The Stigma of Openly Supporting Hillary Clinton

A Clinton supporter exits a rally in East Los Angeles on May 5. Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ Southern California News Group

Hillary Clinton spoke to a crowd of supporters in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 5. By all accounts, the atmosphere inside was initially warm and celebratory among the supporters gathered in the gymnasium of East Los Angeles College. But during Clinton’s speech, multiple anti-Clinton protesters were removed from the event after interrupting her, shouting, and chanting while she was speaking. She ended her speech early due to the interruptions and shouting from protesters in attendance.

As they left the gymnasium, Clinton’s supporters were forced to walk through a gauntlet of harassment. Anti-Clinton protesters lined the gym’s exit on both sides, and as attendees left, they shouted obscenities at Clinton’s supporters. “F*ck you!” one man screamed into a woman’s ears using a megaphone. Witnesses report that protesters called female Clinton Supporters gendered slurs and suggested the supporters commit suicide. According to twitter reports, one protester snatched a sign reading “We love you Madam Prez!” out of a little girl’s hands and tore it up in front of her — Hillary had signed the poster herself. The protesters held signs reading “LIAR LIAR LIAR,” “HILLARY FOR PRISON,” and “BERNIE 2016.” Chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” echoed through the gauntlet.

I’ve never experienced anything close to the level of verbal assault endured by the Clinton supporters in East LA, but I learned quickly in this primary season that if I openly support Hillary Clinton, I will be confronted. When I speak positively about her online, I can expect to be swiftly reprimanded and even shamed by people who support other candidates. People I’ve always had friendly relationships with have called my integrity into question because I support the candidate who best represents my political priorities.

I’ve been called a “$hill” more times than I can count. I’ve been accused of being paid by Super PACs to support her publicly when in reality, I donate to Clinton’s campaign every month. I’ve been accused of voting with my genitals.

Protesters confront a Clinton supporter exiting a rally in East Los Angeles on May 5. Photo source: Katherine Kauffman via Twitter

These comments aren’t coming from conservatives. Until this primary, I’ve never been at odds with other liberals. I never thought the words “Democratic Party” would carry a negative connotation to so many left-minded people. I’m not used to being labeled as one of the bad guys, and this primary has even made me empathize with Republicans who are villainized for their choices at the polls. During this primary, one constant remains: if I say something positive about Clinton, someone will show up to question my morality, my understanding of politics, or my competency as a voter.

It’s important to note that not all Bernie Sanders supporters feel inclined to attack Clinton supporters. Some of the people I’m closest to in this world support him, including my boyfriend and close friends. They have never attacked me for supporting Clinton, and we’ve had many thought-provoking discussions about the race. Unfortunately, the majority of my interactions with more radical Sanders supporters online have been the opposite of productive and respectful.

People absolutely have a right to disagree with me, and to ask me questions about why I support Clinton. I welcome political discussions, especially with people I disagree with. But the anti-Hillary vigilantes online aren’t interested in nuanced, civil discussions — they’re interested in shaming Hillary supporters and making them answer for all of Clinton’s perceived failings. It’s never “tell me which parts of her platform appeal to you. I have some concerns about X.” It’s always “How can you vote for a liar who is bought by corporate interests? How?!”

Hillary is not a perfect candidate. There are many valid criticisms of her, and she has certainly made mistakes in her 30-year political career. I don’t regard her as a pinnacle of political purity. In fact, I disagree with her on several issues. I agree with many people that we need campaign finance reform, and I see the hypocrisy in her calling for campaign finance reform while simultaneously benefiting from the current law. But to me, the presidency encompasses so much more than the mechanics of a campaign, and Hillary Clinton’s approach to policy aligns with my own more closely than any other candidate. I believe she is by far the most qualified candidate in either field to lead this country, and my support for her isn’t all about pragmatism — believe it or not, she inspires me. She has been attacked and knocked down and had her name dragged through the mud by Republicans for decades, and she is still standing, still fighting. I admire her resilience, her capacity for compromise, and her toughness. I support her with joy and without apology.

I’ve heard people question how it’s possible that Clinton is winning the election when you hear so little from her supporters online. One reason your Facebook feed isn’t brimming with glowing pro-Clinton posts is because when you say nice things about Hillary Clinton online, you will face a barrage of ridicule and spite from purer, more “progressive” liberals. If you know you’re undoubtedly going to be taken to task over posting a video clip that inspired you, you may think twice about sharing it. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing defense with multiple people in the comment section who are attacking my integrity. It’s exhausting.

My goal is not to paint myself as a victim because people confront me over my support for Clinton. I’m not looking to be consoled because someone was mean to me on the internet. I don’t expect people to validate or celebrate me for supporting her. But the onslaught of ideological purity tests projected by anti-Hillary revolutionaries isn’t inspiring, and it’s not a catalyst for change. There’s nothing admirable about dismissing and villainizing people you disagree with, and I long for a primary race where we approach each other with our hearts and minds open to an array of perspectives and opinions.

We’ve all witnessed the gradual destruction of the Republican party as a result of the Tea Party’s rise. Increasingly, factions of the left seem to be following their example of radicalism, intolerance, and rumbling hatred. We are better than this. We have an opportunity to create positive change in our country and in our world, but that won’t happen if we divide ourselves into the worthy and the unworthy, the revolutionary and the dreaded establishment, the ideologically pure and the evil status quo. I implore every liberal voter to consider what’s truly at stake in this election. We are going up against a bigoted demagogue who threatens the safety and the civil rights of millions of Americans. The idea of a Trump presidency is no longer a fantasy for misogynists and racists, it is a reality we must fight.

I don’t expect Bernie Sanders supporters to become cheerleaders for Hillary. I don’t expect them to make calls, donate, knock on doors, or sing her praises. We $hills can take care of that. But if you claim to value the rights of millions of your fellow Americans, if you believe in progressive goals, if you follow Bernie’s philosophy of “Not me. Us.” I do expect you to vote blue.

There is nothing progressive about intolerance and hatred. If we come to consider compromise a destructive force in democracy, we all lose. It is not revolutionary to berate people you disagree with until they give up and shut up. We will not achieve progress by tearing each other apart because of our differences — change will only come when we learn to work together despite those differences. As Hillary says, there is much more that unites us than divides us. Let’s come together to defeat the evil we face with all the determination and strength we can muster.