Table tennis semipro and cannabis enthusiast Susan Sarandon is among the most prominent celebrity endorsers of Bernie Sanders, which makes her public statements matters of great import to political commentators, columnists, and assigning editors. Today, everyone is mad because she said she’d support Trump if Hillary Clinton won the nomination.
Except, obviously, she didn’t say that. She hinted rather strongly that she wouldn’t vote for Clinton and said—possibly seriously but equally possibly with some amount of irony—that Trump might “bring the revolution” (the good kind) should he end up winning the presidency.
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.
This has caused a “firestorm” in the parts of the Internet media that experience presidential elections as deeply personal flame-wars between rival factions of columnists and Twitter users. It’s not just the (admittedly half-baked) accelerationism—it’s the apparently scandalous notion that Sarandon might not vote.
At the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart, invoking Nader (that bastard who handed the election to George W. Bush by somehow being responsible for Bush having a more shameless and skilled legal team, as well as a highly partisan Republican-controlled Supreme Court), bemoans “the inability or unwillingness of too many to see that their insistence on political purity could lead to calamity.” That certainly sounds quite sensible, except for how I can’t figure out any conceivable scenario in which Susan Sarandon’s “insistence on political purity” contributes in any meaningful sense to a potential electoral calamity.
You can criticize Sarandon for wanting to heighten the contradictions at the (purely hypothetical) expense of the people who’d suffer worst under a (purely hypothetical and still quite unlikely) Trump presidency, but why bother getting worked up about whether or not she, personally, will vote for Hillary Clinton in November? Who cares?
It’s obnoxious when hyper-engaged political partisans shame the nonvoting masses for their supposed apathy, without bothering to engage with potential reasons for that non-participation. Those same hyper-engaged political partisans shaming the absolutely minuscule number of “purists” out there who cast protest or third-party votes is just tedious—especially when those purists live in states where their votes will have little bearing on a presidential election that will be decided by a tiny fraction of the national electorate anyway. However many Bernie-or-bust voters there are in Brooklyn and Portland—and Austin and Oakland and Amherst and Atlanta— they will bear no responsibility for an unlikely Trump victory over Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter who Susan Sarandon or Rosario Dawson or Killer Mike vote for, unless any of them also own homes in Miami and decide to register there (they have until 29 days before the election to do so).
The most aggravating part of the entire aggravating conversation is that nearly every professional commentator pillorying Sarandon today is in the same boat as she—their votes in November will be purely performative. For a New Yorker or Washingtonian to march into the voting booth and pull the lever for the Democratic nominee is to engage in a symbolic gesture of political self-identification, not to participate in any meaningful way in the political process. Staying home is equally valid and equally consequential.