Actress Susan Sarandon hit a raw nerve last night, even among some Bernie Sanders supporters, when she appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Acting as a Bernie Sanders surrogate, she blasted Hillary Clinton and said that she might not vote for Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination.
A few weeks ago, I proudly cast my vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders. I think he is what this country needs to correct itself after decades of ceding ground to corporate interests at the expense of the middle class.
However, when I cast my vote I did not cast aside my sanity. If my first choice, Sanders, does not win, for the good of the nation, I will campaign and vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. In this instance I will be proudly pragmatic because the alternatives are catastrophic: Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. The former thinks he was anointed by God to lead the world, and the latter’s ego is so large he looks in the mirror and thinks he is God. Both men are dangerous extremists who could do irreparable harm to this nation.
Yet, Susan Sarandon believes that it may be necessary to place the nation in peril and jeopardize our future. She apparently believes that we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good and that we may need to take our country to the brink of ruin before we can usher in a golden age or renewal.
As someone who loves Bernie Sanders, I want to offer some cheerful advice to my fellow travelers. Those of you who say Bernie or bust are doing a real disservice to the campaign. The Vermont Senator can only win the nomination with the help of Clinton supporters. There are many would-be Clinton voters who prefer Bernie, but are leaning towards voting for the former Secretary of State because they believe she has the best chance to win the general election. The way to woo this large voting block is to talk about Sanders momentum and viability.
Instead, these overzealous Sanders supporters are offering contradictory messages. On one hand, they are correctly highlighting the polls showing that Sanders outperforms Clinton in general election matchups. But they undercut their point by then saying that winning the White House is not their first priority. This incoherence targeted at people who desperately want to win for the sake of controlling the Supreme Court, is a huge turnoff and is unpersuasive to the very people needed to get the nomination. They are essentially saying that Sanders is a winner, but they are okay with losing. People like me are not okay with losing, given the dire consequences.
Another issue is that these spirited Sanders fans are undermining a candidate who has fought to be taken seriously. By saying they will not vote for Clinton, they appear unsophisticated, rigid and doctrinaire. If you are going to act like you are a member of a cult, don’t be surprised if people treat your candidate like he’s a cult of personality. A mere cause célèbre, who is running to make a point – not to actually occupy the White House.
Furthermore, supporters like Susan Sarandon play into stereotypes. Right wing extremists like Rush Limbaugh refer to Sanders as “Crazy Bernie” and dismiss his supporters as hopelessly naïve. So, what do some of his most ardent supporters do? They play right into the hands of Bernie-bashers by acting irrational and loopy. It is time they get out of the Bernie Bubble and into the world where decisions have ramifications that can last generations.
If you think I’m wrong let’s not forget when self-righteous Democrats told us that there was no difference between the corporate Al Gore and George W. Bush. Tell that to the families who lost loved ones in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To elect a Republican is to vote for endless war and more body bags.
There is a certain solipsism and arrogance to those who would not vote for the eventual Democratic nominee. I fought for more than 20 years for marriage equality and finally won. There are many people who have fought for decades to ensure women have the right to choose. African Americans and their allies are now fighting to stop police abuse and racial profiling. Environmentalists are desperately trying to save the earth before the GOP destroys it though inaction on climate change. All of gains we have made on these issues and so many others are in serious jeopardy if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But apparently, some of these privileged Sanders supporters don’t give a damn about the fate of their gay or black friends. They are willing to let Roe v. Wade vanish and harm women. Personally, I’m offended by this attitude and it will likely cost Sanders votes, because these Bernie Bots don’t have the back of people who depend on a progressive Supreme Court.
Finally, electing Trump or Cruz will not bring the revolution. Instead the trauma caused to our citizens will have the opposite effect. It will likely make voters risk averse. Voters will be hungry for a calm existence, which would usher in a period of staid politicians who promise serenity, security, and stability.
As the actual candidate, Bernie Sanders, has stated, the Revolution is not about one man. If Bernie wins in Wisconsin, New York and California he may yet be the nominee. But if he comes up short, his fervent followers should, ironically, follow the lead of televangelist Pat Robertson. He lost his bid for the presidency in 1988. He took his mailing list and formed the Christian Coalition – a true revolution that turned the Religious Right into a perennial powerhouse.
If Sanders supporters really want to make a difference, it won’t be in 2016. The more important year is 2018 – when the midterm elections come. Here’s why:
Between the election of 2008 and 2010, Democrats saw a plummet of 26 million voters, from 65 million people to 39 million people. Meanwhile, Republicans saw a drop-off of just 7 million voters, from 52 million to 45 million. The GOP took over the House.
Six million fewer Republicans voted for Senate candidates in 2014 than in 2008. But 14 million fewer Democrats went to the polls. That 42 percent drop in turnout allowed the GOP to take over the Senate. The 2014 election also saw the Republican majority increase in the House to its largest since World War II.
These are the elections that matter and determine if the Sanders campaign is a revolution or a trendy fad.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”