Here’s What’s Really Wrong With What Bernie Sanders Said on “Morning Joe”
Bernie Sanders was interviewed on “Morning Joe” this morning about a variety of issues: Gorsuch’s nomination, the climate mandate released by Trump, and most of all the healthcare bill fiasco. As somebody who worked on the Clinton campaign for nearly a year, I tend to disagree with a lot of what Sanders has to say. I believe in a lot of his ideas, but I, like a lot of other Clinton supporters, believe that you cannot create change by demolishing the system; you have to create change from the inside. Post-election a lot of things Sanders says feel particularly like salt in my wounds, but something in this interview struck a chord with me and most other Democratic women. It involves this exchange:
Scarborough: “Can the democratic party be more open to candidates who are not rigidly pro-choice, who are not rigidly pro-gun control?”
Sanders: “The answer, I think, is yes.”
I was already angry after I heard that he said that, but then he followed it up with this:
“What democrats have gotta to do is come into those states and not be Republican-lite but have the guts to take on the big money interests. If they do that I believe other things will fall into place.”
I’ve been saying that Sanders is a sexist from the very beginning. It started with an innocent joke about my desire to write a paper about the phallic symbolism of him waving his finger in Hillary Clinton’s face during every debate (really putting my Women’s Studies degree to use here, folks). But it evolved into something altogether different.
Sanders is a one-issue politician, who was a one-issue candidate: economic inequality is his theme song, and he will not allow for any changes in the score. The problem with this is that America is not a one-issue country. I’m not arguing that Bernie Sanders is not a good politician, nor am I arguing that he’s anything but extremely intelligent. But economic inequality does not exist because of economic issues, it exists because of social issues. In a study at The Ohio State University, researchers argued that it’s the decisions politicians make about social policy that create income inequality, not the economy itself. The Reagan administration made tax codes more favorable to the affluent, deregulated many industries including finance, weakened unions and reduced spending on programs for the poor, and in turn there was an increase of 18% in income inequality. In a study done by the US Department of Labor in 2009, it’s clear that the majority of occupations that are held by men in this country are better paid than the majority of occupations that are held by women. This isn’t an accident. This problem exists because of sexism, not the other way around. Income inequality and social policies both have a direct effect on women’s lives, so for Sanders to suggest that if you fix the macro-issue of income inequality the rest of the solutions to this country’s myriad problems will just fall into place it’s completely ridiculous.
It’s blind to argue that if you start to break down the gap between the 99% and the 1% by only looking at big-picture issues, that the rest of social inequality will fall into place. Things in politics don’t ever fall into place. Politicians, staffers, voters, and activists have to make them happen. Income inequality is hard to deal with, it’s obviously a cancer on our social climate, but it’s a huge issue and it can’t be fixed without breaking it down into its smaller parts. Senator Sanders, from the bottom of my heart I am pleading with you to understand: If you call yourself a progressive but make women’s health care issues optional you’re being short-sighted. These are things that need to be fixed right here, right now. You can’t wait for women’s health care issues to fix themselves later because they don’t directly affect you. You can’t wait to be worried about a woman’s access to abortion or basic health care, about her agency over her own body, because it doesn’t directly affect you. These issues belong at the top of the agenda, not the bottom.
Sanders’ suggestion is inane. If the Democratic party started running candidates that weren’t pro-choice, it would be a disaster. More than half of this country is made up of women. You cannot push women aside because we are inconvenient to your political agenda. Bernie Sanders, put your sexism away. There’s no room for it in progressive politics.