A Terrible Trifecta

[Content Note: Privilege; bigotry.]

Late Friday, I wrote about former Vice-President Joe Biden's objectionable comments regarding the last election. He was, as it turned out, just leading a parade of white men who wanted to weigh in with their wisdom on Friday.

At an Our Revolution rally in Boston, Senator Bernie Sanders had this to say:

Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks. I don't agree. I don't agree, 'cause I've been there. Let me tell you something else some of you may not agree with, and that is: It wasn't that Donald Trump won the election; it was that the Democratic Party lost the election!
I had quite a few things to say about Sanders' contention that Trump voters, full-stop, are not racist, sexist, or homophobe, and I have Storified all of my tweets about it from the weekend. There will also be a dedicated piece on Sanders' comments, authored by Fannie, which will follow this one.

My Twitter commentary focuses, as does Fannie's piece, on the first part of Sanders' comments, so here I want to highlight the second part, in which he asserts that Trump didn't win the election, but Democrats lost it.

There is a whole lot wrong with that statement, starting with the fact that blaming Democrats—especially the specific Democrat, Hillary Clinton, whom Sanders, like Biden, doesn't have the decency to name—won the popular vote by 3 million votes. Clinton did indeed lose the election, but not because her ideas and policies and values were less popular. Which makes this smug posturing incredibly mendacious. And counterproductive.

Clinton got millions of more votes, and Trump is already, ten weeks into his presidency, historically unpopular. He reached the Oval Office in large part because of election interference. It's extremely difficult to reasonably justify shitting all over Clinton's campaign, given these facts, even though she is not president.

Further, if there is a Democrat who deserves blame for losing this election, it's fairweather Democrat Bernie Sanders, who spent the entirety of the Democratic primary amplifying three decades of Republican tropes about Clinton and validating those viciously dishonest narratives about her. He endlessly repeated an inaccurate and misogynist mischaracterization of Clinton, until millions of progressive voters believed it was true. He straight-up lied about Clinton calling him unqualified, only to give himself an excuse to call her unqualified. When his campaign got called out for using misogyny against her, they accused her of attacking them. And on and on and on.

Sanders did everything he could to weaken Clinton as a candidate, and now has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that she lost the election and allowed Trump to win. Breathtaking.

Finally on Friday night, Bill Maher's Real Time showcased Maher and Rick Santorum finding agreement that liberals are stupid and oversensitive and don't know how to take a joke and that's why we lose.

Maher: ...because Bill O'Reilly made a joke about Maxine Waters' hair. [He is referring to O'Reilly's misogynist and racist commentary on Rep. Maxine Waters' hair.] This is so typical of—

Neera Tanden: Okay, she spoke out against racism and sexism, Bill. That's what she spoke out against, all right?

Maher: She spoke out about a joke! [crosstalk] You know that? This is why the Democrats lost the election in the first place—because they cannot get their priorities straight, and they never fail to take the bait about little bullshit issues—

Tanden: I don't think racism and sexism are little bullshit issues—

Maher: Why is that racist?! Why is it racist?! Because he compared two Black people?!

Tanden: Okay, do you know how April Ryan was treated, or are you saying he would have treated a man like that? Is that—

Maher: Yes!

Tanden: —what you're saying? A white dude would be treated like that? I don't think that's right!

Maher: You're referring to the fact that—

Tanden: That Sean Spicer—

Maher: —said to a woman in the audi— [crosstalk] in the briefing, April Ryan, who is an African American, and they were going back and forth, and she was shaking her head, and he said, "Please stop shaking your head," and you go immediately to, "It's a racist thing about [puts on stereotypical imitation of a Black woman holding up her finger and rolling her head] oh no he didn't!"

[crosstalk between men as Tanden makes a face and a disgusted noise]

Rick Santorum: If I may—

Maher: Yes, please.

Santorum: If I may, as someone who comes on this show who can take a joke—

Maher: Right!

Santorum: —and, about Catholic priests, and doesn't scream and holler how offended I am, and how horrible this is— [crosstalk with Tanden] I shook my head and said, "You know, off-color joke. You know what? We're big boys and girls here—

Maher: Right!

Santorum: —you know, don't be outraged at every offense." That's one of the problems we have. Stop the fake outrage!

Tanden: It's not fake! It's not fake outrage!

Santorum: Well, if it isn't fake outrage, then you should learn to take a joke and move on.

Tanden: You're right, there's not enough— You're right, you're right, you're right. The first four or five months of Trump there've been no— We're all oversensitive about the attacks on women and people of color. You're right! That's exactly the issue.

Maher: There are real issues about that. Not jokes.
There are a whole lot of reasons that "we" didn't win the last presidential election, but chief among them—and this becomes clearer every day—is the fact that straight white cis men still refuse to listen to people who don't share their privileges.

Many of them, far too many, didn't want to listen to a woman who told them the truth, and they still aren't listening to marginalized people. And the refusal to listen would be bad enough on its own, but it is an active not listening: It is auditing our lived experiences; it is gaslighting; it is silencing.

It is telling us, over and over, that we are the reason we lost. When we were the ones who got it right.

I have said it before, and I will no doubt regrettably have reason to say it again: The most radical act that any privileged person can do in this moment is shut the fuck up and listen.

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