A Postmortem on the 2016 Democratic Primary From an Exhausted Feminist
“The older I get, the more I see how women are described as having gone mad, when what they’ve actually become is knowledgeable and powerful, and really fucking furious.” — Sophie Heawood
It took 36 days for Bernie Sanders to endorse Hillary Clinton after she was declared the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. Eight years ago, it only took Clinton four days to do so for Barack Obama, in a race that was more closely contested by every possible metric. But I get that math has been tricky this year.
This post, admittedly, has some sass in it because frankly this primary has worn me down (more proof that Hillary Clinton is 7353 times the woman than I will ever be). The 2016 cycle has unearthed a lot of unsavory elements (hi, Donald Trump!), but most shocking to me personally has been the racism and misogyny that has been exposed on the left.
To be clear, I know plenty of smart, compassionate and reasonable Bernie Sanders supporters. I appreciate their perspectives, and I respect our differences of opinion. Moreover, I believe that there is much more that unites us than divides us. I’m glad that 81% of Sanders supporters recognize the importance of a Democratic White House and were ready to vote for Clinton even before Sanders’ endorsement. But the Bernie Bros have, from my vantage point, poisoned an entire well of ideology that included many noble elements and people.
And while Sanders (finally) gave a lovely endorsement of Clinton on Tuesday, this important bridge between the two campaigns does not erase the months of harassment and marginalization that members of underrepresented groups had to endure throughout this primary. We were belittled. We were threatened. We were silenced. And it is not coincidental that those who suppressed women, POC, and the like were largely (white) men. These patterns mirror larger systemic imbalances that we would be remiss to merely sweep under the rug.
So in no particular order, here is this exhausted feminist’s postmortem on the 2016 Democratic Primary:
In April, I wrote briefly about my frustration with the manner in which men I otherwise liked and respected treated Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Today, I want to do a deeper dive on the many ways that gender bias reared its ugly head among swaths of “progressive” men during this primary.
When this campaign first started out, I was honestly torn between Hillary and Bernie. I voted for Hillary in 2008 and was leaning toward her in 2016, but I found myself really compelled by Bernie’s rhetoric. I loved that he embraced his democratic socialism and talked candidly about what was economically broken in this country. I was wowed by how he vigorously defended a woman’s right to choose at a Christian university, and I remember thinking, “Dang, this is going to be a tough decision.”
Fast forward to the first Democratic debate, and Hillary just knocked my socks off. From that point on, I was fairly certain that she would get my vote. Still, I really liked Bernie and at the end of the day, I was game for either one of them representing the Democrats.
Then the Bernie Bros came out of the woodwork. They showed up on our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds DEMANDING to know why we supported her and then enumerating all the reasons why we were OBVIOUSLY wrong. Even worse were the articles that tried to erase the sexism that female Hillary supporters were experiencing en masse. Pro tip: if your default assumption is to NOT believe women, then you are absolutely part of the problem. It is not a stretch to presuppose that the men who outright deny claims of verbal harassment online will also do so when sexual harassment or assault has taken place. The webs of the patriarchy are very much connected in that way.
Despite the alarming patterns that were emerging, I was encouraged by the Sanders campaign’s response. Although his aide did not directly address the issue, he steadfastly stated, “If you support [Bernie Sanders], please follow the Senator’s lead and be respectful when people disagree with you.” I hoped that this would be enough to quell the Bernie Bros (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), and I continued to believe that they were not a reflection of their seemingly feminist candidate. After all, Sanders supported reproductive rights, paid family leave, and closing the gender pay gap. He spoke passionately about these issues, and I truly felt that he was on our side.
Slowly but surely, however, the Sanders campaign started revealing their true colors. First, there were his bizarre attacks on Planned Parenthood (after they endorsed Hillary Clinton) for being “part of the Establishment.” To imply that an organization dedicated to women’s health and reproductive issues — a touchpoint that has made them targets of terrorism, predatory anti-abortion groups, and Republicans with an agenda — enjoys elite status is woefully misguided at the very best. And in any case, why has “Establishment” become such a pejorative term during this cycle? If the “Democratic Establishment” includes our first black President, our first openly gay senator, and our first female presidential nominee, then count me in. I quite like this emerging “Establishment,” thank you very much.
Not long after the Planned Parenthood comments, a Sanders surrogate said that having a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be President. Bernie’s response? A tone-deaf, “No one has ever heard me say, ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, vote for a man.’ I would never do that.” MAYBE THAT’S BECAUSE ALL OF OUR PRESIDENTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MEN. And finally, came his vigorous assertion that Citizen’s United would be a Supreme Court litmus test, but not Roe v. Wade. Apparently for Senator Sanders, the war on women’s bodies is a distraction from “a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America.” By contrast…
If the culmination of the the aforementioned comments above got my feminist wheels spinning, then the tides turned for good under the bright lights of New York. First, Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver stated that Clinton’s ambitions would destroy the Democratic Party, then Sanders called the former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State “unqualified” to be President, and to cap off the sexist trifecta, a speaker at his rally referred to Clinton and surrogates as “Democratic Whores.” From that point on, I could no longer ignore what was becoming a clear and misogynistic pattern from top levels of his campaign. New York was certainly tough goings for Bernie, but here’s the thing about adversity: it doesn’t so much form character as it reveals it. If you talk like a sexist and walk like a sexist, especially in your darkest moments, then you’re probably a bit of a sexist.
But it didn’t end there. If New York exposed Sanders’ own lack of gender sensitivities, then Nevada represented a predictably disturbing end to the months of all-consuming Bro harassment. There’s a lot of inside baseball to sift through in regards to the dynamics around the Nevada State Convention, but at the end of the day, Bernie supporters violently threatened women in the Democratic Party and even doxxed Chairwoman Roberta Lange. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for that. In the aftermath of the incident, Weaver exhibited textbook gaslighting techniques by claiming that Senator Barbara Boxer lied about feeling threatened because “she was smiling.” Talk to any woman ever, and she’ll tell you that she uses this tactic ALL THE TIME as a means of de-escalation and survival against street harassers. Even more disappointing was Sanders’ response to the debacle, which essentially boiled down to, “We don’t condone violence, BUT…” Word to the wise: if you include caveats and/or rationalizations in an “apology,” then it’s not actually an apology. Given all the poor behavior from the Sanders camp in the months leading up to Nevada, however, this lack of ownership sadly did not surprise me.
Which brings us to the present day and his long refusal to concede to Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that she defeated him handedly by every measure. Make no mistake — if the roles were reversed, Hillary would be called selfish, delusional and destructive to party unity (look no further than calls for her to drop out in 2008 before the end of a much closer contest). It is not coincidental to me that this man refused to gracefully accept defeat to a woman (and that all of the emotional labor fell on the female victor).
In fact, Sanders got quite testy when New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor (a WOC) asked him if choosing to stay in the race after the female candidate was declared the winner was sexist. Worth noting: Sanders shouted over Alcindor multiple times and only allowed her to ask the question when the male reporter he tried to pivot to ceded the floor back to her instead (sound familiar, ladies?). Ironic that a question about sexism revealed Sanders’ own lack of deference toward women, but this is par for the course given that his Top 10 highest-paid staffers are all men. Turns out that the worst kind of misogynists are the ones that think they’re feminists (and who write creepy rape essays).
Some Bernie Sanders supporters defended his decision to remain so publicly in the race so that he could continue to “push Clinton left” on the Democratic Platform. I’m not going to mince words here: that is some sanctimonious, paternalistic bullshit. It basically reads as: “We don’t trust the ~lady~ to lead, so we need a man around to keep her in line.” FUCK. THAT. SHIT. Would we allow this same dynamic to play out if the results were flipped? I think not; lots of double standards here that I can’t ignore.
And besides, Hillary’s platform was already progressive as hell: LGBT protections, paid family leave, reproductive rights, immigration and gun reform, the list goes on. I supported Sanders having a seat at the table, but I found it incredibly egotistical and hypocritical for him to essentially try to hold her hostage here.
And since when is The Decider™ on all things progressive? There’s an unsettling sort of erasure in the way that Sanders positioned himself as OUR ONLY LIBERAL HOPE. From Dame Magazine:
“Moving the Democratic platform to the left is a laudable goal, but it isn’t one that he alone has led. There have been many movements, including the movement to end the Hyde Amendment, the Fight for 15, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, that have pushed the Democratic party to the left. But Bernie Sanders is presenting it as if he himself is the leader of this progressive revolution, as if he and his candidacy have been doing all of the work. This is privileged ignorance at best, and sinister appropriation at worst.”
Besides, there are plenty of positions Sanders has taken that I don’t find particularly progressive — voting against the Brady Bill five times, his history with Sierra Blanca and more recently, endorsing a woman (Representative Marcy Kaptur) who is anti-choice and against stem cell research. Not to mention the fact that Sanders and Clinton voted the same way 93% of the time AND that Clinton was named the 11th most liberal member of the Senate. Check your cognitive dissonance at the door because Hillary Clinton has been a progressive champion for a long ass time.
The Obama Coalition
Hillary Clinton defeated her opponent by significant margins in large part because she received 75% of the black vote, 65% of the Hispanic vote and a majority of the female vote. It is incredibly revealing that the candidate who pitched himself as the progressive savior of the marginalized found that his message only really largely resonated with the most privileged group in society: white men.
Which brings us back to the Bernie Bros. I could write a whole 25-minute-long piece solely devoted to trying to understand the motivations of that cesspool of sexists, but then I remember that they are actually a big waste of time. Instead, I will simply say that the same reason why Bernie Sanders lost the minority vote (and thus, the primary) is the same reason why Bernie Bros were shouting women and POC off the internet: lots of talking and no actual listening. While Sanders was prescribing one-size-fits-all economic solutions to complex social problems, his Bros were swarming members of underrepresented groups online (and off) who dared to support Clinton or be mildly critical of Sanders.
Below is just one example from countless condescending comments I received from men. My mistake? Enthusiastically supporting Hillary Clinton.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the decades of Republican propaganda that they regurgitated and spit out ad nauseam. Oh, you think she’s a corrupt, lying b***h? Wow, I’ve never heard that one before.
The message from aggressive “progressives” was clear: if you don’t passionately support Bernie Sanders, then GTFO. So we retreated into safe spaces: secret Facebook groups, subreddits, group texts and DMs. We quietly and patiently waited until it was our state’s turn in the election schedule, comforted by the fact that the most powerful voice in a democracy is our choice at the ballot box. When Hillary Clinton started pulling ahead by hundreds of delegates and millions of votes, these same Bros called foul play. THE SYSTEM MUST BE RIGGED AGAINST BERNIE, they cried. After all, the only pieces of content they saw in their echo chambers on social media were dank Bernie Sanders memes.
There was NO POSSIBLE WAY that Hillary Clinton was winning this thing fair and square. Right? (Wrong. More people were simply voting for her.)
Once it became clear that Hillary Clinton would likely clinch the nomination, Bernie Sanders started talking about how he would get the superdelegates to flip to him. Before that, however, Sanders was bemoaning just how destructive they were to the democratic process (even though superdelegates have never overturned the will of the people). But apparently when the majority of the Democratic populace go for the ~female~ candidate, those results can’t be legitimate and then it’s okay for the white dude to be hypocritical about it (double standards are a helluva drug).
If you’re keeping score at home, superdelegates = good if they might help Bernie Sanders, and superdelegates = bad if they might hurt Bernie Sanders. But then when NOT ONE superdelegate would flip to Bernie Sanders, he changed his position AGAIN and started talking about how we need to abolish the system altogether. Look, there are plenty of fair criticisms on the role superdelegates play, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that the GOP wished they had a similar process in place right now (*coughDonaldTrumpcough*).
It’s also important to note that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are vehemently against getting rid of superdelegates. They argue that doing so would force their members to run against their constituents as delegates, which would thus decrease minority participation at future Democratic conventions. Notice a similar pattern of Sanders pontificating about overthrowing entire systems without taking underrepresented groups’ unique perspectives into consideration? Again, this is the biggest reason why he lost.
If we want to get serious about removing processes that subvert democracy, then we should be talking about getting rid of caucuses. They are scheduled for specific windows of time and last hours on end, which disadvantages low-wage workers, the disabled, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in society and lead to much lower turnout than in primaries. But 12 of Sanders’ 23 wins came from caucuses, so he doesn’t talk about the undemocratic perils of that system. Again, when a rule in place lead to Sanders losing, he made a stink about it, but when it benefited him, he was noticeably quiet on the issue. Must have been a coincidence.
Also worth noting: in Washington state, a caucus is held in March and counts toward the pledged delegate count, but then in May a symbolic primary is staged (politics is weird, y’all). Guess who won the caucus with the lower voter turnout? Yep, Bernie Sanders. Guess who won the primary with the higher voter turnout? Yep, Hillary Clinton. In fact, that pattern held throughout the primary — Bernie tended to win when turnout was lower and Hillary tended to win when turnout was higher. Another weird coincidence.
While we’re on the topic of voter suppression, let’s talk about what that actually means. It’s not hipsters in Brooklyn forgetting to register as Democrats in time for the New York primary (although, that purge of voters already on the rolls certainly concerns me). Now there are valid arguments to be made about making voting easier and even making all primaries open (I’m personally against non-party members deciding party nominees, but that’s just me). However, the failure of individuals to be educated on the rules of their state party’s electoral processes does not voter suppression make.
What is voter suppression then, you ask? It is institutionalized systems that heavily disadvantage certain demographic groups from exercising their right to vote (e.g. POC). It often takes the form of voter ID laws, which sound innocuous enough but are actually quite dangerous. Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI) has openly admitted that these laws benefit Republicans, with studies showing that strict voter ID laws depress minority turnout by as much as 13.5 points in general elections.
States like Texas are known for some especially disturbing tales around voter suppression, but according to Bernie Sanders, Southern voters “distort reality.” That claim is misguided at best and racist at worst. The fact remains that a significant chunk of the base of the party is black Democrats (who reside in large numbers in the South). We do not successfully elect progressives without them. Period. They should not be discarded by predatory voter ID laws, and they certainly should not be dismissed as unimportant by tunnel-visioned politicians.
Which transitions us to why POC, particularly African-Americans, overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton. If you asked Bernie Bros, they would tell you that it’s because they’re low-information and that they just don’t know what’s actually good for them and that BERNIE MARCHED WITH MLK DID YOU KNOW THAT. They’re perplexed by the fact that black voters sided with Hillary, despite her “superpredator” comments and vocal support of the crime bill in the 90s (funny how Bernie actually voting for that piece of legislation gets erased, though). Again, lots of patronizing assumptions and no actual listening.
Now being that I am a caucasian woman, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to whitesplain why 75% of black Democrats went for Clinton. However, I do think it’s important to highlight some key perspectives on the matter, especially since Bernie Bros did their darndest to try to drown out black voices online during the primary.
For The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, it boiled down to three principal factors: 1) Emphasizing Obama’s accomplishments and promising to build upon his legacy, 2) Deliberately discussing the role of systemic racism as it intersects with income inequality, 3) The importance of white people recognizing their own privileges and being better allies:
“For generations, blacks have chafed at the notion that unpacking our nation’s racial baggage is a chore solely for them. That the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow are only their burdens to bear…. Clinton doesn’t shy away from race. Sanders talks about race, too, of course. But he seems to do so at a remove, and his attempts to make a convincing link between his economic message and race continue to fall short.”
Political scientist Marcus H. Johnson wrote an incredibly nuanced piece that’s worth the full read. In it, he discusses the complexities around the crime bill, outlines the relationships the Clintons have built within the black community, and illustrates how their policy achievements improved the lives of many. By contrast:
“It is easy then, to see why Black voters have utterly rejected Bernie Sanders. Sanders is the antithesis of the Clintons in several respects. While the Clintons were putting Black people in positions of power and building relationships with Black voters in the 1990s, Sanders had never once been elected by a diverse electorate, let alone been responsive to Black people’s needs as an elected official. While the Clintons fought the NRA, Sanders was voting with the NRA to protect gun manufacturers even while Black Americans are disproportionately harmed by gun violence. Sanders talks about potentially raising incomes for minority groups, the Clintons actually did it. The Clintons have real accomplishments to their name, not dogma or uncompromising rhetoric. And those accomplishments positively impacted Black people. Black voters didn’t forget.”
Several black ex-Sanders staffers told Fusion that Bernie could have overcome Clinton’s existing relationships with black voters if minority outreach had actually been prioritized:
“Demoralized by police killings, left even further behind by economic inequality, held back for generations by structural racism, black people were primed for a political revolution…But Sanders seldom trained that same impassioned rhetoric on the problems that so many black voters wanted addressed…He appeared not to realize that you can’t simply deliver the same speech on economic inequality to a room full of black people in Atlanta that you would to a room full of white people in Iowa.”
For New York Times op-ed writer Charles M. Blow, it wasn’t so much about fondness for a particular candidate or disdain for another. From his point of view, the history of black oppression has created an inherent distrust of politicians’ grand promises:
“It is not so much that black voters love Clinton and loathe Sanders… For many there isn’t much passion for either candidate. Instead, black folks are trying to keep their feet planted in reality and choose from among politicians who have historically promised much and delivered little. It is often a choice between the devil you know and the one you don’t, or more precisely, among the friend who betrays you, the stranger who entices you and the enemy who seeks to destroy you.”
Of course, the four black writers above don’t represent the mindsets of every black voter who chose Clinton over Sanders. Nor does it take into account the fact that black voters under 30 seemed to prefer Sanders. I do hope, however, that it once again dispels the ignorant notion that Bernie “marching with MLK” should have been enough to win them over.
Which brings us to the fact that Clinton supporters by and large just didn’t buy the revolution message that Bernie Sanders was trying to sell (another “purity test” we failed). Under President Obama’s leadership, unemployment fell to to 5%, 14 million jobs were added to the economy, and millions of people gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. There is much work to be done to balance the scales, but our 44th President impressively righted a sinking economic ship that aided some of our most vulnerable citizens. Given these achievements, it was difficult for folks like me to get behind Sanders’ claim that an immediate overhaul of government was what was needed.
Perhaps just as significantly, Sanders’ platform failed to properly take into account how our various social identities create deeply layered problems that can’t be solved in one fell swoop. While the idea of an immediate economic panacea was enticing, it felt like a utopian fantasy that was incompatible with our complex realities. After all, marginalized groups are the ones that are the most painfully aware of how slow and arduous change has proven to be throughout history. From The Nation:
”Progressives understandably argue that the second Gilded Age requires radical change, not moderate pragmatism. But when one looks back at the progressive reforms that have succeeded in this country, they have virtually all come about incrementally, not through revolutionary moments… The struggle for justice is long and slow. It is built on small, pragmatic steps in the right direction. It is easy to be frustrated by this fact, and to be inspired by those who promise radical reform immediately. But that’s not the way we have won most of the advances that progressives support.”
In a lot of ways, the lines in the sand between Bernie and Hillary supporters boiled down to that one tactical difference: do you buy into the idea that we need a sweeping revolution or do you believe in working within the system to achieve small and steady victories? There are certainly arguments to be made for both sides, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “thinking big,” as some of my Bernie friends have preached.
However, if you’re going to reach for the stars, then you need to lay out concrete steps on how you’re going to accomplish these lofty goals. And for me and many others, Bernie Sanders’ proposals failed the smell test. Top economists across the country criticized Sanders’ tax and spending plans as “deeply flawed” and estimated that they would add $18 trillion to the national debt. In fact, one prominent economist that defended Sanders’ economic platform said he was planning to vote for Hillary anyway. But we remained quiet on those types of concerns because doing so would have unleashed a Pandora’s Box of harassment.
Just as revealing was Bernie’s own lack of policy acumen in regards to the current systems in place that would allow him to achieve his central goal: breaking up the banks. This whole interview was a big window into Sanders’ knowledge gaps, but this exchange was particularly stunning to me:
Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?
Sanders: It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.
It’s been over three months since his meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board, and I still cannot get over that admission. YOU HAVEN’T STUDIED THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR BIGGEST PROPOSAL?! Real talk: if a female candidate was on the record saying that she hadn’t done her homework, then she’d be toast.
Along a similar vein, Sanders told the Los Angeles Times editorial board that he would overcome Republican obstructionism by simply saying [to GOP leader Mitch McConnell], “Hey, Mitch, look out the window. There’s a million young people out there now. And they’re following politics in a way they didn’t before. If you want to vote against this legislation, go for it. But you and some of your friends will not have your seats next election.” As the Times put it in their endorsement of Clinton, “If only it were that simple.”
You can say a lot of things about Hillary Clinton, but what you cannot say is that her policy platform was too simplistic. While it was not as show-stopping as a call for a revolution, it encompassed a breadth of issues and highlighted a complexity of understanding that was music to many progressive wonks’ ears. From minimum wage hikes to paid family leave to gun reform and everything in between, “each of her plans is calibrated to achieve a specific result.” Her campaign closely consulted with members of underrepresented groups and chose to meet with voters in more intimate settings instead of at big rallies. These strategies clearly paid off, and it left voters like this disability rights activist (a former Sanders supporter) feeling heard and represented:
“[The Hillary staffer] didn’t treat me like a nuisance like the Bernie campaign did but rather an asset. She wanted to know my legal and advocacy opinion on disability policy. She explained in detail how Hillary planned to initiate change for us with sophisticated, legal political strategy. And then she asked me to come on board and help the campaign best meet the needs of the disability community through, inter alia, writing for the campaign after they were able to officially vet my credentials… I soon realized that the Clinton campaign didn’t just care about the disability community; they hired us and treated us like the intelligent people we are.”
The aforementioned example with the disability rights activist illustrates a hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s approach to politics that is still under-appreciated in this patriarchal society: her ability to cultivate relationships and build coalitions. During her tenure in the Senate, for example, Clinton won the friendship and respect of many colleagues across the aisle for these very traits. Ezra Klein wrote an incredible article for Vox, in which he argues that Clinton — our first female presidential nominee of a major party — captured the nomination in an unprecedented way because winning elections has always been inherently gendered:
“She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders… In order to do something as hard as becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, she had to do something extraordinarily difficult: She had to build a coalition, supported by a web of relationships, that dwarfed in both breadth and depth anything a non-incumbent had created before. It was a plan that played to her strengths, as opposed to her (entirely male) challengers’ strengths. And she did it.”
The way I describe it in laymen’s terms is this: Women are really fucking good at the long game. We’re so used to getting rebuffed at every possible turn due to different iterations on the same ridiculous double standards, that we’re just accustomed to encountering hurdles along our paths. The shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line, but that’s a systemic privilege that we as women have never *really* enjoyed. We have to zig and zag and zig and zag to even have a shot at reaching our goals. It will likely take us longer to do so than our (white) male peers, but as a result we’re arguably more equipped to creatively deal with the obstacles along the way. And Hillary Clinton’s relentless pursuits as a public servant is the ultimate example of that.
For Clinton to get to this place, that means she’s clocked in decades of hard and unglamorous work, compiling a resume full of achievements and missteps alike. That’s par for the course for someone who’s had such a long career; show me a prominent politician that is “pure”, and I’ll show you a liar.
What’s strange (*coughsexistcough*) about Hillary haters on the left, however, is the way that they figuratively nail her to the cross for past political stances that male colleagues have also taken. Take gay marriage, for example. They say that Bernie’s long been ahead of the curve on this issue (he hasn’t; he opposed it until 2006), and that Hillary’s past opposition to marriage equality means that we should immediately revoke her liberal credentials. But activist and sex advice columnist Dan Savage (a gay man) absolutely slays this kind of logic:
“It’s fucking moronic — it’s political malpractice — to attack a politician for coming around on your issues… If pols who are currently on the wrong side of any of those issues see no benefit to changing their positions — if they see no political benefit — they’re going to be harder to persuade. Why should they come around on our issues, why should they switch sides or change their votes, if we’re going to go after them hammer and tongs for the positions they used to hold? (“Please change your mind and support us.” “No.” “Pretty please?” “OK, I’ve changed my mind and I’ll vote to support you.” “FUCK YOU FOR NOT ALWAYS AGREEING WITH ME! I’M NOT VOTING FOR YOU! FUCK YOU SOME MORE!”)
Again, this is incremental change at play. When the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, it didn’t just happen in a vacuum. Same-sex marriage was legalized last year because there were plenty of little victories that led up to it, and there are still numerous battles that the LGBTQIA community is currently fighting (bigoted bathroom laws, employment discrimination, etc). Progress is often slow and painful, but it happens when dedicated groups of people tirelessly organize and fight to enact change.
What I hope this piece illuminated was the myriad ways that underrepresented groups’ voices were marginalized during this primary, why many of us chose Clinton over Sanders, and the endless double standards that Hillary was subjected to on the trail. It disturbs me greatly that a vocal minority of “progressives” were able to further cast aside voters who already suffer from systemic inequalities. It’s one thing when those on the right utilize these silencing tactics; it’s quite another when it comes from supposed allies on the left. We shouldn’t dismiss these incidents as anomalies; we should learn from them so that we don’t perpetuate these patterns in future elections.
At the end of the day, we—especially those of us with varying degrees of privilege—serve ourselves and each other best when we listen. (I’m including myself here, by the way, because I’m constantly learning as well.) If women say that something’s sexist, believe them. If POC say that something’s racist, believe them. If LGBTQIA folks say that something’s homophobic, transphobic, or queerphobic, believe them. If disabled people say that something’s ableist, believe them. In the words of Michelle Obama:
And on that note, thank you for taking 23 minutes of your time to read this exhausted feminist’s perspective. It means a lot to be heard.