2016 election

Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee Candidly Discuss the Presidential Election

Bernie Sanders Rally In Washington Square Park
Photo: 2016 Getty Images

Throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Spike Lee was a very vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, going so far as to release radio ads and special campaign videos on behalf of the septuagenarian Vermont senator. Although Hillary Clinton ended up clinching the nomination and Donald Trump the presidency the Brooklyn boys have maintained a friendship despite the losses. In a new, wide-ranging conversation for The Guardian, the duo sat down with each other to discuss everything from Clinton’s shocking loss to the future of Trump’s America. To begin, Lee brought up how Clinton falsely believed she had won the election before it officially ended.

SL Excuse me, if I may, sir; you know I love sports. I’ve seen it too many times, when a team thinks they’ve got it all won, just wrapped up, and you see players go down the sideline and start celebrating, and then they reach the goal line and fumble. The Clintons — and I’m not asking you for a comment; this is my opinion — thought they had it won. And what do the great coaches always say? Keep playing until there is no time on the clock! And it seems to me the Clintons were celebrating before the day was up.

BS [Mirthlessly.] Ha.

SL It was not Hillary Clinton’s birthright to be president of the United States of America! And Trump, he played it like he was going to keep going at this until the whistle blows, until time has run out.

BS Right. You’re right. Now, no one can deny that Trump was holding three or four rallies a day, he was running all over this country, working 20 hours a day. And that’s the truth. But I think that speaks to, Spike, something that goes beyond Hillary Clinton. It really goes to the very nature of the Democratic party.

Sanders revealed that although he was never offered by Clinton to serve as her vice-president, it’s highly likely that he would’ve accepted the job.

SL Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

BS No. Absolutely not.

SL Would you have taken it?

BS Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

SL I mean, we’re all looking upon the debris and trying to say, excuse my language, what the f? I mean, when I woke up that morning, the world is different. It’s a different world.

BS It is a very different world. And it’s a very frightening world. [Brusquely.] But we gotta get beyond that.

The two also touched on the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton’s campaign, especially in comparison to Barack Obama’s successful 2008 and 2012 runs.

SL Let me ask you another question. The coalition that Obama got, that put him in office — did the Clinton campaign think it would automatically win [those people] without having to work? I don’t understand it. Because I did not feel the energy there was for Obama — even for you — for Hillary Clinton. I respect the woman, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there.

BS I think nobody would argue with you on that. What we have seen is that in 2008 Obama ran a historical campaign where the turnout was extraordinarily high: enthusiasm in the minority community, strong support in the white working class, and that carried over in 2012. But in 2016, what we saw — I think your point is quite right — it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign. There was not the energy we have seen in the Obama campaign, and what ended up happening was voter turnout was low. She won the black community overwhelmingly, but turnout was low. She lost a lot of white, working-class people. That’s just the fact.

Meanwhile, a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers are currently urging Clinton to challenge the election results in three swing states.

Bernie Sanders, Spike Lee Discuss the Election