In the race among Bernie Sanders’s celebrity surrogates to prove who’s the most obscenely dense and unscrupulous, for a good long time it was Susan Sarandon who was way out in front. Sure, Tim Robbins had casually dismissed an entire Southern state’s diverse population because it turned out for Hillary Clinton and well-known doctor Paul Song had called anyone not supporting Sanders’s healthcare plan “Democratic whores.” But it was Sarandon who gave a high-profile voice to the delusional and irresponsible online movement that claims that a Trump victory would be better for America than a Clinton win because it would “bring the revolution immediately.” And it was her who literally admitted that there’s a “bubble” around her she doesn’t want burst when it comes to her Sanders fandom.
Well, step aside, Susan, because there’s a new frontrunner among the most misguided Sanders celebrity faithful: Rosario Dawson. The talented actress and seemingly well-adjusted human being — up until recently anyway — had already made a name for herself by “shaming” Hillary Clinton for claiming that a debate over abortion rights constituted a “very serious discussion” about the issues facing America. She’d also, in a far more questionable move, accused Clinton of being “under FBI investigation” for the use of a private e-mail server in the wake of a report that claimed 147 agents were on the case, even though this was patently false and Sanders had said it wasn’t an issue anyway (at least until Clinton’s insurmountable lead finally set in). Sanders never bothered to correct Dawson’s claim, even brushing off the question of whether he should during a CNN interview with Jake Tapper earlier this month.
Now comes this, though: On Saturday, while introducing Sanders at a rally in Delaware, Dawson attacked Clinton by invoking the name of — wait for it — Monica Lewinsky. “We are literally under attack — not just for supporting the other candidate,” Dawson shouted. “I’m with Monica Lewinsky on this … bullying is bad.” The line, obviously, drew cheers — exactly as it was intended to do. Now setting aside the laughable notion that Sanders’s most rabid disciples are the ones being bullied rather than the ones doing most of the bullying in this election cycle, even mentioning Monica Lewinsky in an allegation against Clinton is both purposeful and reprehensible. It’s reprehensible when the right does it and it therefore goes without saying that it’s reprehensible when the left does it. In fact, it’s maybe much more so from the left specifically because it’s known as an underhanded right-wing attack line.
Rosario Dawson of course knows this. She knows it’s a low blow — particularly coming from a woman, as it implies Clinton was somehow to blame for the Lewinsky scandal — and yet she took the shot anyway. Because she’s apparently not above being a disgraceful asshole. Sanders, for his part, responded to Dawson’s comment exactly the way he responded to her comment about the supposed Clinton FBI investigation, which is to say he shrugged it off entirely. When asked by CNN whether Dawson’s invocation of Lewinsky was appropriate, Sanders responded that she’s a “great actress” who’s doing “great things” for his campaign. He also called her a “passionate fighter” and said that when all is said and done he hopes “that all of our people focus on the real issues facing working people and the massive level of income and wealth inequality that we have today.”
But see, that’s exactly the thing: When the woman introducing you at one of your own rallies is bringing up Monica Lewinsky, your people are not focusing on real issues. On the contrary, they — and by extension your campaign — are focusing on crap. You can’t pretend to be running an exclusively above-the-board operation, one far more above-the-board than the opponent you call corrupt, and have supporters and spokespeople coming on minutes before you claiming your political adversaries are “whores” or bringing up 20-year-old scandals that have no bearing whatsoever on the race. But that’s what Sanders is doing more and more as the clock winds down to oblivion on his Cinderella candidacy. He’s still claiming the moral high ground while his closest surrogates are given free rein to behave like petty political hitmen.
It bears repeating that Bernie Sanders is now facing a moment of truth for his campaign. Since March 15th he’s faced a nearly impossible uphill battle for the Democratic nomination, but with the loss of New York by double digits last week — and with the polls looking positively grim for him this Tuesday — he’s all but dead in the water. Put simply, unless Hillary Clinton is hit by a falling piano, he’s not going to get the nomination and he’s not going to get the White House. It’s over. Period. So the question now is how he wants to go out. Does he want to end his improbable run honorably and still be able to generate power and momentum for the progressive movement or does he want to go scorched earth and have his legacy be that of a spoiled child? This is his choice now.
One thing’s for sure, though: If he continues to sanction ugly, undignified horseshit like what came out of the mouth of Rosario Dawson yesterday, the only one he’ll have hurt is himself.
Update 4/25: Fuck it, I take it back. Maybe Tim Robbins really is the craziest Sanders surrogate. Either way, these people are vying for who can be the most unhinged and they’re doing their candidate a huge disservice by trafficking in bullshit and conspiracy theory.
This article has been updated for clarification