This week the internet lost its shit when Bernie Sanders supporter/surrogate Susan Sarandon indicated she might vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton (or perhaps not vote at all, or perhaps do a write-in) because a Trump presidency might bring about a much-needed revolution. Or as Raw Story summarized:
Asked about her own vote, Sarandon replied, “I don’t know, I’m going to see what happens,” before she added with a smile, “You know, some people think Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in then things will really, you know, explode.”
Given an opportunity to concede that a Trump presidency might be “dangerous,” Sarandon instead ticked off a litany of America’s ills saying it was more dangerous for the country to continue on the way it is going — but without noting that things would be far worse in Trump America.
These days I find it’s always best to go back to the original source material, as some media outlets have a tendency to spin these quotes to stoke maximum partisan outrage. You can hear what Sarandon actually said here. Having heard the whole interview, however, I do feel that Raw Story’s take was accurate.
Sarandon has naturally, and rightfully, been getting quite a lot of blowback for her comments. Let me also add here that Susan Sarandon is not just another Hollywood liberal. She’s been an activist on a number of issues for decades. She’s a person who gets her hands dirty, talks to people, and goes out and gets things done. She’s out in the field. She doesn’t just write a check and show up for the benefit concert. So her opinion, much as I disagree with it, is one informed by her experiences out in the real world.
Susan Sarandon has a right to her opinion and she has a right to her principled vote. But I also have a right to point out how wrong that is. Not just because I’m supporting Hillary Clinton, but because I, too, talk to people and have experiences in the real world. I, too, have been out in the field. And from my experiences with a diverse group of people in flyover states like Tennessee and Kentucky, I can assure you that people yearning for “revolution” have no fucking clue what they’re talking about.
She talks about farmers upset about Monsanto and fracking and whatnot. I have family members who are farmers. Most of them are Republican, and I can assure you, they will not join a revolution over fracking and Monsanto.
You also have to be living in some alternate universe if you think anyone in middle America is going to storm the Bastille over a $15/hour living wage. Yes, there are desperate people in this country, and a big chunk of them live in rural Red States. But those people aren’t joining any revolution. Nor are they “voting against their own interests.” Most of them don’t even vote.
America will not do a storm-the-Bastille style “revolution.” Ever. Much as the far right and far left may yearn for it, we won’t, because we don’t need to. Let me take this opportunity to channel my 7th grade social studies teacher and remind everyone that Americans are given an opportunity for “revolution” every two years when we hold our national elections. Imperfect though they may be, warts and all, voter suppression and two-party system be damned, the truth of the matter is, our democracy allows for a substantial — and peaceful — turnover in power, if the people demand it. That is our system. That is the system of most stable Western democracies. That is why we don’t have bloody, disruptive, revolutions in the UK and Canada and France and Germany and the like.
If Trump gets elected he will still have Congress to deal with. And if he tried to ignore Congress he would be impeached and removed from office. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. People will not take up arms and storm the White House. We’ll wait until we can vote the fucker out of office.
There will be no revolution, televised or otherwise.
I’d say people like Susan Sarandon who crave revolution need to stop looking for a silver lining if the worst President in American history took office and start thinking about how they can achieve their wish list of progressive ideas. Doing it within our existing system takes time and work, but that’s how shit gets done. Not by burning down the house and rebuilding from the ground up. Certainly the Tea Party did that, by taking over the Republican Party and then stomping it under their tricorn hats. If you really want the things you say you want then get busy and start working to elect like-minded people to Congress and state legislatures. Take over the Democratic Party, if you think you can. If that sounds too boring and establishment for you, well, sorry. That’s how change happens. Not by hoping things get so bad for so many that they finally “wake up.”