This week actress and Bernie Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon told Chris Hayes that she was not sure if she could bring herself to vote for Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination. Instead of committing to backing the Democrat nominee to prevent a Republican president whose beliefs are antithetical to all socialist, progressive, and liberal ideals, Sarandon said, “I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens.”
What she is unsure about, and what she is waiting “to see what happens,” is unknown and unclear, but the apparent reasoning behind her hesitation is absurd—not only from the point of view of the Democratic Party, but also, and even especially, for the socialist revolution Sanders wants to create and Sarandon says she supports.
When Hayes asked Sarandon what she thought Sanders would do if he did not win the nomination, she said, “I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing, but I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to [vote for Clinton].’”
Sanders has already said that he would support Clinton if she won the nomination.
Now this statement from Sarandon displays a disturbing flaw that may be at the heart of the thinking of many Sanders supporters. Sanders may be campaigning as a true socialist on an egoless mission to create a better, more equitable America, but many of his supporters, including Sarandon, appear fully committed to allowing their egos to play a vital role in this election.
Last week I published a column about the grieving process Sanders supporters may undergo if he fails to win the nomination. The following day he won three caucuses to slightly narrow Clinton’s lead. Rightfully so these victories emboldened his supporters and made them believe that he may win the nomination. Yet before and after these victories the hashtag #NeverHillary was still regularly being used by his supporters and directed toward me on social media. They needed to let me know that under no circumstances could they bring themselves to vote for Clinton.
#NeverHillary seems to be more popular than #NeverTrump among Sanders supporters, and this immediately must make one wonder about the true beliefs of the Vermont senator’s backers. Because if they are honestly willing to consider voting for, or at the very least not voting against, an egotistical megalomaniac with no true political ideology like Trump, who has thrived in an environment of fear, violence, ignorance, and ridicule that is of his own creation, then they should not consider themselves to be socialists.
According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted this month, up to 33 percent of Sanders’s supporters may refuse to vote for Clinton. This is alarmingly high.
Many Sanders supporters appear to view Clinton as an untrustworthy cog in the political establishment that they despise, and Sanders represents the counter foil. But working within a chaotic political system that requires compromising with the opposition party and is full of mudslinging does not necessarily make someone corrupt or untrustworthy. It most certainly makes someone less ideal. The world of politics leaves people battered and bruised, and forced to make decisions that are far from their perfect result and are regularly the lesser of two evils.
Despite Sanders’s long history in politics he has been able to live in an enviable position that few politicians have ever been able to cultivate. Sanders’s popularity in Vermont, a state that has always been progressive, has allowed him to champion his socialist ideals and work as an independent without concerning himself with or compromising too much with the political establishment.
Sanders’s strong stance against the war in Iraq attracted me when I was in college, and encouraged me to speak up for what I believed in. I was attracted to Sanders because of his socialist ideals. The personality of the politician came second, and I was pleased to find out that he is genuinely a likable guy who truly believes in what he says.
Right now it seems as though 33 percent of Sanders supporters view him as their unscathed anti-establishment political ideal, and his socialist policies may be a distant second. They are more revolutionary than socialist. They have a greater focus on satisfying their egos’ thirst for an immaculate politician who can “shake up” the establishment than caring about socialism and the principles of the common good that influence the ideology that Sanders represents.
I remember when I was talking to my friend from Ohio, from my previous column, after Sanders’s defeat, and all he wanted was for Sanders’s ideals to live on and have a positive influence on America no matter who won the nomination. He spoke about the selflessness that Sanders displayed when he protested for civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s. My friend is white, and we have had numerous conversations about race relations over the years, and seeing images of Sanders as a college student put himself at risk for the betterment of others made him want to be a better person. It made him want to think about collective interests and progress beyond just his individual desires and the destructive, isolating fog that one’s ego can create. This is why he voted for Sanders. He is voting because of the ideals of the man and not the positive or negative image that the candidate may represent.
Those ideals have a foundation around the belief in a collective effort to make society a more equitable, just and progressive place for all people. The collective is greater than the individual. Sanders constantly touts how his collective movement that encompasses all of his supporters will change America. Unlike Donald Trump, he is not saying that he alone will change America.
For those Sanders supporters who are looking for Sanders to change America, they should take heart in the fact that Sanders’s progressive ideals are changing the shape of the Democratic Party. But they should not place the messenger above the message. For the 33 percent, including Sarandon, who have placed Sanders on a pedestal above his ideals, and have entertained becoming Trump supporters or abstaining from voting in the general election if Sanders does not win the nomination, they should know that they, and their egos, will be doing more harm than good for the collective, progressive, socialist revolution that they desperately want to make a reality.