This Presidential campaign season has been nothing if not revealing. Revealing of the anger of our people. Revealing of the enduring nature of our -isms: racism, sexism, heterosexim, xenophobia, isolationism, . . .. Revealing of our attraction to simplistic solutions to intrenchable problems. Of course, those of us who consider ourselves liberals, lefties, even moderates can easily point to those on the Right as being the source of those societal ills. But perhaps the most revealing aspect of this campaign season is the strength of sexism and racism in both political extremes.
Trying to parse the dynamics of demographic trends is difficult, perhaps impossible, work. But we can see certain dynamics rise above the fray, and those trends require further examination. Here, in this political season, that dynamic is the predominance of white males in both extreme camps – the followers of Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders. There is no doubt when watching the frenzied rallies that there is something driving these white males to rise to a frothy fever in response to their chosen candidates (or is the word Savior more appropriate?). So the question is this: Why, when the candidates are advocating positions at opposite ends of the spectrum (with some notable exceptions), do their followers look so very much alike?
This is not to imply that the followers of Trump and Sanders are somehow of the same ilk. No, it is clear that Trump’s people are motivated by a hatred of the “Others” who have garnered some degree of political power in the last decade or so, while the Sanders people are motivated by a frustration with the “Rigged System.” But that understanding fails to explain why they look the same.
Since I started writing this particular piece, a few startling things have occurred within the Trump and Sanders campaigns. Trump recently stated without impunity that women who have abortions should be punished. Now, that is the undeniable result of outlawing abortion, which all the candidates on the right support. After all, how do you enforce abortion bans if you don’t punish the people getting the abortions? But Trump’s willingness to say it out loud is nonetheless shocking.
On the other side of the aisle, so to speak, we have the Sanders followers waging a secondary campaign commonly called “Bernie or Bust.” That movement has coincided with increasingly sexist and downright vicious rhetoric about Hillary that reduces her to the ever-reliable sexist tropes – the Bitch, the Witch, and even the C**T that should be RAPED.
This movement has been building for several weeks, even spawning an online pledge campaign to urge fellow Bernie followers to commit to NOT voting for Hillary – and choosing an alternative path by writing in Bernie, voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or voting for Trump. All of which equate to a vote for Trump. Yes, the far left is contemplating voting for Trump either passively or directly in a collective foot stomping temper tantrum that their Man didn’t win the nomination. The political revolution failed so, hey, lets have a real revolution. A violent revolution.
That movement reached its zenith when actor Susan Sarandon appeared on MSNBC a few days ago and indicated a willingness, even a rationality, to consider voting for Trump if Secretary Clinton is the nominee. Her explanation was baffling: “Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in then things will really, you know, explode.” So Sarandon apparently feels that a violent revolution triggered by a Trump presidency is preferable to continuing the progress of the Obama administration with Clinton as the next President. As Charles Blow of the NY Times so succinctly explained, “[t]he comments smacked of petulance and privilege.”
Indeed. Which brings us back to the question of this piece – why do Trump and Sanders followers look alike? Because they can afford to. They are predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly not recent immigrants, predominantly not Muslim. Sanders followers are individuals whose concern about economic inequality resonates with them so strongly that the other societal ills fade into background. They aren’t overly concerned with racism and sexism and xenophobia and heterosexism. Well, they may try, like Bernie does, to say the right things about these injustices. But that is not what they really care about. They are concerned with their lack of economic opportunity, the unfairness of the system to people who used to hold all the cards. They feel cheated out of their continued economic advantages and they want the playing field returned to the old days where white men dominated across all classes. They are the people who will not suffer, and in fact may benefit from, a Trump presidency.
Susan Sarandon is a privileged older woman. If Donald Trump is elected, her world and lifestyle will continue unabated. So will the millions of young men following Sanders as their messiah. They will remain at the top of the totem pole of privilege in the United States. The economic inequality in this nation has long existed. Only now has inequality become extreme enough that they now feel some of the pain that the rest of us have felt our entire lives. They stand to lose little if Donald becomes President. We stand to lose everything. Arguably, they will be actually be better off because Trump will smash down the Others – the Blacks, Mexicans and Hispanics, Immigrants, Gays, Women – so that these white men can once again ascend to their rightful place in American society. Right at the top.
So don’t tell me about voting with your conscience. Don’t tell me that Clinton and Trump are practically the same (because that is simply a lie). Instead, tell me how you are going to protect your Brothers and Sisters from the promised attacks, the criminalizations, and the slaughters that Trump has outright promised. Will you take up arms to protect us, or will you only take up arms to ensure YOUR economic opportunities are rehabilitated so that YOU can achieve the American Dream, while the rest of us are left in the ashes. Because that is the choice you are making with your infantile Bernie or Bust movement.