Photo by Dan McCarthy
In our quadrennial presidential election process, it’s a given that Hollywood celebrities will splish-splash in the mudpit of presidential politics. But hearing actor X back candidate Y for reason Z tends to sway only the most flippant voters. A sweeping generalization, maybe, but it’s hard to believe anyone is professing devotion to Donald Trump due to Stephen Baldwin’s endorsement. Eight years ago, Bill Richardson didn’t exactly surge after Judge Reinhold showed up in New Hampshire to stump for the former New Mexico governor.
With all that said, some celebrities can help social media buzz, or in other cases lead to an optical embarrassment of riches for the press machine to mock (see: Mike Huckabee and Chuck Norris in 2008). In the case of Watertown, Massachusetts native Eliza Dushku, the daughter of an associate professor emerita at Suffolk University who focuses on politics in transitioning nations in Africa and Eastern Europe, it’s safe to say the Hollywood actress will do right by Bernie Sanders, who she’s flanking in New Hampshire this week.
In an interview in our pop-up newsroom in Manchester, we asked Dushku about growing up progressive in a house where political consciousness was as central to her upbringing as New England sports.
How did you get involved with coming up here for the Sanders camp?
About 9 am on Tuesday I got an email from the campaign saying I’d be announcing him in Keene at the Colonial Theatre. On the ride up I had to get my notes together … I was with my mother who thankfully is a political science and government professor. It was insane and intimidating. [We wrote] this five-minute introduction, and got to see him for the first time. I really believe in the man, so it’s great to see so many New Hampshire folks feel the same way.
Are you a political junkie?
You couldn’t grow up in our house and not have your eye on politics.
There’s a big narrative this cycle on the impact of “angry voters,” which taps into different things for different people, conservative and liberal. Thoughts?
I think understandably people are angry. Of course, I’m biased, [but] I think that a lot of people that are angry and for Trump—I don’t want to be patronizing—but I don’t think that they quite understand what he would bring to the country, versus what someone like Bernie would bring to the country. He’s honest, much more rational, and realistic as a presidential figure.
I’m back in college myself now, and a chunk of my classmates had to drop out after one or two semesters because they couldn’t afford it. Or they don’t want a lifetime of debt. My oldest brother is an environmentalist, was in the Peace Corps, works his butt off. Not lazy. He and his wife have college debt for a long time. He does well and I’m proud of him but it’s sad to see someone that works so hard and lives with such strong principles and works for the country bear that kind of burden.
Key first-term accomplishments for a President Sanders: Go!
We had a good start with healthcare reform under Obama. Healthcare is a pretty fundamental American need, and it’s a right in so many other countries in the world.
Do you think your celebrity status is a disconnect at all?
A lot of people say, “Oh you’re in Hollywood and you’re probably a millionaire, how could you support someone that will tax you so much?” I do fairly well, but I’m certainly no billionaire, and I look around and see [people] really struggling. Members of my own family, and friends. College or health-related debts, working multiple jobs and not being able to live off of it. Over 50 million Americans are classified as “having hunger.” It’s really a mess and we need someone like Bernie [and] if democratic socialism is what we need, then that’s what we need. People that are most afraid of [it] would be benefiting from it.
Socialism has such a negative connotation though. Is that something you want to change?
Absolutely. Perhaps it’s easier for me because I grew up in a house where my parents were Democratic socialists. So I’m huge on that. The label can throw people off and send them into a tizzy. It’s this bogeyman word—socialism—but it does work fairly well in the other countries I’ve visited in my life. The disparity in this country is out of control. And just getting the vote is not enough to help create equality.
Dan McCarthy is a freelance journalist based in Boston and a former editor of DigBoston. Follow him on Twitter @acutalproof.