also have to have models for rest and appreciation of moments of victory and joy and joy and fun and communion and community and coalition and the things you get even because there’s so much loss right there. And a lot of people who are new to activism, who happen to have been white, middle class people who had kind of been asleep for a lot of their lives, are used to levels of comfort and also used to levels of winning. And so there were moments during the Trump years, like the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, came as such a shock to a lot of people. Right, who were out there protesting with all their heart. And then he was confirmed anyway. And it was like, what? But that’s not fair. It’s like, right, that’s the experience of protesting injustice is often having that injustice confirmed for you, you know, by losing. And so there’s a lot to be learned for people who are new to this kind of engagement. But we must keep people engaged. So we have to offer models of like, yes, you got to keep working and you got to stay angry and you got to keep awake. But you also got to take your moments of pleasure and joy and affiliation and fun because otherwise you’re going to burn out.
Michael Moore [00:57:06] Absolutely. I hope everybody took that the right way when I said how much we still have to do. Because I know most people these days, especially during this pandemic, are just struggling to get through day by day and don’t know what’s ahead for what’s ahead. Now, we have this new variant in front of us. What will happen this winter? I mean, the fear that people have to live with now, right now, it’s significant. And so, but at the same time, when you say that about, I assume that you’ve probably taken your kids to the demonstrations or whatever. Is that how you were raised? Did you have parents like that?
Rebecca Traister [00:57:46] I had parents who were…I did not, I didn’t have to take me to demonstration parents. I did not grow up in a protest culture. I grew up in a house that was very left. My mother had grown up like staunch, in a staunchly Republican family on a potato farm in northern Maine, my father had grown up in a Socialist household in the Bronx. My mother’s politics had turn left in college and then they had gotten married. I grew up in a left household, but it wasn’t a street protest household. It was a much more intellectualized left household. And, you know, I, I think the first protest I went to was in junior high with my friend, one of my best friend’s mothers, who is more of a like, it was an abortion rights protest, although at that point it was probably called a pro-choice, which I hate the language of choice around abortion. But it was a pro-choice protest, probably in ’86 or something in Washington. I can’t remember what year it was. And I went on a bus with my best friend and her mother. That was the first sort of entry into that world. But I grew up in a house that was very left politically. It just wasn’t a let’s go to a demonstration.
Michael Moore [00:59:06] My first protest actually was the same age you were, except it wasn’t about, it was basically, they used to serve this thing called Thursday Surprise at lunch, all the leftovers from Monday through Wednesday. And so we organized a walk out of the cafeteria because we were sick of eating Thursday Surprise. I know that’s not very noble, but you know, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Rebecca Traister [00:59:29] You got to start somewhere.
Michael Moore [00:59:32] And I am so happy that we started here, right here with Rebecca Traister today, a great writer and a great conversation that we just had about where we’re at right now in this country. But I couldn’t let it end right there. We’re not done. And that’s why we’re going to go to part 2 of this conversation next week on Rumble. And I’ll give you a heads up, Rebecca, as I mentioned at the beginning, one of the early and original writers in the Me Too movement and trying to deal with the patriarchy and the men who make it miserable for women at work, at school, wherever. And so I started asking her about that. And we got into talking about Harvey Weinstein. And she had her own run-ins with him and he had distributed a couple of my movies. And we just kind of let it go. And we started talking about it. And then that led to me talking about a particular individual, a man, what I had witnessed in the office many, many years ago. And we name names and we get into it, being the sexual harassment and abuse of women.
Michael Moore [01:01:03] And boy, I’ll tell you, this was some conversation to have. I wanted it to have its own episode. And we talk about what we still need to do, what we can do, what people can do. But it became kind of a personal discussion for me, and I want you to hear it. It’s very powerful, and so that’s what we’re going to do on next week’s Rumble. So join me then for part 2 of our episode here with Rebecca Traister.
Michael Moore [01:01:35] And my thanks to our executive producer here today, Basel Hamdan, our editor and sound engineer, Nick Kwas, and to everybody else who supports this podcast, listens to it, underwrites it. Much appreciated. There’s a lot of work to do. We’re the ones to do it, right? So I will look forward to joining you next week here on Rumble for part 2 with Rebecca Traister and the Harvey Weinstein plus episode. Stay tuned for that. See you next Thursday. This is Michael Moore and this is Rumble.