The remaining three parts of the series detail much more recent issues.
Andrea Peterson

This is definitely the most interesting response I’ve yet to receive, for what it’s worth. It’s thoughtful and unique, so I hope to give you an equally thoughtful response.

On one hand, you bring up some solid criticisms, some of which I disagree with, and others which are new to me- which is great. This is the whole reason I bothered to write something in the first place, to get this kind of conversation going. On the other hand, you have the most bizarre, twist ending of a conclusion this side of M. Night Shyamalan. Every single critique of Sanders I’ve seen attacks him for being too far to the left, too ideological, too all of that stuff. Yours is the first I’ve seen that complains he’s not left enough. But then, just as I’m about to take my hat off to you for such moral audacity, you reveal that Hillary Clinton is your choice, because to your mind, Bernie’s shortcomings are pretty much on par with hers, so at least she’s more realistic and skilled about politics. So… you’d rather go with the more right-wing candidate than settle for someone who isn’t left-wing enough for you. That there’s some choppy logic I’m still trying to process.

So let’s get to the specifics. First, for someone who doesn’t like assumptions, you make a pretty big one when you accuse me of not reading up on Bernie. Your smoking bullet of a news source is an unknown, homegrown blog I still can’t find on a websearch (I tried things like “feminist critique Bernie Sanders” for example. Pages and pages of everything else came up but that.) I’m not trashing it or implying that the feminism blog you sited “about social justice and cute things” is not worth my time; simply that you can’t seriously criticize anyone for not having stumbled upon this particular needle in the haystack. It’s literally someone’s blog. I appreciate you pointing it out to me, but I’d appreciate it more without the attitude.

Second: you’re concerned about a potential element of subconscious misogyny with Bernie. Okay, I guess it’s probably an accurate guess that Bernie doesn’t have a lot of trans friends or will ever be that interested in Safe Spaces, but come on. The guy comes from a very different generation than yours. That word there- misogyny- is one of those easy-to-throw, impossible-to-shake-off labels that are loaded with cultural baggage. I’m not saying you’re wrong about his priorities- he probably doesn’t feel the same passion about feminist issues than you do, given the difference in your ages and backgrounds- but using that label is kind of low. Or very low. And here’s what I can tell you on that subject:

First, Bernie listens. Yes, he believes the economy is top priority, and he believes economic issues are the basement-level foundation on which other issues like race and sexism grow out of. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, I know, but it’s still a fair and defensible one to make. You say it does “concrete harm” to think that way- I don’t. A lot of people don’t. The fact is, people are not going to be able to enlighten themselves up to your level of liberalism if they’re starving, looking for a decent job, or trying to get out of debt. So maybe his point of view doesn’t quite meet your tastes, but it’s not an invalid point of view- and, more importantly, it’s a much better point of view than Hillary’s on the same subject. So if Bernie’s doing concrete harm, what in the hell is Hillary doing, then, with her complete disinterest in things like Black Lives Matter? You’ve probably seen this Killer Mike video, which, yes, it’s been created to provoke maximum emotional response, but is still no less true or hefty in content. Bernie is interested in listening to young people with different perspectives; Hillary has no interest at all. I’ve seen her blow people off enough times on camera, or simply give them a blatantly plastic robot response, to believe she could ever spend ten seconds contemplating what it’s like to be in a poor black person’s shoes. The difference between the two candidates isn’t slight- it’s ginormous. I can’t predict who will accomplish what as president, but I have no doubt Sanders will be at lot more open to new ideas that Clinton. Does a ultra-left-leaning person as yourself really disagree with that?

And hey, I haven’t even brought up the Clintons’ complete responsibility for the huge number boost of African-American men going to prison since the 1990's. I’m assuming you’re at least familiar with Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which does a great job of parsing the facts out. Alexander was just on MSNBC the other night quite clearly explaining why Hillary is so well-loved by Black America, and why she is so undeserving of that love. Here’s a similar version in text. Yes, Bernie is trailing behind Hillary on the “popular-with-black-people” front… yet every single black intellectual I know of adamantly supports Sanders. Not just the folks I mentioned, but people like Cornel West, Spike Lee, Benjamin Jealous, Ta-Nehisi Coats… all of them have no problem with Bernie’s focus on the economy or his commitment to serving the black community. I’m not saying that conclusively proves you wrong, but it definitely shows you’re far from necessarily right. Now what about the other group you mentioned- women?

I’ll start and end with the biggest one: the Clintons’ fervent support of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act. It was a great way to impress voters that they were tough on crime, but it basically left working class, single mothers (and others) completely screwed without the safety net of welfare to fall back on. You know, because welfare moms are lazy and leeching off the system, as we all know. And before anyone claims that it seemed like a good idea at the time, and how could anyone have known it would turn out so bad, here is an incredibly detailed, lucid 1997 critique by Peter Edelman, who resigned from the post that Clinton himself had assigned him to because of this bill. Here’s a 2002 report by an economist confirming how little the Act had achieved 5 years later, and if I could find it, I’d link to a recent in-depth story (I thought it was by the L.A. Times, but oh well) that confirms, 20 years later, what a disaster the bill continues to be.

Now, both those acts were by Bill Clinton, I realize- but Hillary was extremely vocal about supporting both of them back in the day. Their careers are intertwined, like it or not, and if you’re “concerned” about some of Bernie’s past, potentially-troublesome actions, then these two acts alone should have you shitting bricks, pardon the expression. Sure, there are plenty of women that don’t like Bernie Sanders. Gloria Steinem, for one. But there are plenty that do. Bernie is “not inclusive enough” for your tastes, but, okay, are you waiting for a miracle candidate that is radically left-wing AND somehow manages to be embraced by every single woman and black person in this country? Because I hate to tell you, that’s never going to happen. Your experience is that plenty of progressive women feel marginalized by him. My experience is that I know more female Bernie Sanders supporters than I do male- and all of them are radically jazzed up about the guy. Not one has ever brought up any of the issues and trepidation you seem to have with him. Both our views are, of course, subjective observations and not concrete proof of anything- but that’s my point. For someone who claims to be so left-wing, you have yet to provide any concrete evidence that would favor a Hillary Clinton over a Bernie Sanders in issues of women or people of color. Even if that 4-part blog series is completely accurate in everything you are claiming (I read Part 4 after you mentioned it being more recent) nothing mentioned in there (which you basically repeated here) comes close to the actual damage caused by the previous Clinton reign. There’s lots of microscopic analyses about specific wording he used here and things he could have mentioned but didn’t there- all of it possibly true, but making points that are extremely precious. Yeah, I would have preferred that he voted yes instead of no on such-and-such bill, but seriously. Compared to the blatant sledgehammer actions mentioned above by the Clintons, are you quite sure about your progressive, leftist choice for 2016?

About your “serious ideological reservations”: it’s funny that you bring up Bernie’s Israel responses in the NYDN interview, because I thought that was actually one of the best parts. Here’s a Jewish man who wants to be president taking Israel to task in a major American newspaper for its share of blame in this ugly, tangled mess that has no end in sight. Every other major politician I’ve ever heard always waffles at the Israel question because they are afraid of upsetting the Jewish vote. Yet here’s Bernie speaking out as clear as day: Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, but that doesn’t give them the right to terrorize innocent people, either. If that’s not courage of conviction, I don’t know what is.

That same interview has him stating quite clearly “I’m a pacifist, I don’t believe in killing people in war, that’s not my position.” So I don’t know if he’s ever gone on record against drones- I’ll take your word that he hasn’t. But if that quote isn’t the next best thing, I’m not sure what it is you’re waiting for. The part that gets me isn’t so much your black-and-white desire to fight on the side of right- I admire that. You want people to stick to their guns 100% of the time, no compromises. Cool. I do, too. It’s when you claim that, since Bernie is not quite as radical as you, he is therefore just like Hillary Clinton on the issues, and therefore a hypocrite. At that point, you’re just being disingenuous; Hillary would NEVER say something so anti-war as what he said, because she isn’t anywhere near that philosophy. Sure, I can see Bernie in a situation where, as President, he’s reluctantly rationalizing a decision to send out some kind of air strike somewhere because of political and world pressure. But Hillary? Jesus, her hand is already reaching for the trigger now, and she’s not even in the White House. She’s got no moral qualms at all when it comes to sending troops over or declaring “No Fly Zones” as if the whole world’s just a fun game of Risk. “More hawkish than Bernie” doesn’t begin to describe the difference between the two. To lump them together in the same boat, especially in the subjects we’ve been discussing, is unfair to the extreme.

Yes, I agree with you completely on a lot of your values. We do need to care not just about America, but the world, and constantly work towards improving everyone’s life, not just ours. I don’t know that Bernie would disagree, but sure, he could be more vocal about that point. But all your basic arguments against him are that he has room for improvement; his foreign policy has room for improvement, his idea about trade don’t quite cover all the ground they need to… yes, sure, of course, agreed. You make an awful lot of assumptions when you fill in the Bernie blanks for him; the questions you pose are valid and necessary, but the answers have yet to be written. You certainly don’t have enough information to write them yourself, but you do anyway.

The part I really take issue with is your accusation of him being a hypocrite: “His leftism doesn’t go far enough. He’s campaigned dirty and been abrasive and uncooperative and pandered. His been dismissive toward POC. He’s voted for bad bills. He’s taken donations from the DNC; he’s supported by a super PAC (National Nurses United). None of this disqualifies him from the presidency in my view; however, it does disqualify him from the moral high ground over Hillary.”

Campaigned dirty? How? You mean when he calls Clinton out for the things she should be called out upon? Is that campaigning dirty? Dismissive towards people of color? You mean like in the clip I linked to, or the support he gets by some of the most vocal, critical black intellectuals we have? Voted for bad bills? Well, sure, I guess no one’s batting average is going to be 1.000, but come on- compare the two candidates’ voting records from a progressive, left-wing point of view and the contest is not even close. Yet you somehow end up on the Hillary side? Next, you accuse him of being supported by a super PAC: National Nurses United. Are you seriously going to argue that the special interests of nurses is on a moral equivalent to those of Wall Street? If so, you have the most bizarre concept of morals and ethics I’ve yet to encounter from a self-proclaimed progressive.

Again- you ask a lot of good questions about what Bernie would do in specific situations. To say you’re unsure or even skeptical of certain positions of his is fair. To say Bernie’s ideological shortcomings are close enough to Hillary’s that you would lean towards Hillary’s because “she’s a little more skillful at negotiating” blows my mind. You had me until that paragraph. I don’t claim that Bernie is “pure”- I don’t even really know what that means- but come on. I don’t know how old you are, but I’ve been waiting a long time for someone that wasn’t the same old shit. Barack said a lot of pretty things, but he didn’t fool me for a minute- I knew he was a centrist at best, nowhere near the progressive sweet talk he got elected on. But Sanders? This guy is the real deal. He’s flawed, he can use improvement- in short, he’s a human being- but he’s not bullshiting you. He’s the first genuine contender in a major party who gets it, and who’s not afraid to say it. I can’t hammer this point enough: if you truly hold the values you claim, this guy is your first genuine shot at the Hope and Change you’ve been asking for, and potentially the last one in a long time.

One final thought: for all the issues you mentioned caring about, you forgot the biggest one by far: the Environment. We’re living in a ticking time bomb. To be crude and blunt, we don’t have time to fuck around. Obama did precious little about our environmental crisis, and he’s given it a lot more airtime than Hillary has. We can agree to disagree about almost any other point here, but there is no way you’re going to convince me of this one: if only because of the countdown clock of our environment, your decision to back Hillary despite her holding the opposite values you do isn’t just naive. It’s downright suicidal.