Yup it’s that time again, when we catalog the missteps of Secretary of State Clinton’s campaign and its supporters. If only everything in life were this easy …
First, we’ll note that Sanders has won 42 percent of pledged delegates at the midpoint of the primary race. The Democratic race is now shifting more from the Southern states Democrats lose in general elections to those where Democrats win. Surprisingly, President Obama is said to be rallying donors around Clinton and promoting Sanders withdrawal (Sanders calls the idea “absurd” and premature). It’s a testament to Sanders’ resonance that ignores the many reasons exist why Sanders supporters may not back Clinton, as well as the significance of his progressive candidacy.
More broadly, recent arguments made to bolster Clinton are flawed, as per usual.
1. “Institutional sexism is making you criticize her” is one. Clinton supporters see Bernie Bros joined by a large cohort of Bernie Sisses. Also Obama and others earned less criticism for their war record and corporate donations. So, the latest harebrained theory goes, it must be “institutional” and “soft” sexism that prompts “gleeful liberal takedowns” of Clinton (although perhaps these Sanders’ smart-aleck supporters are more intelligent?)
Of course, the “institutional sexism” critique blatantly ignores the ruinous outcomes for other (Republican) establishment candidates who have been hammered for failed war advocacy, corporate donations, and harmful trade policies. It also discounts the fact that many in 2012 voted and campaigned against Romney, not for Obama, because of concerns like American militarism. Third, it overlooks Democratic and independent voters have political consciences shaped by the #blacklivesmatter and Occupy movements, not ineffective politics as usual. Finally, it discounts the fact many Sanders’ supporters are actually relatively easy on her, leaving her untested candidacy headed for rough waters, should she win the primary.
Also: how is it possible to argue were Bernie Bernadette everything would be different? A real Bernadette — Sen. Elizabeth Warren — would be trouncing Clinton 2:1 or 3:1, according to political operatives and observers alike.
2. You’re too young to understand institutional sexism. This charge, leveled at millennials, follows a pattern of narrow-minded and patronizing attempts to write off all those female supporters Clinton hoped would power her (Stephen Colbert has a hysterical take on a furious yet forgiving Mom Clinton, using a female identity the Secretary has drawn on numerous times). But are they saying the estimated 1 in 5 young women sexually assaulted at colleges (at more than 100 universities investigated for violating Title IX) and many more students involved in Title IX adjudications don’t “get” institutional sexism, as just one example?
And why are many women in their 40’s – the implied magical time of sexism epiphany – and older Sanders’ fans? A 70-something powerhouse of progressive activism told me, “We need him to finish up the work we were doing in the ‘70’s.” A 60-plus-year-old friend repeatedly perked up when I spoke about Sanders and his momentum last fall, despite drifting in and out of consciousness while on a breathing tube.
Deciding that militarism, corrupt banking, job security (not just equality), affordable college, and other issues are important, or that you want a candidate who has been consistent and is trustworthy, does not mean you don’t understand the impact of power structures. In fact, these anti-war, environmental, and feminist activists of all ages often have a greater understanding of institutional bias.
3. “Sanders is single issue candidate – Clinton’s website til recently asserted that she’s not a single issue candidate and she talks more about ending “all inequality.” Separately she and her surrogates have implied that Sanders only cares about the banks. How can she not understand that Sanders offers solutions to most contemporary challenges? Has no member of Team Hillary been to a rally by the Vermont populist?
Sanders’ believes inequality is a strong determinant of American security and opportunity. Author Les Leopold, who explains how “shameless financial strip mining” has destroyed the middle class; Thomas Piketty, author of “Capital in the 21st Century;” and millions of Americans agree. Inequality is the “connective issue” to others, as Leopold asserts. Clinton falls short when it comes to framing a coherent vision that will address an industry and its clients hugely generous to her family.
4. The revolution is not going to happen under a Sanders’ presidency – The New York Times, which endorsed Clinton, asserts this. However it does seem hard to argue that Obama’s limited advocacy — including chopping down bills into miniscule non-controversial bites, which still fail to pass, and nominating an older white man for the Supreme Court vacancy — have produced major wins. How can addressing the issues head on fail to grow social movements and bring about more change? In fact, the Times highlighted the Congressional successes of longtime visionary Sanders, before unethically editing that piece. A powerful candidacy that has already raised our national aspirations would galvanize the fight against corporate oppression.
5. Clinton has it hard this election because she’s a woman – Is Clinton hobbled by her superior media attention and unchecked distortions, enormous corporate and SuperPAC funding, apparent control over the debate schedule, virtual sweep of the Democratic political establishment in many states, purchase of superdelegates, millions from the banks, or something else? The term “coronation” is used for her ascendancy because the process is broadly perceived as rigged and undemocratic.
Recent media check: A quick series of blunders by Clinton received little attention. These include the comments that the Reagans started the national conversation on AIDS, her cozying up to W. at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, saying she wasn’t sure where Sanders was during the 1990’s health care fight (literally behind her), illegally consulting with her staff during the debate, and playing a huge role in the death of “Green Nobel” prize winner Berta Cáceres by condoning the 2009 Honduran coup. While these were barely covered (as was Sanders’ recent post-primary speech), the media swooped in for the old phenomenon of violence at a Trump rally; ironically his lack of a consistent ideology is much less threatening to corporations funding sham journalism.
6. “Sanders is a ‘red’, Clinton makes ‘hard choices’” – Sanders’ stances on Central America in the 1980’s for which he was criticized by Clinton were standard liberal positions. It’s pretty clear the pro-death squad and dictator governments have wreaked havoc. Clinton’s disastrous record in Iraq, Libya, Iran, Haiti, Honduras and other places, and her support for human rights violators has been highlighted in great pieces recently by Medea Benjamin and Glenn Greenwald. Additionally, our bombing “rules” are truly nonexistent, as Greenwald points out. Tough discussions are long overdue, but she isn’t having them.
7. Clinton is more electable – Poll after poll says not, even while Sanders’ competes under a rigged institutional structure. “Which Side Are You On, Hillary?”, a New York Times op-ed reviewing Clinton’s inconsistent record on labor union and trade, closes with the suggestion that corporate Democrats often lose to right-wing populists in swing state Wisconsin. Clinton has plummeted in the polls and now runs evenly with Sanders, while Sanders’ approaches earn respect from author and activist bell hooks who says her feminism doesn’t trump her militarism, and Asher Edelman, the inspiration for Gordon Gecko from “Wall Street,” who backs Sanders for economic reasons.
The fury and sadness of Sanders’ supporters is not that Sanders may lose — few believe he cares. It is that our return to the 19th century as our bellicose nation is financially strip mined calls for a candidate with commitment to reverse this huge, successful corporate power grab. Clinton’s leftward shift still leaves her far from addressing the challenges of our times.
Let’s debate the issues and records. Yes, it will require examining our militarism, our corporate-written regulations, and our supposed worship of “free trade.” It will mean asking how much inequality we will tolerate, determining what we want to accept as social rights, and plotting a path for climate change and environmental justice. But Americans during an election year deserve all this and more. Democracy means debate and we’re more than ready. #Becauseits2016not1876.