Lead Sanders supporter might vote for Trump to bring “Leninist” revolution

Top Bernie Sanders supporter, actress Susan Sarandon, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, it might be better to vote for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton.

When pressed by an incredulous Hayes, Sarandon said that Donald Trump might “bring the revolution immediately.”

Hayes then clarified, “you’re saying the Leninist model?”

Sarandon replied “yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“Don’t you think that’s dangerous?”, Hayes asked.

Dangerous indeed.

Sarandon’s odd comments come on the heels of new complaints from the Clinton camp that Sanders has gotten too negative in his campaigning against Clinton. Sanders has been calling for more debates than were previously negotiated, and Team Clinton has responded that they’d consider it if Sanders toned down the negativity.

There are a few problems here for Sanders, and Democrats.

1. Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for this country, and for many of the issues that progressives care about. Donald Trump is pro-life, against renewable energy, pro-gun, against regulating greenhouse gases, for repealing Obamacare, against immigration, and against marriage equality. And that’s just for starters.

No one should be suggesting that anyone vote for Trump rather than the Democratic nominee.

2. Sanders has been fortunate in that Clinton has not played the “socialist” card against him during the primary. (As for Sanders being a “democratic socialist and not a ‘real’ socialist, that point is debatable — and in any case, the nuance will likely be lost on an American public that tends to abhor anything with the “socialist” label.) The Republican nominee will be much less reticent, as Trump already routinely refers to Sanders as a “communist.”

Lest anyone claim that the terms socialist and communist no longer carry the sting they once did in American politics, I think that’s wrong. Americans still associate socialism with the Soviet Union, and many Americans still have concerns that many longtime American socialists have, in the past, been too sympathetic to left-wing (often communist) dictators. And there’s also concern that American socialists aren’t “American enough,” that they’re too willing (and happy) to criticize the US.

You can disagree about whether it’s fair for people to conclude this. But I think they will, and it’s something a political campaign should be concerned about.

And that’s where Sarandon comes in. Calls for a Leninist revolution are not the talking points I’d be embracing, were I representing someone who thought it was unfair to tie me to the Soviet Union.

And mind you, this isn’t the first time that a key Sanders supporter crossed the line with the revolutionary rhetoric. Just a few weeks ago, Sanders’ top pollster, Ben Tulchin, was interviewed by the New Yorker. In that interview, Tulchin questioned the merits of capitalism:

Sanders has long embraced the socialist label, and it seems not to hurt him among younger voters. Ben Tulchin, Sanders’s pollster, told me that millennials support Sanders “because their generation is so f*cked, for lack of a better word, unless they see dramatic change. What’s their experience been with capitalism? They have had two recessions, one really bad one. They have a mountain of student-loan debt. They’ve got really high health-care costs, and their job prospects are mediocre at best. So that’s capitalism for you.”

Tulchin, who is forty-two, joined the Sanders campaign for the same reason that many disaffected Democratic voters joined: the candidate’s populist message, which he wasn’t hearing from the President. “Obama is the guy who hangs out on the North Side of Chicago with wealthy people and he raises money from them,” Tulchin said. “Not to denigrate him, but, I mean, if you’re from the kind of moderate business wing of the Party—which he isn’t exclusively, but he is partly—you don’t speak that language.”

Now, again, the issue isn’t whether Tulchin is right (and I don’t think he is). The issue is whether a top Sanders campaign official is feeding this negative meme about Sanders being a real, scary socialist — the kind many of us grew up with in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Millennial Sanders supporters might wish for a revolution. And maybe even some older voters are on board with that as well. But the majority of American’s won’t sign off on any revolution inspired by Vladimir Lenin. Team Sanders needs to get some message control, and they need to tamp down on the extremist talk. Susan Sarandon is a prime example of how Bernie Sanders is now turning voters away from the eventual Democratic nominee — and worse, towards Donald Trump.

America, progressives, and the people we care about, deserve better.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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