Earlier today, Tim Robbins introduced Bernie Sanders at an event in Wisconsin, probably because the last two Bernie rallies have drawn scant crowds. Now they’re bringing out the celebrities who do support Bernie (because most of them are endorsing Hillary Clinton), trying to draw some larger crowds as they continue to drive the narrative. Robbins, like Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon and Killer Mike before him, promptly put his foot in it when he dismissed Clinton’s big win in South Carolina as something insignificant, likening it to winning Guam. Remember he said this in Wisconsin, which has 86 delegates to South Carolina’s 53. Perhaps Robbins meant to say winning states like Alaska with 15 delegates or “Democrats Abroad” with 13 delegates was like winning Guam. Oh, right, but he couldn’t say that — because those are states that Bernie Sanders won. Can’t be mocking those victories.
Instead, Robbins had to take a dump on one of the states that has a large and passionate population of African American voters. Throughout this campaign the Sanders team has downplayed the importance of Hillary winning states in the South, pretending that Bernie didn’t campaign there and lost big, acting as though that isn’t part of the base because — let’s face it — to them the “whiter states” matter more. With the exception of Hawaii, where something like 3 people voted in total, nearly all of Sanders’ winning states have been at least 80% white. He won Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, the 3 whitest states in America, each with a white population over 94%. By contrast, Hillary has been winning the black and Latino vote with landslide numbers, along with women and voters over the age of 35 — you know: everyone else.
A little history lesson for Tim Robbins who apparently has no clue. (Of course, why would he. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and John Cusack have long loved to preach from their perch of privilege. It’s safe up there in the catbird seat.) Robbins might not know that only three Democrats have won the White House since the Civil Rights movement: Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. All three of those candidates won the South in the Democrat primaries. As Lyndon Johnson predicted, the Solid South turned as red as a rage face after the Civil Rights Act became law, so perhaps that’s why Robbins felt comfortable mocking it, and maybe that’s why the Sanders campaign feels comfortable writing those states off. But here’s the problem. As demographics continually evolve, we can’t write off the South as a lost cause. Presidential elections in America are no longer won on the white vote alone. Those days are long gone, and good riddance.
Secondly, let’s take a look at South Carolina’s history. From Civilrights.org
Voting Rights in South Carolina, 1982-2006
Prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina, a state whose population is 30 percent African-American, had elected no black official in the Twentieth Century. South Carolina’s history of discrimination resulted in the entire state being covered by the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Act. Vigorous enforcement of Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has expanded and then protected the ability of South Carolina African-Americans to participate fully in the voting process and to elect candidates of their choice. The transition of single-member districts for both houses of the General Assembly, county councils, municipal governing bodies, and school boards has greatly expanded black representation.
The media has been covering the black vote in the same way the Sanders campaign has been positioning it: with a sneering, condescending tone. They fall back on the facile explanation that black voters “have a history with the Clintons” going way back and thus, they’d never vote for Bernie. Time and again, we hear Bernie surrogates and news media simpletons call these loyal Democrats “low information voters.”
Here is how Hillary Clinton did in South Carolina and other states in the deep South compared to Bernie Sanders:
Clinton – 271,514
Sanders – 95,977
Clinton – 309,928
Sanders – 76,399
Clinton – 144,580
Sanders – 64,868
Clinton – 543,008
Sanders – 214,332
Clinton – 1,097,400
Sanders – 566,603
Clinton – 503,358
Sanders – 275,507
Clinton – 182,447
Sanders – 36,348
Those are blowouts. The highest number of votes in any state that Bernie Sanders received so far was in Illinois, where he got 971,555. Clinton still beat him with 1,007,382. For all of their hashtags and their hipster t-shirts, the Bernie Sanders movement is not turning out voters on election days across the country. Why? Because his focus is extremely narrow. Sure, there are plenty who see him as a Christ figure, as Obi-Wan, as David Bowie even — and he laps up that sort of adoration wherever he can find it. After a 30-year career of fishing in the small pond of Vermont, he’s at last found his place in the sun. I get it. But there is a reality to be dealt with here and that is that you need the broad support of lifelong Democrats, you need the big-tent base to win the nomination and the presidency.
Unless of course you just want to look like one of the cool “Hollywood elite,” sit atop your high-minded perch, and chant “Vote for Ralph Nader” — while Gore loses Florida and the White House by 363 votes.
Think about that. With all of the anger over the decision to go to war in Iraq, with thousands of lives destroyed and $4 trillion wasted, think about what could have been accomplished for the environment alone if Gore had won in 2000. The Democrats, throughout my lifetime, have been repeatedly crippled from within by fuckery — idealism that has gradually alienated vast numbers of working-class Americans. In two different election years when a sitting Democratic president was challenged with opposition from another Democrat, it’s resulted in a win for the Republicans. It happened in 1968 when Eugene McCarthy openly challenged Lyndon B. Johnson, and again in 1980 when Ted Kennedy openly challenged Jimmy Carter.
1968 was the most dramatic election for Democrats in modern history, I’d say. Well, certainly right up there with the 2000 election. The seemingly endless Vietnam quagmire was causing Johnson’s popularity to plummet. The sickening irony was that Johnson had actually brokered a deal to end the Vietnam War which Richard Nixon secretly sabotaged. Nixon then failed to end the war in his first term, leading to the pointless deaths of countless more soldiers and Vietnamese civilians.
At the infamously violent convention in August 1968, Hubert Humphrey was chosen as the Democratic nominee because McCarthy was seen as too radical (and was, in fact, too radical to win). Earlier that summer, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, himself seeking a White House bid, were both assassinated. Richard Nixon narrowly beat Hubert Humphrey in the popular vote — 43.4% to 42.7% — but won the Electoral College count. Nixon might have won by a larger margin had George Wallace not run as a third party contender, scraping together 13.5% of the vote and cutting into the Republicans deep South stronghold. Either way, I bring up 1968 as an example with echoes of this year: whenever Democrats are sharply divided and they have a much harder time winning an election.
Hillary Clinton is certainly no milquetoast Hubert Humphrey and Bernie Sanders is no Eugene McCarthy (although in temperament Sanders comes very close). The popular vote in the primaries for Clinton thus far is a whopping 8,924,920. The popular vote for Sanders right now is 6,398,420 — he’s behind Trump.
For a high-profile figure like Tim Robbins to criticize the South Carolina Democrats compared to, say, those in Wisconsin reaches a level of arrogance, privilege and stupidity I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around. It represents an insidious form of oppression to stand up there as a rich white celebrity and say those votes don’t matter. All 271,514 of them. They don’t matter because what? Because they see the Clintons as longtime friends? Because they’re “low information”?
Are Tim Robbins and Bernie Sanders really going say that the black vote in the South doesn’t matter at all? It matters so very much. It matters not just for the Democrats to win in November, but it matters in terms of the arc of American history.
I’m far more impressed with Hillary’s South Carolina numbers than the 18,640 Bernie bros voting in Idaho, or the 61,333 voting in Utah. The simple fact is this: For all his bird-whisperer halo, Bernie Sanders is not bringing people to the polls half as much as Hillary Clinton is. Not just in the South, but everywhere.
It was bad enough this week when Rosario Dawson was yapping GOP talking points about how the FBI hound dogs are supposedly closing in on Clinton’s scent.
And bad enough when Susan Sarandon intimidated and cornered Dolores Huerta, shrieking with a glazed-over glare, “DO YOU KNOW THAT SHE’S BOUGHT OFF?” Sarandon has been a non-stop hate machine against Hillary for months, being one of the first of the high profile surrogates to say something to the effect of “I don’t vote with my VAGINA!” Killer Mike, another Bernie surrogate said something similar about whether or not it was important to have a uterus. To them, the only thing Hillary brings that Bernie can’t would be a vagina and a uterus.
To me, having a woman become president is far more than the sum of her private parts. Hillary Clinton puts the concerns of women and children at the top of her agenda and has done so throughout her entire career. Isn’t it about time? The idea that women should feel ashamed for celebrating that, or be derided for fighting for that kind of a revolution is the sort of oppression we should have left behind long ago.
Sanders, as the New York Times has pointed out, has clearly “gone negative,” a losing campaign’s last gasp to grab the brass ring. By all reasonable estimations, his chances of getting the nomination now seen to be roughly 10% — which means they need big moves, big noise. Remember when John McCain was running against Barack Obama and his campaign told him he needed to go more negative? Instead, McCain tried really hard not to sink to that level. Sure, he allowed Sarah Palin to spit bullets, but McCain did this so memorably:
Yeah well, here’s the fundamental problem with Bernie. He’s running counter to the sitting president, arguing his cutting critique of Barack Obama, a man the progressive liberals in the Sanders movement believe “didn’t do enough” to further their causes. Never mind that President Obama was dealing with the most stubborn obstructionist Congress in American history, so dead set against defeating the president at every move that they won’t even look at his budget proposal nor consider his Supreme Court nominee.
What do the progressive liberals flapping their gums at Sanders rally do? Do they focus their fits at Republicans? Of course not. They’d rather blame Obama. It’s all his fault. They think Bernie can do what Obama couldn’t — somehow? Sanders, an avowed lifelong Independent, isn’t even raising money for Democrats in crucial Congressional and statewide races in November. He doesn’t support Democrats currently in office because he calls them “establishment,” and has alienated half of the electorate by going after Obama and his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton. Tell me there’s a plan in there somewhere. From here, it looks like a naked dance of narcissism at this year’s Burning Man — or Berning Man.
The truth of it all may come down to something as crude and simple as this: Women who look like Hillary Clinton, past the age of 60, are supposed to go away and never be seen or heard from again. They’re not supposed to strive to be leader of the Free World – twice! They’re not supposed to challenge all the male candidates. They’re not supposed to represent a revolution because women don’t matter that much in our culture. They don’t matter at all, and they matter even less if they are women of color.
The needs of women and children has never been adequately represented by any president in all of American history. What that simple act of electing a woman who understands those needs would do for families is immeasurable. Perhaps as Gloria Steinem aptly pointed out, too many girls want to be where the boys are and the boys are with Bernie. But even if you don’t want to go that far, it looks to me like women are expected to feel some sort of shame for being proud and excited at the thought of the first woman president. No, we’re not allowed to go there because guys like Tim Robbins and women like Susan Sarandon have decided Hillary is not worthy of that type of admiration. They have their Chosen One and that’s all that matters to them.
For the record, Tim Robbins did issue a kind of half-assed back-pedal explanation for his clumsy words today, but in the end he blamed the media. Surely no one thinks he’s a racist. The stark truth remains that his statements echo what the entire Bernie Sanders campaign sees as their only path forward: clinging to the white states that buy into their dreams and dismissing the minority voters they have failed to convince.