Bernie Sanders’ Showbiz Supporters Grapple With What’s Next

Bernie Sanders

A day after Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic nomination, Hollywood supporters of Bernie Sanders expressed disappointment and frustration, lingering doubts about her candidacy, and hope that his movement would endure.

Some of Sanders most prominent supporters acknowledged that the nomination race was over.

Mark Ruffalo, who appeared in ads for Sanders, tweeted on Tuesday night, “Congratulations @HillaryClinton and all her supporters for your Historical win. My Sanders family, let’s keep pushing our Progressive values!”

Writer-director Adam McKay, an early Sanders supporter who has been critical of Clinton and her ties to Wall Street, wrote on Twitter that “Bernie ran a great campaign full of real issues. But also exciting first woman ever as major party nominee. Hope Hillary kicks ass in DC.”

He added that he won’t give up on the Sanders movement, but “will vote for Hillary because of climate change and SCOTUS.”

On Tuesday, Sanders did not criticize Clinton, but he said that he would continue on to next week’s Washington D.C. primary and then to the convention in Philadelphia.

But the question is whether the nature of his campaign fight changes, to one that focuses on changes in the Democratic platform and in the delegate selection rules. Sanders flew back to Vermont on Wednesday, and is scheduled to meet with President Obama on Thursday.

Among many Sanders supporters, there is still wariness over Clinton’s ability to tap into some of Sanders’ signature issues, like campaign finance, Wall Street reform and environmental issues, like fracking.

Director Matthew Cooke, who helped make a series of videos for Sanders, told Variety that it’s still too early to say whether he will back Clinton in the fall, as much as he sees it as important to prevent Donald Trump from reaching the White House.

“She needs to earn the votes,” he said.

He said that Sanders could “really use all the power that he has and the overwhelming support with young people” to influence Democratic positions on climate change, criminal justice reform and getting money out of politics, among other issues.

“It is really about the platform,” Cooke said. “Is the Democratic party willing to move to more progressive values and to think big, and not think incrementally?”

Cooke said that he worries that the Democratic party “has put forward possibly the worst candidate against Trump when the mood of the country” is for populist change.

He gave Clinton credit for citing the need to get money out of politics in her speech on Tuesday, but “are we going to see a real substantive policy shift? Are we going to see her come out and say, ‘Yes, I want to ban all fracking. Is Hillary Clinton willing to come out and say, ‘Let’s ban all for-profit prisons?’ Or let’s break up the big banks?’ We are talking about serious stuff. These are not small items.”

He raised the prospect of a third party candidate, like Jill Stein of the Green Party.

“I think for some people it is emotional, but for others it is policy based,” he said. “They would be happy to support someone who had real progressive platforms.”

Some Sanders supporters tweeted out their frustrations at the Associated Press for calling the race on Monday night, the eve of the California primary. Turnout figures are not yet available, but many supporters believe that the net effect was to depress turnout, leading to Clinton’s victory by a margin wider than polls had predicted. With 100% of precincts reporting, Clinton captured 56% of the vote to Sanders with 43%.

Sanders’ support from the entertainment community was heavy among artists, musicians and other creative types, and his campaign made heavy use of celebrity surrogates, from “Hunger Games” star Josh Hutcherson to 90-year-old Dick Van Dyke. Many were outspoken in their support of Sanders’ message, that the system in Washington was “rigged” to favor corporations and special interests. One of Sanders’ most outspoken supporters, Susan Sarandon, was out of the country and not available for comment, her assistant said.

Will there be a unified party come July?

Clinton herself tried to appeal to Sanders supporters by alluding to the disappointment she faced after losing to Barack Obama in 2008. It took several days after the final primary for her to concede.

Clinton also credited Sanders for pushing issues like income inequality, in a way that has been “very good for the Democratic party and for America.”

Norman Lear, the legendary producer and backer of progressive causes, said on Tuesday that he doesn’t “know whether I am optimistic or prayerful. It makes too much sense not think everyone won’t come together on this.”

He said that “to the extent [Sanders] has proven himself a leader. I think he would lead in this direction.”

There was some disappointment that Sanders did not acknowledge the history that was made on Tuesday night.

Andy Spahn, president of Gonring, Spahn and Associates, said via email that it was a “historic moment for women and for America and Bernie missed it!” His public affairs consulting firm has clients including Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, early backers of Clinton.

Another Sanders supporter, Kal Penn, suggested that it is time to face the reality of a loss and move on.

“She wasn’t my primary pick either but can we just not be the cousin who flips over the monopoly board because someone else got Park Place?” he wrote on Twitter.