Cynthia Nixon The panicked Democratic establishment wants a 'unity' candidate. That's Bernie.

Unity shouldn’t mean that people who are suffering are told to just shut up and vote Democratic and we’ll get to your problems later.
Image: Cynthia Nixon speaks to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders during a rally in New Hampshire on Feb. 10, 2020.
Cynthia Nixon speaks to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders during a rally in New Hampshire on Feb. 10.Michael Nagle / Redux file
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By Cynthia Nixon, actor and former candidate for governor in New York state

Last week I came out as a 2016 supporter of Hillary Clinton — and a 2020 supporter of Bernie Sanders.

Four years ago, I was excited about electing a woman president. I admired Secretary Clinton’s experience, and I thought she was the unbeatable candidate in the race. While I loved what Bernie was saying, I found it hard to believe at the time that he could get elected. He seemed almost too good to be true.

Unity means that we rally behind a candidate who sees us all and has a platform that creates the most good for the greatest number of us.

But hindsight is 2020. Donald Trump won for a number of reasons we all can name — from the Russians to James Comey to the Clinton baggage to misogyny to a lack of a Democratic ground campaign in battleground states. But the fact of the matter is, most crucially, Trump got elected because he called out the hidden-in-plain-sight truth that things aren’t working in this country for far too many people.

Trump spoke directly to primarily white working-class voters, and he lied to them. He told them that he felt their pain and was going to fix it. And then he wrapped it all up in a big ugly bow of white supremacy that placed the blame on the “other.” He distracted us from the real problem — which is that billionaires like him have rigged the system to such an obscene degree that the three wealthiest families in America now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country combined.

Four years later, the world looks very different, in part because of the damage and division Trump has wreaked on our country. But that’s not all that has changed; what once seemed like Bernie’s “pipe dream” is now within grasp. Americans are coming together across race and class and uniting behind an agenda that considers the needs of the person who can’t afford the cost of their insulin above those of the person who owns a nesting-doll yacht.

I look at the range of candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night, including, for the first time, billionaire Mike Bloomberg. While the competitors place themselves at various points on the spectrum, the spectrum they are placing themselves on only exists because Sanders has completely reshaped what we are debating.

Yet, now that Sanders has led the Democratic field to nearly unequivocally assert that yes, the time for universal health care has come, why are we considering the candidates who are johnny-come-latelys to this position and the baby steppers who are hesitant about implementing it? Why aren’t we all supporting the man who “wrote the damn bill?”

When we are in agreement that climate change is the biggest threat facing us as a country and a planet, why are we considering anyone who doesn’t unequivocally embrace the Green New Deal? Why are we willing to accept anyone whose campaign is underwritten by the fossil fuel industry?

Can we step back for a moment and acknowledge that our ever-widening income inequality and the inability of a staggering number of Americans to make ends meet are the circumstances Trump exploited to get elected? If we can, how then can we not support the candidate who is addressing head-on the economic circumstances that the vast majority of Americans face? As our economy skews more and more toward wealthy people and the billionaires who are gorging themselves at the banquet, how can we elect a billionaire and expect him to reorder our country so that it works for everyone?

The mantra we hear out of a panicked Democratic establishment is that we must have “unity.” Unity shouldn’t mean that people who are suffering are told to just shut up and vote Democratic and we’ll get to your problems later. We are not unified when white candidates tell the most faithful base of the Democratic Party, African Americans, that the racist policing policies that damaged the lives of hundreds of thousands of young black men should be swept under the rug. We are not unified when we tell young people to ignore the dire projections of scientists and accept a “compromise” on the environment that will leave their future in peril. We are not unified when we tell women to accept a candidate whose misogynistic comments rival those of his fellow billionaire currently in the White House.

Unity means that we rally behind a candidate who sees us all and has a platform that creates the most good for the greatest number of us.

That unity candidate is Bernie Sanders. Bernie has assembled a wildly diverse, beautiful mosaic of supporters — from young women in headscarves to old men in overalls and everyone in between. Bernie is speaking to the core issues that matter to the vast majority of Americans on the left, on the right and to people who have no use for politics. He’s the only candidate who has built an army of small donors capable of competing with Trump’s fundraising machine. And even better news, poll after poll shows that Bernie beats Trump in the general election.

We need to stop worrying about finding a centrist candidate who “checks all the boxes” or seems the most traditionally “electable.”

We need to stop worrying about finding a centrist candidate who “checks all the boxes” or seems the most traditionally “electable.” Instead of voting based on what we think other Americans will like — something that Democrats are not very good at, given our history with “electable” nominees such as John Kerry and Clinton — we should vote for who we believe in.

We need the candidate who will inspire voters to show up at the polls on election day, and spend days, weeks, months getting all their friends and family to as well.

We are all desperately worried about finding the candidate who can take out Trump, and some keep making the argument that we must compromise our values and needs to achieve that. I’ve got good news: With Bernie Sanders, we don’t have to.