April 5, 2016
Another presidential primary day, another nail-biting episode on the American Horror Story that is this presidential election. The Republican party’s remaining candidates, Donald Drumpf, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich, are each a study in evil, to the point where it’s hard to discern among them the most dangerous prospect. All the attention has been focused on the megalomaniacal front runner Donald Drumpf, who has the GOP up in arms because he’s spent much of his campaign going rogue in what appears to be an attempt to implode the party—stoking racist violence at his rallies, and most recently, abandoning his loyalty pledge to support the party nominee at last week’s Town Hall. He may very well see his own campaign implode going forward, due to trouble in the trenches, with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who managed to edge Drumpf’s political advisers Roger Stone, Sam Nunberg, and Michael Cohen out of the way to emerge as his go-to guy, is now seeing his own role diminishing since being arrested for allegedly battering a female journalist.
The more misogynist rhetoric espoused by Drumpf—like his incendiary comment that there should be “some punishment” for women have opt for abortions—the more he puts off female voters (within hours, he attempted to dial it down following an outcry from his rivals and even anti-abortion groups—which was rich, considering that the restrictive laws and rhetoric are already punitive). He recently enlisted his wife, Melania, to testify on his behalf to counter claims that he’s a misogynist—but Republican women aren’t so convinced. But even if a triumph in today’s primary in Wisconsin isn’t looking good for the hate-spewing real-estate mogul, the Evangelical Texan Ted Cruz, who believes God has called on him to run for president, and does look like he may pull off a victory today, isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air, either. Are these misogynist, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, climate-change-denying contenders the people we want appointing Supreme Court justices to the bench? Making decisions about the environment? The economy? Fighting ISIS?
Republicans are unhappy with the candidates on offer, and this should be the moment Democrats smell blood in the water and seize the opportunity to strategize and galvanize—because everything is at stake this election cycle. And it’s ours to lose.
Instead, our party is also threatening to implode, due to infighting that could hand the Oval Office over to one of these malignant candidates. Though we have two great prospects in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton vying for the nomination, a movement has emerged called #BernieorBust. Much of it has played out on social media, on Twitter and Facebook, but late last week, the mainstream press caught a whiff of the hashtag movement when actress and activist Susan Sarandon alluded to it when she said that some folks would vote for Drumpf over Hillary Clinton should Bernie Sanders fail to become the nominee. A Drumpf presidency, she maintained, could bring about the “revolution”—and that she herself was considering doing so. Her ex-partner, Tim Robbins, is another such surrogate for Bernie, disparaging people who vote for Hillary—and really stepped in it when he said that winning South Carolina is as significant as winning Guam. Which is factually untrue because of course there are more delegates in the Southern state, for one—his point though was that the Southern state has, in recent history, voted Republican in the general election. But Clinton won far more votes than Sanders in South Carolina—2.5 million more—and it’s hard to ignore the casual racism of his comment because many of those votes came from Black Democrats.
Much of this #Bernieorbust movement is populated by people of privilege like Sarandon and Robbins—not all celebrities, of course. But well-to-do and white, who might find themselves eating their words should Drumpf win, but they’ll be fine. They’re natural-born American citizens. Young women with resources who can find a safe and legal way to get an abortion, as 1 and 3 women will in their lifetimes. Let’s be clear: It is the definition of privilege to be able to say screw it and usher in a Drumpf presidency if your chosen nominee isn’t on the ticket. A privilege many women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and young people simply do not have.
The Democratic primary has brought out every faction of the political left and it hasn’t been pretty. But while passion and loyalty to your chosen candidate is admirable, it can also be politically dangerous.
Sarandon is far from alone. Over 50,000 Bernie Sanders supporters have pledged to support Bernie Sanders and only Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. If Clinton gets the nomination, they’ll either write in his name anyway. Some might vote for a Green Party candidate like Jill Stein. Or vote for Drumpf because their aversion to Hillary Clinton is just that strong. Or simply stay home and not vote at all.
I can appreciate the disappointment of not being able to vote for one’s chosen candidate, but this position overlooks the fact that while Clinton and Sanders are distinct in some ways (for instance, their positions on foreign entanglements), their domestic platforms are not terribly dissimilar. As senators, their voting records are, in fact incredibly similar: They voted the same 93% of the time. But the consequences for voting against Hillary Clinton should she become the Democratic nominee for president could be catastrophic.
If Drumpf becomes president, he’ll be in charge of nominating a new Supreme Court justice who will dictate the metronome our democracy for decades to come. Not only does Drumpf think women need to be punished for their abortions, but wants to build policy around the erroneous claim that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers and Muslims are terrorists.
As president, Drumpf will set the tone for our immigration and women’s health policies. At a time where deadly terrorist attack have struck Pakistan, Paris, Iraq, Nigeria, and Brussels, Drumpf has revealed himself to be shockingly ill-informed on the most basic aspects of foreign policy while still proclaiming that he and he alone can solve the problem. His own former senior policy strategist pointed out in a tell-all piece for XO Jane, when it comes to his national security, “the man does not know policy, nor does he have the humility to admit what he does not know—the most frightening position of all.” This is not how we make America great.
As with any presidential candidate, there are many legitimate reasons not to support Hillary Clinton’s White House bid. Clinton once called Black kids “super-predators” to advocate for the disastrous 1994 crime bill that ushered in the federal “three strikes” law and sentencing disparities for crack versus powdered cocaine that would go on to cripple a generation of black and brown folks (Sanders, it should be noted, also supported the bill). Many voters will always eye her cozy relationship with Wall Street with skepticism.
Critics argue that her role in the 2009 coup of Honduras’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya later helped seal the country’s fate as the global murder rate leader. But instead of highlighting these criticisms—Wall Street ties, racial justice, Honduras—it’s hard to ignore the sexist tone some of these attacks take, especially when they go after her for her husband’s infidelities and dealings, and call her fundamentally untrustworthy or shady by extension, when she’s been reported to be fundamentally honest and as nearly as faithful to the facts on the campaign as Sanders.
Let’s be fair here: Sanders hasn’t faced the same kind of scrutiny. He hasn’t released his tax returns—Hillary has. In his interview today in the New York Daily News, Sanders appeared out of his depths on subjects he should know intimately—they’re his main talking points—from how to break up the banks (“I don’t know if the Fed has the authority”) and its legal implications to handling negotiations between Israel and Palestine over settlements (“I think you’re asking me a very fair question, and if I had some paper in front of me I’d give you a better answer. But I think if the expansion was illegal, moving into that territory that was not their territory, I think withdrawal from those territories is appropriate”) to dealing with the Islamic state. Even when the interviewer mentioned that if elected, all branches of the U.S. government would be controlled by alums James Madison High School in Brooklyn—Congress, the Senate, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. Sanders questioned him on the Supreme Court. The Daily News reminded him of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Well, she is there, but she’s not … she’s like a … yeah.”
Which, together with his swatting his wife away from the podium during his speech in Madison, Wisconsin, after his victory triple win on Saturday, March 26, his compulsive, condescending finger wagging, and snapping at Hillary “I’m speaking,” during their last debate, and aggressive cohort of Bernie-bros who go after women and people of color alike, should be a bigger problem than it has, but doesn’t appear to be eroding the enthusiasm of his followers. While gender issues have taken the forefront, add race, and everything changes. Or should.
Everyone is courting the Black vote. And everyone is telling us how to vote. White Bernie bros. And white feminists who support of Clinton. As Black women, our lives are an intersecting network of experiences around our blackness, our gender, and our class that define and shape our lives. Picking one set of experiences over the other would be impossible. Yet, many Black women feel that their support of Clinton as potentially the first female president is simply assumed. We are expected to push any concerns around Clinton’s record on race aside to focus instead on voting the first female president into office. As Kirsten Savali West, who does not support Hillary, writes over at the Root, “What's funny—and not “funny ha-ha”—is how some white feminists who ride for Clinton as hard as Bernie bros ride for Sanders have been silent about the criminalization, sexual assault, and police brutality that Black women and girls face. Despite this, they expect us now to be all sister suffrage ‘Vote for women!’ or risk being deemed traitors to gender equality.”
And I get that. But whether the political infighting on the left is being driven by passion, legitimate political grievances, sexism, or some combination of the three, I would argue that the prospect of Drumpf—or even Cruz—terrifies me to such a degree that I just can’t bear a future where either one of them would be leading this country on a platform of racism, hate-mongering and straight up violence against women. The stakes are simply too high to let infighting divide us as Democrats.
No one likes feeling like they are being forced into voting for “the lesser of two evils.” No one likes feeling like they have no way to meaningfully engage in their own democracy because the system is already rigged. But we are talking about putting a man in the White House who has suggested “punishing” women for a legal medical procedure—one that is being made less accessible by the day. We’re talking about electing a man who took out a full-page ad in a newspaper advocating for the execution of five innocent children. This should be “avoid at all costs” unacceptable.
Last week, the Clinton campaign tweeted: “Some folks may have the luxury to hold out for ‘the perfect.’ But a lot of Americans are hurting right now and they can’t wait for that.” As much as folks like Susan Sarandon want their Sanders revolution, Clinton is right. At worst, she may be counting on our resignation—it’s our job as voters not to be complacent, to make demands of her, to make her earn our votes. And then hold her to it. And to vote during mid-term elections, too. But more than anything, it’s our job to vote.
So I beg of you, readers, to please support your candidate and do so respectfully and thoughtfully. And to please not get mired in the battles with friends and fellow Democrats that you lose sight of what’s on the other side.