“Be absolutely clear: While there are meaningful differences between Clinton and Sanders, either would be a far better choice for president than any of the remaining Republican contenders, especially the demagogic real estate developer. Assisting or allowing his ascendance by electoral abstinence in order to force a “revolution” is heretical.
This position is dangerous, shortsighted and self-immolating.”
Bernie Sanders’s surrogate Susan Sarandon went on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” earlier this week and said something that made folks’ jaws drop.
When Hayes asked Sarandon whether Sanders’s supporters would vote for Hillary Clinton if Clinton won the Democratic nomination, this exchange followed:
SARANDON: I think Bernie probably would encourage people because he doesn’t have any ego. I think a lot of people are, sorry, I can’t bring myself to do that.
HAYES: How about you personally?
SARANDON: I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens.
HAYES: I cannot believe as you’re watching the, if Donald Trump…
SARANDON: Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in then things will really, you know, explode.
HAYES: You’re saying the Leninist model of…
SARANDON: Some people feel that.
(I don’t generally use the Republican front-runner’s name in my columns, but I must present the quote as transcribed. Sorry.)
What was Sarandon talking about with her coy language? “Bring the revolution”? Exactly what kind of revolution? “Explode”? Was the purpose to present this as a difficult but ultimately positive development?
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The comments smacked of petulance and privilege.
No member of an American minority group — whether ethnic, racial, queer-identified, immigrant, refugee or poor — would (or should) assume the luxury of uttering such a imbecilic phrase, filled with lust for doom.
But I don’t doubt that she has met “some people” with a Bernie-or-bust, scorched-earth electoral portentousness. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, “A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates one third of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters cannot see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in November.”
Be absolutely clear: While there are meaningful differences between Clinton and Sanders, either would be a far better choice for president than any of the remaining Republican contenders, especially the demagogic real estate developer. Assisting or allowing his ascendance by electoral abstinence in order to force a “revolution” is heretical.
This position is dangerous, shortsighted and self-immolating.
If Sanders wins the nomination, liberals should rally round him. Conversely, if Clinton does, they should rally round her.
This is not a game. The presidency, particularly the next one, matters, and elections can be decided by relatively small margins. No president has won the popular vote by more than 10 percentage points since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.
In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that.
The real estate developer is now talking carelessly about promoting nuclear proliferation and torture (then there’s Ted Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing and glowing sand).
And, there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Not only that, but as of Tuesday, there were also 84 federal judiciary vacancies with 49 pending nominees.
The question of who makes those appointments matters immensely.
As Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in The New Yorker in 2014:
“When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled ten of the thirteen circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits. Because federal judges have life tenure, nearly all of Obama’s judges will continue serving well after he leaves office.”
Furthermore, Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation, writing:
“Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, ‘The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.’ Forty-two percent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two percent of George W. Bush’s judges and 29 percent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six percent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with 18 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton.”
And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion.
Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.
Of more substance, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute:
“To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.”
There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration. In fact, the Huffington Post Queer Voices editor at large Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article in February titled, “No, LGBT People Aren’t Exempt from Donald Trump’s Blatant Bigotry,” responding to a trending idea that the Republican front-runner wasn’t as bad for queer people as other Republican candidates:
“It’s absolutely false — he’s as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights — and it’s time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.”
Then there are all the other promises — threats? — the real estate developer has made. He has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, end birthright citizenship, dismantle Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” (whatever that means), defund Planned Parenthood and temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from coming to this country, among other things.
There is no true equivalency between either of the Democratic candidates and this man, and anyone who make such a claim is engaging in a repugnant, dishonorable scare tactic not worth our respect.
It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire. As Sanders himself has said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”
The New York Times Upshot even pointed out last May that Sanders and Clinton “voted the same way 93 percent of the time in the two years they shared in the Senate” and in many of the cases in which Clinton voted differently from Sanders, “she voted with an overwhelming majority of her colleagues, including Republicans.”
That doesn’t mean that those differing votes weren’t significant. They were. As the Upshot put it, the 31 times they disagreed “happened to be” on some of “the biggest issues of the day, including measures on continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an immigration reform bill and bank bailouts during the depths of the Great Recession.”
And yet those differences hardly bring either candidate anywhere close to being as frightening as the specter of the real estate developer assuming the office of president of the United States.
Elections are about choices, not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one, but sometimes between common sense and catastrophe. Progressives had better remember this come November, no matter who the Democratic nominee is.