Why Bernie Sanders Is the Best Candidate for Senior Citizens (Guest Column)

Dick Van Dyke for Bernie - Publicity - H 2016
Fred Guerrier/Revolution Messaging

Dick Van Dyke for Bernie - Publicity - H 2016

"Older people often get frightened by labels [like 'socialist'], and I'm here to tell them they shouldn't."

In America there's always been a tension — a delicate balance — between capitalism and democracy, and when the pendulum swings one way or the other too far, things get sticky. During the '50s and '60s, we were pretty much all in it together as citizens: We got the Civil Rights Act passed; there weren't economic crashes, because regulations were in place; and almost any American who was willing to work could earn a decent living. But in recent years, things have gone too far in the other direction — we're practically an oligarchy now — and we as a society urgently need to stop worrying so much about big banks and big businesses and start worrying more about people.

That's why I'm supporting Bernie Sanders for president.

Bernie, whom I went to Reno to campaign for ahead of the Nevada caucuses and introduced at a rally in Santa Monica on May 23, gets called all sorts of names. "Socialist" is supposedly a bad one, but he isn't any more socialist than the New Deal that enabled America to emerge from the Great Depression and become the world's greatest superpower. The good news is that millennials aren't particularly worried about labels — they're focused on ideas, such as everyone paying their fair share in taxes, and that's why Bernie is doing so well with them. But older people often get frightened by labels, and I'm here to tell them they shouldn't. (I'm 90 years old, and I like to give young politicians like Bernie a hand up!) They're just words.

Some people say Bernie's platform is unachievable in a divided government — that universal healthcare and free college are things that President Obama would have seen through if he could have, but he could not. Bernie, however, is actually very realistic: He acknowledges that he cannot achieve these things without the support of a movement behind him — a "revolution" — that compels Congress to support these sorts of changes. And he has found tremendous support in response to that call to action. Inevitably, any of the candidates' major initiatives would be watered down by Congress — which is why it's all the more important to support the guy who's swinging for the fences.

I recognize, and so does Bernie, that he faces an uphill climb to the nomination — and if he doesn't end up getting it, you better believe that I'll be casting my vote in November for Hillary, because the alternative is a nightmare. (The last thing that scared me as much as Trump was the Cuban Missile Crisis — if he's elected, I think we'll be at war almost instantly.) But if between now and the convention Bernie can help to swing the pendulum back in the right direction, that's very important. And that's why I'm encouraging my fellow Californians to vote for him in the California primary on June 7.

This story first appeared in the June 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.