DES MOINES — Ahead of Monday’s caucus, Michael Moore’s been everywhere in his dark green jacket and Tigers ballcap, headlining events and going hard in defense of Bernie Sanders.
His point about Bernie Sanders is that he’s always been on the right side of the issues. But Moore will hit one point, pivot off to the right, loop back around, deliver the punchline, then correct himself. Sometimes he shouts into the mic. His speeches are both objectively too much and captivating.
Since last Saturday, he has:
Said we have a “gender apartheid” in the United States while discussing wage disparity and the lack of elected women.
Prefaced the gender apartheid comment by noting, “Not to take anything away from South Africa, because obviously that was a far, far more brutal situation.”
Informed his crowd in Ames that they were in “the French Resistance.”
Performed a rendition of Matthew 25 (the least among you) on Sunday morning, concluding, “I know about an hour or two ago you said to yourselves, 'Let’s get on down to the hall there, because Michael Moore is going to be preaching the Sunday sermon.' Sorry I don’t have any wine or communion here.”
Produced two loose sheets of paper with the 10 cities in which Hillary Clinton rallied for Barack Obama in 2008 (a Clinton aide subsequently said she did 46 events for Obama), and the 42 in which Sanders campaigned for Clinton in 2016.
Gave different numbers (12 and 39, respectively) on MSNBC.
Asked, referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “What part of heaven did she fall out of?”
Answered, again referring to Ocasio-Cortez, “Of course you know her story, it was not heaven.”
The weird part, actually, is what then follows, which has often been Ocasio-Cortez. Her calm energy so contrasts with Moore that her arrival can feel like walking through one of those misters at a theme park. In Perry, Iowa, I watched two women and a man with a mustache and a blue Bernie cap listen with literal smiles on their faces for the duration of Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, which focused half on Sanders’ ideological consistency and the ways each person present could contribute to the movement.
At that same event, within minutes of each other, Moore joked about communion and Clinton’s rallies, and Ocasio-Cortez asked the younger people in the room to make sure they thank their “elders,” who “have been part of this fight for a really long time.”
“I want to thank you,” she said. “I want to thank you.”
Lately, there’s been a sudden revisitation of 2004: John Kerry is back in Iowa (campaigning for Joe Biden), and the Strokes will play a show (for Sanders) in New Hampshire. Moore, who experienced a major cultural moment as a Bush antagonist in the bruised-heart, ironic-laugh aughts of Jon Stewart and Al Franken, is back too. Back then, Sanders was still the fighter of lonely fights, often treated as a novelty in Washington, someone without many allies — though, as the candidate noted last weekend, he’s known Moore for many, many years.
Arguably, the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party has two wings of its own, the Moore wing and the Ocasio-Cortez wing. If Sanders is the nominee, and certainly if he is the president, it’ll be interesting to see — after all the lonely years — which wing wins out.
Matt Berman contributed reporting.