Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made headlines recently when she said that there's a "special place in hell" for women who don't support other women—specifically, for women who aren't supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Actress and activist Susan Sarandon disagrees. She's a supporter of Bernie Sanders and has been traveling the country sharing why she believes in his vision for shaking up the political status quo. Sarandon stopped by WGBH to talk to Jim Braude and Margery Eagan about that experience.
MARGERY EAGAN: Why are you traveling around to campaign for Bernie Sanders? Why does he mean so much to you?
SUSAN SARANDON: It’s so exciting to actually have a candidate that’s talking about a shift that’s a real shift, and to be in a position where you’re not just choosing the less of two evils. I mean, this is a guy that has been in politics serving our country for so long, and has yet to take any money from PACs, or pharmaceuticals, or Monsanto, or any of these things, has come through completely clean, and is talking about a real shift: a shift from government as usual, from the status quo, from power to the rich to putting it back in the hands of the people. I just don’t think ever again in our lifetime, unless Citizens United gets taken away, that we’re going to see anybody serve and be that guy.
He’s been consistent over the years in what he talks about and where he puts his body. I love the fact, for instance, on the most important foreign policy decision of my lifetime—whether or not to go into Iraq—that he, at a time which was very difficult and scary and so lonely to stand up and say 'slow down' and vote against this war, he stood there and made one of the most eloquent and incredibly courageous speeches and voted against the war. For me, that’s when I fell in love with him and lost my allegiance to Hillary.
JIM BRAUDE: Is that a disqualifier for Hillary [the Iraq vote?]
SARANDON: I want somebody who, when things get rough, can make the right decision. Not just experience, but judgement. I think judgement is a very important thing for the president of the United States.
BRAUDE: It’s not enough that [Clinton] apologized? Sanders, on an issue you care about—guns—has also made a bit of a switch.
When you're talking about taxing Wall Street's investments and finding money in other places, closing loopholes, I don't see how that could be done by someone who has accepted so much money from the very people who are undermining a progressive agenda.
SARANDON: She’s been late in coming to gay rights, to everything. She waits until it’s safe. I understand that’s the way business is done, but I think right now what we’re talking about is a real shift in the way we see our government working, and what they’re asking us to do is to not have the imagination to understand how this could work. When you’re talking about taxing Wall Street’s investments and finding money in other places, closing loopholes, I don’t see how that could be done by someone who has accepted so much money from the very people who are undermining a progressive agenda. You can’t be 'stop fracking' and then talk about how great fracking is all over the world. Or push GMOs and be the president of the United States.
I think what’s so exciting about this election is so many people are invested because they've been asked by Bernie Sanders to take it back, to be not just active in voting now but in the midterm elections. This has to be a complete regrouping of the way the system works. I think it’s so interesting they constantly ask him how he’s going to do things and they never ask her, because they understand it’s business as usual and it’s going to continue the way it’s been. Any of the major movements that have really changed things in this country have been difficult, have been hard, have had to use a huge amount of imagination in the midst of the gloomiest dark periods. In the South, to imagine you could desegregate—what kind of people were they that thought, 'we are going to take this on?' We’re in a moment that’s not going to happen again, at least not in my lifetime.
EAGAN: There is that fear among a lot of us that he’s talking about a utopia that has no chance in hell of happening.
SARANDON: Yet it happened during FDR. All the programs he’s talking about are straight from FDR. I think we’ve just been in a bad relationship for a long time and we’ve lost our self esteem, we’ve lost our ability to imagine things getting better. Everything he’s talking about has happened in other countries.
EAGAN: So we’re a sort of battered citizenry.
I think it's so interesting they constantly ask him how [Sanders] is going to do things and they never ask [Clinton] because they understand it's business as usual and it's going to continue the way it's been.
SARANDON: We’re battered! We should know that education is our right, it’s not some kind of privilege, and health care is a right. We’ve gotten very, very far away from the minimum wage—really...a $15 wage, is that impossible? We funded a trillion dollars for a war. We’re still throwing money there. It’s prioritizing. Our country is stronger if we get our infrastructure fixed—we'll have better jobs, people can have an education. Talking to kids who are paying off their school debt into their fifties, it’s crazy. People not getting the drugs they need because the co-pay is too high. This can’t make for a strong country and something drastic has to happen, and she’s not it.
BRAUDE: On the minimum wage…Sanders is a $15/hour guy. Clinton is a $12/hour woman. Barack Obama can't even get $10.10. Imaginination won’t get us to $15 if we can’t get to $10.10. Will it?
SARANDON: First of all, you’ve got somebody who’s worked with both sides of Congress and he’s got the reputation for being that guy, maybe because he was an independent for so long. Secondly, he’ll say it’s not going to happen, anyone who tells you that one person can do that is lying. What you have to do is vote in the midterm election, what you have to do is change the makeup of the Congress. What we have to do is tax Wall Street on their investments, and close the loopholes in other places, and cut back on the waste that’s in the military. There’s money out there that nobody’s talking about, because again, the Koch brothers have taken over. You’ve got these multimillionaires that are protecting what they have and that has to change.
This is a movement. It’s not just an election. When I went around the country, I was in Iowa, and you see people who are just fed up. They have to be part of what changes this. The point is there’s not an alternative. You can’t live on the way people are living now. That’s not healthy for the country. You have to find a way to do this. I think it costs $1.2 million for each tour of duty overseas. We have to be more creative in how we solve our problems and not just keep going back to the military complex, not just putting boots on the ground...look at the military and cut some of the waste that’s been going in. Keep the country strong, but the country is strong when we have an educated public, when you have people that can spend time with their kids.
Susan Sarandon is an actress and activist. To hear more from Sarandon, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.