I Am Just Baffled

[Content Note: Misogyny; racism.]

I honestly don't even understand, at all, what the Sanders campaign is doing at this point. Yesterday was another totally confounding day, leaving me struggling to make sense of what Bernie Sanders is even doing.

On Wednesday, I wrote about rapper Killer Mike, who has been campaigning with and for Sanders, saying during a Sanders rally that a "uterus doesn't qualify you to be president."

Sanders finally issued a statement on that incident, and it is truly astounding:
What Mike said essentially is that is that politics should not be, people should not be voting for candidates based on their gender, but based on what they believe. I think that makes sense. I don't go around, no one has ever heard me say, 'hey guys, let's stand together, vote for a man.' I would never do that, never have. I think we—in a presidential race we look at what a candidate stands for and we vote for the candidate who we think could best serve our country.
Welp. A couple of thoughts here:

1. No one has ever had to say, "Let's stand together; vote for a man," because there's literally never been a female presidential nominee for which people could vote from a major party. So this is some aggressively disingenuous shit.

2. Some people's beliefs include, all things being relatively equal, that a vote for a marginalized candidate is a valuable and legitimate choice. That Sanders doesn't acknowledge voting "based on what [you] believe" and voting for a woman because she's a woman aren't mutually exclusive options is a big problem.

3. Sanders may be able to legitimately claim he's never explicitly said that he's never called people to "stand together; vote for a man," but when he has run against women, he has very pointedly made issues of his opponents' gender. When he ran for governor of Vermont in 1976 as the Liberty Union candidate, against Republican Richard Snelling and Democrat Stella Hackel, he said: "The only difference between Richard Snelling, a Republican, and Stella Hackel, a Democrat, is that one of them is a man and one a woman." A decade later, when he ran against then-Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin: "He urged voters not to vote for me just because I was a woman. That would be a 'sexist position,' he declared."

He also said, of Kunin and her Republican opponent Peter Smith, "It is absolutely fair to say you are dealing with Tweedledum and Tweedledee," despite "Kunin's solid, groundbreaking record on women's issues." In 1974, he called Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Ella Grasso, against whom he wasn't running, "nothing more than a political hack," singling her out after saying he was "not impressed with other women candidates elsewhere."

Over and over, he has said that voters should not support women just because they are women, and repeatedly called female candidates part of the establishment, virtually indistinguishable from Republicans.

So, sure, he's never said the words "vote for a man," but he has sure stuck to the same shitty critiques of female candidates for 40 years. None of them are progressive enough; all of them are shills; no one should vote for them just because they're women. This is a pattern. And it's an ugly one.

* * *

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Then, in an interview with BET, there came this:
BERNIE SANDERS on the Obama presidency: "You know, Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the President as closely—as she possibly can. Everything the President does is wonderful. She loves the President, he loves her and all that stuff. And we know what that's about. That's trying to—win support from the African American community where the President is enormously popular. But you know what? I have enormous respect for the President. He's a friend. We have worked together. I think he has done a great job in many respects. But you know what? Like any other human being, he is wrong on certain issues."
Wow. There are a lot of problems with this: Tactical problems, logic problems, decency problems, and racist problems.

And then there's this: Obama is Clinton's former boss, but also, as they have both said a lot, they are friends.

I find it really objectionable that Sanders would say Clinton only embraces Obama cynically. Her face when she defends him against GOP—woo. That look. That's not cynicism. That's not even collegial. That's a person defending her friend.

And honestly? If someone worked for me, publicly defended me, called out bigotry against me, promised to continue work I'd started, used words like "brilliant" to describe me, challenged me in good faith, complimented my efforts all to "pander," I'd say: "Pander away!"

But of course it's not pandering. You think when HRC says repeatedly PBO doesn't get enough credit, it's because she's pandering? Fuck that. It's because she believes in him.

And it's because they are friends.

And erasing that friendship? Well, fuck. That plays into a lot of ugly shit. Obama is divisive. Clinton is cold. Their observable personal and professional relationship is a direct counter to those narratives. So it's extra shitty to conceal it, in order to accuse Clinton of gross cynicism.

But maybe I'm just literally the tiredest of hearing a white dude shit on what I think is a cool relationship between two people who aren't white men.

* * *

Last night, there was another Democratic Town Hall in Nevada, hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo. MSNBC has a complete transcript.

The evening opened with Sanders being given the opportunity—twice—to walk back his comments on Citizens United being his only litmus test for a Supreme Court nominee. He was even asked directly about Roe, and he stuck to his guns.
MSNBC ANCHOR JOSE DIAZ-BALART: Senator, let me start by telling you a little bit about Secretary Clinton, who's been describing you recently as a single issue candidate. You disagree with that characterization. But this week, you told my colleague, Jon Ralston, that your one litmus test for a Supreme Court nominee is overturning "Citizens United." So why doesn't that prove what Secretary Clinton says about you? I mean you didn't say that you have a "Roe v. Wade" litmus test. You didn't say you had an immigration—


DIAZ-BALART: —action, litmus test, a marriage equality litmus test—

SANDERS: No, I don't think that's what Secretary Clinton is actually talking about. If she happened to come to one of my rallies, I—which she has not yet, but I welcome her, she would hear me speaking for about an hour and a half, for an hour and 15 minutes. And we would cover 15 or 20 separate issues. So I'm not quite sure where she comes up with this single issue idea.

But do I believe that there has to be a major focus on the economy when the middle class is disappearing, when people in Nevada and all over this country are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all new income is going to the top 1 percent? Yes, I am going to focus on that.

To answer your question about "Citizens United," why is that a litmus test to me? Because if we continue going the way we are going, Jose, in terms of a corrupt campaign finance system, you know what's going to end up happening? A handful of billionaires are going to control the political life of this country and undermine American democracy and what men and women have fought to defend. So to me, this is a underlying enormous issue.

DIAZ-BALART: But that is the priority. It is the litmus test, not one of them, it's the litmus test—

SANDERS: Oh, but that's not—I think that's not what she is talking about. I think she is talking, actually, about my focus on Wall Street.

But if you are asking me, do I think we have got to overturn this disastrous "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision so that billionaires will not be able to pump unlimited sums of money into super PACs and buy elections, man, I do believe that is an enormously important issue.
Where to even begin? "I'm not a one-issue candidate—now listen to me talk about wealth inequality some more!"

Again, abortion access was being eroded long before Citizens United was decided. Again, abortion access is a key economic issue for more than half the population. Again, breaking up the banks and campaign finance reform and free college don't restore abortion access.

And I frankly can't put it any more plainly than this: Why am I supposed to fucking care if the country is being led by a billionaire who doesn't prioritize abortion access, or a pauper who doesn't prioritize abortion access?

Or, as the case may be, a not-billionaire-but-still-wealthy Democratic Socialist who doesn't prioritize abortion access?

What difference does that make to me? NONE.

But naturally, I am supposed to understand that Sanders is a "strong feminist."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. Thank you, Senator Bernie Sanders. My question is, do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how do you, as a white male, understand the intersectional identities that people of color face, especially when entering high positions of power within business or government?

SANDERS: I consider myself a strong feminist. And, in fact, Gloria Steinem—everybody knows Gloria is one of the leading feminists in America—made me an honorary woman many, many years ago. [laughter] I don't know exactly what that meant, but I accepted it when she came to campaign for me.
Good grief. So: Don't vote for a woman because she's an actual woman, but definitely do vote for a man because he's an honorary woman. Noted.

* * *

Bernie Sanders says he's running to stage a revolution. But I don't see anything revolutionary. What I see is a hell of a lot of thinly veiled misogyny and racism, embedded in messaging that is tailored to appeal to white privilege, male privilege, and the economic insecurity of young white people.

That's not agitation for a revolution. That's agitation for a change in management.

I am exhausted with this campaign, which is increasingly unrecognizable to me as a progressive campaign with every passing day.

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