Sanders Should Embrace Rogan Endorsement


Controversial comedian Joe Rogan recently endorsed Senator Sanders. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is incredibly consistent. He has propagated mostly the same message for at least 30 years, and it is a message that stands to the left of all of his Democratic primary opponents. Sanders’ consistency strikes a chord with millions of voters who feel they have been left out of the political process their entire lives. He instills in them the kind of trust that is required to build a movement capable of transforming a country, and he has recently won over an admittedly problematic comedian and podcaster, Joe Rogan.

Rogan does not have a clean track record. He spews ignorant views on transgender people, resorts to gendered and homophobic slurs and, in a particularly controversial segment, referred to entering a black neighborhood as walking into “Planet of the Apes.” His edgy humor targets a predominantly white, male, millennial audience. In addition, Rogan hosts a podcast with 211 million views, and these viewers are potential voters that corporate Democrats are now insisting that Sanders turn away.

If your number one priority is winning the 2020 election, then taking advantage of Rogan’s base of socially conservative young, white males is good electoral politics. Although Sanders is extremely popular among young voters, never before have voters under 35 arrived at the polls in the same numbers as baby boomers. With 2016 loss margins like 60,000 in Pennsylvania and 10,000 in Michigan, turning away socially conservative voters who are willing to compromise those stances for economic revolution is a ridiculous proposition. The Rogan base is exactly the type of youth voter that could win the entire election in 2020. This endorsement is a huge boost in that regard, and it further proves that there is an economic avenue to socially out-of-touch voters.

More broadly, though, rejecting problematic voters is a terrible way to build a working class movement. We reach voters where they are, and getting people we disagree with to sign on to our agenda is kind of the whole point. There is no compromise being made here: Rogan is pushing his base left, and we are staying right where we are. Coming from the perspective of someone dedicated to changing the hearts and minds of people to build bridges and educate the masses there is no controversy here. Rogan is not being signal-boosted for hate speech but rather for breaking with a problematic pattern and endorsing a progressive agenda. 

This attack does not square with the popular “electability” narrative that is weaponized against Sanders. Media often claim that Sanders lacks the ability to draw in the slightly right-of-center voters and independents that candidates like Senator Amy Klobuchar or Mayor Pete Buttigieg can. Now this is, to borrow a word from the Biden campaign, “malarkey,” and it has been from the beginning. Sanders consistently polls better with independents than the rest of the Democratic field, so those who have been following from the beginning never bought this narrative anyway. However, those uninformed now interpret Joe Rogan’s slightly right-of-center, politically independent endorsement as a concrete counterexample to the DNC narrative. Sanders, who they said could not reach across the aisle to right-wing independents, is now apparently reaching too far across the aisle by accepting the endorsement of a man who makes offensive statements. It would be nice to see some consistency in the attacks from the corporate center, but of course, we never will. Their narratives are never consistent because they have no consistent ideology. They will argue whatever points are necessary to advance their career, and there is never a reason to believe the arguments of tomorrow will logically follow the arguments of today. 

With this, it seems that the media is reaching for a story that will halt Sanders’ momentum. It is not genuine; it is manufactured. When former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cried that transgender rights pose a genuine concern for cisgender women, liberal media did not bat an eye. When Vice President Joe Biden claimed in 2019 that black parents held the blame for the educational performance gap between black and white students because they did not read to their kids, the pushback came largely from the Sanders camp. 

Democrats like Clinton and President Barack Obama, who celebrated endorsements from noted Iraq War criminals like Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell, have now found the nerve to lecture you on the ethics of a Rogan endorsement. Supporters of Buttigieg, the candidate who held a closed fundraiser in a billionaire’s wine cave, are now telling you that Sanders is reaching too far across the aisle. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s supporters, who dismiss that she harmed Native American communities for years by lying about her Native American ancestry, are now incredibly concerned about the offhand comments of a socially regressive white comedian. 

Since I began writing this article, Buttigieg has accepted the endorsement of podcast host Charlamagne tha God, who admitted to giving a woman a spanish fly, an aphrodisiac, and raping her in 2015. I have yet to see any centrists express outrage at the endorsement and amplification of a sexually violent individual.

Overall, the outrage is not in good faith. Stay educated, remember what we’re fighting for, and talk right past the detractors, because they are not listening.

Thomas Tedesco, FCRH ’22, is an integrative neuroscience major from Westwood, New Jersey.