What Is the Sanders Campaign Even Doing?

[Content Note: Misogyny; racism.]

The Sanders campaign had a bad day yesterday.

First, Hillary Clinton gave an address in Harlem on racial inequalities in the US. Unfortunately, I can't find a complete transcript of the address, but I live-tweeted it, and I've compiled those tweets in a Storify.

During the speech, Hillary Clinton's twitter feed was tweeting quotes from the address. At one point, came this tweet: "Anyone asking for your vote has a responsibility to grapple with reality—to see things as they actually are, not just as we want them to be."

At which point, Bernie Sanders' twitter feed (via Rob Flaherty) quoted that tweet and added its own commentary:

screen cap of Sanders tweet quoting the above referenced Clinton tweet and adding: ''Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?'—RFK'

The tweet was subsequently deleted.

And no wonder—since Clinton was saying that presidential candidates have a responsibility to see racism against black people as it actually is, urging white people to listen to and believe black people when they talk about their lives and experiences, which makes that Bobby Kennedy rejoinder highly inappropriate. To put it politely.

Later in the day, rapper Killer Mike, who has been campaigning with and for Sanders, said during a Sanders rally that a "uterus doesn't qualify you to be president."

He later said he was merely quoting what a woman said to him. But a woman saying it doesn't make it any less offensive; doesn't make it any less misogynistic or ciscentric.

The habitual rhetoric of reductively representing female candidates—and female voters—to body parts, whether we are said to consider a uterus a qualification to be be voting with our vaginas, is contemptible. Women are more than our body parts. Not all women even have uteri and/or vaginas.

What Killer Mike said was indefensible, though that hasn't, of course, stopped people from trying to defend it. By, naturally, accusing critics who object of "being in the bag" for Clinton and "playing the gender card."

Also yesterday, "Ralston Live" posted interviews with Clinton and Sanders. You can view the video of both interviews here; Sanders' interview starts halfway through.

It begins with host Jon Ralston mentioning the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and asking Sanders if he believes President Obama should put forth a nominee. Sanders says he should and rightly criticizes Republicans for being obstructionist wankers. And then comes this exchange:
Ralston: I'm sure that the Republicans are thinking of having a President Bernie Sanders nominate someone—that's why they wanna wait, but serious question— [laughs]

Sanders: [jokingly] You think that's the reason?!

Ralston: I think that's the reason.

Sanders: Maybe, maybe.

Ralston: The serious question— This comes up, of course now, is what would a Bernie Sanders Supreme Court nominee look like? Will there be litmus tests, for instance?

Sanders: Well, a Bernie Sanders nominee will be somebody who understands the real world, understands obviously the Constitution and the legal history of America, but also understands the struggle of working families and the middle class. You ask me this question about a litmus test: I'm not a great fan of litmus tests, but I will tell you that I do have a litmus test. And that is: No nominee of mine will be nominated to the US Supreme Court unless that individual is crystal clear that he, or she, will vote to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. And I say this, Jon, because that particular decision, five to four decision, is so destructive to American democracy; it is so undermining what our country stands for, that in my view that has got to be overturned. So that is one aspect of my litmus test.

Ralston: Would that be the only one?

Sanders: Yeah. I mean, in general, I'm gonna want somebody who understands the world exists beyond country clubs and beyond the one percent. But the one litmus test I do have is that nominee will vote to overturn Citizens United.

Listen, I agree with Bernie Sanders that the Citizens United decision was ruinous. The day the decision came down, I wrote: "It is not hyperbole to say this decision is paving the way for America to become a fully-fledged corporatocracy, which, depending on your perspective, is a sibling to fascism or a version of it. ...This decision further diminishes any voice that isn't backed with a fuckload of money. Someday, we may look back on this day and realize it was the day our democracy died."

So I'm certainly not disagreeing with the importance of overturning the Citizens United decision. That said, I'm keenly aware of how the Supreme Court actually works, and there has to be a specific challenge to that case before the Supreme Court can even consider overturning it. Which is a lot less likely than many other pressing issues of urgent concern.

Like abortion. Like voting rights. Like affirmative action. Like queer housing and employment rights. Like immigration. Like the death penalty. Like criminal justice. Like environmental regulation.

Abortion is so consistently under attack that Roe is the perennial litmus test for progressives.

But Sanders doesn't even mention it. Not even when Ralston gives him a second bite at the apple. "Would that be the only one?" And Sanders replies by saying yes, he wants "somebody who understands the world exists beyond country clubs and the one percent."

Which is rather ironic, frankly, because I'm beginning to question whether he understands that problems in the world exist beyond country clubs and the one percent, and that necessary solutions exist beyond railing against country clubs and the one percent.

The erosion of abortion access started well before Citizens United.

One of the things I noted about Hillary Clinton's address yesterday was that I liked she stuck right in its middle the observation that President Obama is subjected to racism from the Republican opposition. I likd it because she called that shit out, and I liked it because it underlines the point that racism transcends class.

Not every issue can be solved by addressing wealth inequality. Not every issue will be solved, or even meaningfully affected, by rolling back Citizens United.

As I've said before: The more I see of Bernie Sanders, the more I realize how little there is. He is a one-issue candidate who believes that one issue is the root of all ills. I disagree. Which doesn't leave us much common ground.

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