Jonathan Daniel Brown is a hardcore supporter of Bernie Sanders. If you were looking to be pejorative, you could label him a Bernie Bro, but he uses the term “Berine or Bust-er.” Brown is also a 26-year-old actor living in Los Angeles, having appeared in starring roles in the films Project X and Kid Cannabis.
For many observers both in the media and the general public, Bernie Sanders’s White House bid effectively ended yesterday, as the last major primary states headed to the polls and pushed Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead all but out of reach. Say what you will about the Sanders campaign, but it activated a passionate and vocal grassroots following in American politics. And now those voices find themselves increasingly excluded from the national conversation as we turn towards a presumptive general election matchup between Clinton and Trump.
In order to get a sense of what yesterday means to Sanders supporters, as well as what the future holds, we called Brown this morning and asked him about his tumultuous experience at the polls yesterday, and what it’d take for Clinton to secure his support.
Can you describe your experience at the polls yesterday?
I live across from my polling place, which is really convenient. So I walked over, I got up bright and early. All of the polling volunteers were nice. I had registered to vote many months before, and [I] actually voted at this polling place before. When I got there, one of the volunteers went through the list and said, “You’re not here.” I said, “Well, no, I am here. Here’s a picture on my phone that shows that I’m registered here, here’s a screenshot of the LA Votes website, and also the Secretary of State database that shows I’m registered to vote.” They said, “No, you’re not on the roll, take this provisional ballot.” I said, “No, I’m not going to take a provisional ballot.” They announced Hillary Clinton won the election yesterday, so a provisional ballot, which could get counted in up to 30 days, you might as well throw that in the fuckin’ trash. So I said, “I’m not gonna take a provisional ballot, I’m registered to vote here.” The guy said, “Okay, you’ve got to leave.” And I said, “I’m not going! This is my right to vote. This is the one thing that we get to do as American citizens, and if you’re going to take that away because you’re impatient, because you don’t want to look through a list and make sure you didn’t screw up, then what’s the point?”
So he gets really agitated, and he starts yelling at me, “You gotta go! You gotta go!” I start posting shit on Twitter about it because that’s all I use Twitter for, the election. (I don’t use it for career shit anymore because Twitter is going to be out of business next year, and it’s being kept afloat by Super PACs. It’s all just bots and bullshit. There’s nothing real there, it’s all manufactured ads. It’s not a social network, it’s a chatroom with ads everywhere, and on the stock market.) Anyway, I went on Twitter, and I started posting about it. I found the LA voter registrar, a guy named Dean Logan. He responded to all of the screenshots I posted and said, “You’re not purged. You should be available to the polls. There shouldn’t be a problem with you voting.” And I said, “Okay, but they’re not letting me vote.” And he said, “Hold on.”
While he was doing whatever he was doing I called the state voter hotline and the Bernie voter hotline and I left a couple messages. The state voter hotline called me back and said, “Just take the provisional. I’m sorry, but you know, we promise that we’ll count them.”
So I go outside and I get on the phone with this guy Dean Logan after talking to a few people. And he basically said, “This is your correct polling place, you have the right to be there.” So I go back inside, and I said “I’m not going until I vote, and I have this guy Dean Logan on the phone.” One of the clerks, this woman takes [the phone], and they’re talking for 20 minutes, and this other volunteer, Carlos, keeps yelling at the clerk, “Who cares? Just make him leave.” And while this clerk is on the phone—I forgot her name, I think it was Carol—the volunteer calls the police while I’m standing there. He’s telling the police I’m being disruptive, this one firefighter approaches me, and then another voter. And they tell me that I need to come with them. I said, “No I’m not going.” They get closer and closer, and I’m like, “You guys need to back off, give me my personal space, this is not okay. I’m here to vote.” And this one guy’s like, “You’re being so disruptive, I want to vote too.” And I said, “That’s fine, you can vote. I’m not stopping you from voting. I’m just standing here and not leaving until I vote, because I am registered to vote here.”
It was just this back and forth. And then, it’s like it was a cartoon or something, the police show up, I walk outside with my phone, and then Dean Logan goes, “Oh yeah, you’re fine. Go back in.” So I go back in, the police are there, they’re just standing there. I didn’t even talk to them at any point. They showed up, I left, I came back, they’re still standing there. The guy, Carlos, he just chucks my ballot at me, he’s pissed that I get to vote. I got a real ballot, not a provisional one. I got a genuine Democratic ballot. It probably won’t make much of a difference because it was rigged from the day before anyway. I’m going to leave the Democratic party, I’m gonna go independent, because I can’t support Hillary Clinton. I’m a Bernie or Bust-er.
“It’s been such a big part of my life, and part of me is a little scared to see it end. I’ve been fighting for what I believed in for so long, that I don’t want to revert back to this bullshit status quo that has been screwing all of us.”
As you were posting your experience online, did you find that a lot of people were having similar problems?
A couple things happened. One was that the LA Times picked up some of the Twitter stuff at the same time as this Dean Logan guy hit me up. Part of me wonders if that was like a coordinated thing where they’re trying to make themselves look good, I don’t know. But it was in the LA Times and I start getting all these messages, emails, and tweets from random people saying, “I’m going through the same thing. I’m forced to take a provisional ballot. I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to take it.” And this one woman got in touch with me, her name is Jasmin Tuffaha, she works at, like, NPR. And so she tells me that she saw I fought back and got my ballot. She wrote, “Challenge provisional ballots, I did and won. #PrimaryDay…(Inspiration by @JonathanDBrown).” That was so fucking flattering. I was beyond flattered that this woman and a few people were inspired enough by me just saying basically, “I want to vote.” And they did the same thing and they got to vote.
I’ve been fighting for the Bernie campaign for over a year. I volunteered for the Clooney counter-party, I was at Occupy CNN, we threw money on Hillary’s motorcade, we marched at a bunch of news stations, I was canvassing, phone banking. It’s been such a big part of my life, and part of me is a little scared to see it end. I’ve been fighting for what I believed in for so long, that I don’t want to revert back to this bullshit status quo that has been screwing all of us. And that scares me. But at least I know that I could do one thing and fight for my vote and if other people could see that and also at least use that as encouragement or inspiration to fight back and vote, that’s awesome.
So you’re saying pretty flat-out that you won’t vote for Hillary. What are your qualms?
I can’t vote for Hillary Clinton because of her actions in convincing President Obama to bomb Libya and take their oil. It sounds a lot like what Trump wants to do. I can’t support Hillary Clinton for her immigration policies, which she’s on video saying, “Send the kids back. Send a message.” I can’t do that, I can’t abide by it.
To me it seems like Trump with softer language. Trump says all of these horrible things about Muslims and immigrants, but Hillary has killed Muslims and immigrants with her horrible policies, so it’s this weird, messed up question of what’s worse: scary, mean words or actions. And to me Hillary’s actions, and Bill’s actions as well in the ‘90s, are so deplorable, and so hypocritical in terms of how they treated low income people, how they treated people who were losing their jobs as factories closed, the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline which the Clintons created, where basically in the wake of Columbine every kid is now a potential school shooter, or in the wake of 9/11, where every weird guy is a potential terrorist, I see that all as one big thing that started with the Clintons, went into the Bushes, and continues with President Obama.
The Clintons with their third wave politics managed to take some socially positive things from the left while abandoning the New Deal socialist elements, and creating this thing that, while maybe it worked for a few years, is completely unsustainable in the long run and will just lead to more war and chaos and, frankly, more unemployment and economic malaise. I just cannot vote for her. That doesn’t mean I will vote for Donald Trump. He’s a racist, bigoted piece of shit. I can’t vote for that guy either. I don’t know what to do. I have no answer. I’m considering writing Bernie in. Because the way I see it, it feels like a false choice. It doesn’t feel like something real. Triangulation, which the Clintons are known to do, basically involved pivoting to the center, to the right, to the left, but as a result, nobody knows what they believe in. Nobody knows what Hillary Clinton believes. Everything is so focus-tested, numbers based, it’s like she’s an android. And she doesn’t have the leadership qualities. All she manages to do is she has an extremely competent team that is frankly brilliant at media spin. That’s what they do best. What happened with the Associated Press calling the election for Hillary a day before California’s historic vote is frankly criminal. I think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be great cellmates. I think they should both be in jail, but since we’re not going to see that happen, in terms of how I’m gonna vote? I’m probably going to write in Bernie, but the truth is that I don’t know.
The big argument among Hillary supporters has become that it’s time to come together, and that we all have the common goal to keep Trump out of the White House. But it sounds like you’re not convinced that he’s worse than she is.
I’m not so sure that a vote for Hillary makes any difference. I don’t see how what she would do would be any better than what Donald Trump would do. In fact, I see it as the same, but with an emphasis on controlling language. The Clinton campaign has feigned being offended. That’s what they do, they pretend to get offended over and over again, and then they divide people by race, by gender, by age. Everything is about taking a potential voter and isolating them into a box that they can be in. Like, “Oh, that’s Jonathan. He’s a 5’6” Jewish straight white cis-gendered male who is in the entertainment industry. We can figure him out.”
The Republicans know their base, the Democrats don’t. The Republicans know, and they’ve always known that most of their voters are undereducated, usually underemployed people who are struggling. Usually white, usually lower class, and usually easy to manipulate with racism or bigotry. They’ve known that, even though they’re now pretending to be shocked by Trump. The Republicans have always been racist. The Democrats have always pretended, and I believed them until a couple of years ago, that they gave a shit, that they gave a shit about the poor, helping women, helping gay people, helping minorities. I don’t see that today. I see platitudes. I see buzzwords. I see words like “intersectional.” It’s gibberish. They don’t actually help people, they’re just language police.
So is there anything her campaign could do to win your vote?
No, because over the past year, Hillary Clinton has created the Bernie Bro slur, she’s called us misogynists, they’ve called us racist. They blamed Bernie Sanders and his supporters for Sandy Hook. They called the election a day before we got to vote. These are all unacceptable. How could I vote for someone who doesn’t care about my vote, doesn’t want me to vote?
What are you referencing when you say she blamed Bernie for Sandy Hook?
Hillary Clinton tried to tie Bernie’s extremely-strict-but-not-as-strict-as-her gun control policy to the Sandy Hook killings, which is disgusting. Because in terms of his gun control policy he’s basically a Nevada Democrat. He’s slightly more center, which makes sense when you consider that the people who live in Vermont probably go deer hunting, and there’s a possum on their lawn they’ve got to shoot it or shoot at it or something. He’s always talked about how there’s more gun violence in urban areas than rural areas. Guns are not a deal breaker for me, to me, guns are not an election issue. To me, mental health is. To me, healthcare is. To me, ending a 15-year pointless war over George Bush’s lie matters, fixing our criminal justice system where blacks and hispanics and other minorities are incarcerated at insane rates for crimes as petty as smoking weed and shoplifting. We have police abuse, gun violence coming from the cops. These are, to me, the issues.
Do you feel like there’s any hope for the spirit of the Sanders campaign to carry on at the congressional, state or local levels?
There are some down ballot people that we’ve been able to support. There’s Tim Canova, who’s trying to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida. I voted for Steve Stokes when he was running for Senate, but unfortunately Kamala Harris beat him. Kamala Harris is an establishment politician, a Democrat who was endorsed by Elizabeth Warren who is a turncoat. Kamala Harris is for the death penalty. How Elizabeth Warren could endorse a candidate for the death penalty makes me ill. There are a few other down ballot people that are really great. There’s one socialist running in Seattle, who’s great. She’s already elected. Kshama Sawant, she’s great. Nina Turner, she’s wonderful. Nina Turner has been an incredible surrogate for the campaign—an African-American woman from Cleveland. I think she’s an assemblywoman, she gives a shit. Honestly, that’s all we want our politicians to do is to give a shit about us, it’s not rocket science.