Clinton Feminists Are Not Feminists
Caitlin Johnstone

Hey! Sanders supporter here. As in, I took the time during the primaries to write up a piece about why he was a significantly better choice than Clinton.

Okay? Okay.

Saying that people upset with Sanders for this move are all just anti-everything he stands for and no-true-feminists is about as accurate as diehard Clintonites saying that “Bernie Bros” just hate women and don’t want one in the White House.

And you can judge me how you like, but this is highly inaccurate and incredibly insulting for the hardcore reproductive choice activist that first pointed this out to me, a friend I’ve known for six years and who has worked tirelessly — and for free — to directly, physically protect abortion rights (in Texas, no less).

She was the one who first pointed this out to me, and as a Sanders supporter, I understood why she was upset. I personally don’t buy the “purity test” thing as a flaw, but I do know that Sanders’ messaging re: Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment can be summed up with the first sentence of one of his debate responses, after she specified her plan for environmental policy:

“Not good enough.”

These words stuck with me as a big reason I wanted him to win the primaries. The driving underlying narrative of his platform — which remains true — was that the Democratic party can do better on promoting progressive left policy, to uplift all people and to uplift marginalized people. I saw him resolve his initial potential issues with BLM and I was even more hopeful.

So comparing him to Hillary Clinton, or to the DNC, is hugely flawed. Sanders is not just the current progressive standard bearer; he got there specifically in opposition to continuing to accept less. He is held to higher expectations, and he did that to himself, on purpose. Even if you accept that this is exactly something Clinton or the establishment in general would do, for Sanders to now act like them in this way sends a specific contextual message that it wouldn’t for them.

The fact that Mello can’t actually make policy in the position he is currently running for doesn’t negate that Sanders lent him specifically his political weight; unless mayor is the last office you’re allowed to hold, he’s still furthering the political career of someone with anti-choice beliefs and votes with not just a campaign, but a rally by a nationally popular figure.

You can compare him to the poor choice of Tim Kaine, but Mello doesn’t come out well there:

  • Heath Mello’s entire voting record on abortion is anti-choice, while Kaine’s voting record shows a decisive policy shift when elected to the senate, to the point that he opposed the same type of bans he’d supported in the past. You can be skeptical of the change, but at least that change exists.
  • Kaine was announced less than a week before the end of the Democratic primaries; at that point many defended and supported the ticket because Trump was effectively the alternative. Sure, it was shitty for them to push a candidate that they didn’t fully believe in, but I think our current administration illustrates why they saw it as necessary at that point.
  • By contrast, Mello was necessary because… why again? Nebraska is both not highly influential and one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. So what was the point of pushing and rallying for him, and doubling down against backlash?
    Ah yes, it was intended as political messaging to other progressive Democrats to run in red states. In other words, not so much any large-scale practical goal so much as a long-term investment in symbolic victory.

Well, the message here was muddied at best, and trying to dismiss, vilify and strawman the negative part of that — again, the exact thing that Clinton supporters did to Sanders supporters in the primaries — does nothing particularly helpful.