Politics have always been an ugly, messy—and loud—process. But what is there to gain from yelling over the speeches of some of the most progressive members of the Democratic party?
That was the word that was constantly hurled at former secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she traveled the country, winning primary after primary. “What’s she mad at?” demanded Fox News’s Brit Hume. “She shouts. There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating,” opined Bob Woodward. It became the running theme throughout her primary campaign: Was she too loud, too shrill, did she make herself hoarse?
On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, there was plenty of shouting to be heard. But this time, none of it came from Clinton. Instead, it came from a minority of delegates representing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—mostly from the state of California—who, despite claiming to be far more progressive and left-wing than Clinton supporters, made it their goal to sound remarkably like Donald Trump acolytes from their seats in Philadelphia.
From inside the convention itself, Berniacs continued to register their disappointment for a process that they considered “rigged” because their preferred candidate did not manage to win a majority of the pledged delegates during the contest. While a few taped their mouths closed with messages proclaiming them “silenced” by the political system, far more made their opinions loudly known.
They heckled Debbie Wasserman Schultz relentlessly at her own delegation event, despite the former DNC chairwoman resigning from her post a day earlier as a concession to Sanders’s supporters. They shoved a Sanders sign in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s face during a convention breakfast in an attempt to insult the highest-ranking Democratic woman in Congress, and they chanted “Bernie, Bernie” at California Representative Barbara Lee as she tried to speak. When New Jersey Senator Cory Booker gave a rousing speech during the evening’s prime-time slots, delegates interrupted him with chants of “War Hawk” and “Black Lives Matter” at the mention of Clinton’s record on security and civil rights, and they shouted “No TPP!” over the words of Representative Elijah Cummings, one of the greatest champions of civil rights in the country, as he spoke about being the son of South Carolina sharecroppers, and the ways in which the party enabled him to rise from poverty.
Even Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren—their patron saint of finance reform and economic justice, and the example that Sanders supporters trot out religiously as proof that they would be comfortable with a female president – was the subject of their ire. Amid the boos and catcalls came the chant “We trusted you! We trusted you!” to signify their ultimate betrayal at her endorsing the party nominee. They even yelled at comedienne and die-hard Berniac Sarah Silverman, who rightfully told the “Bernie or Bust” contingent that they were being “ridiculous.” The only time they managed to contain themselves was during First Lady Michelle Obama’s heartfelt and moving speech, the closest they came to honoring the legacy of President Obame that entire evening.
Politics are and always have been an ugly, messy—and yes, loud—process. The Sanders backers have a right to their tears, their disappointment, and their frustration. But delegates don’t just wander into the national convention. They actively work their way through the delegate-selection process. They have or find the financial and other resources needed for the travel, time off, and other necessities that are required to attend primaries and caucuses, precinct and state conventions, and then make it out to the national event. And throughout that process—especially as the electoral contests conclude—they know that they have agreed to be a part of the system that endorses a candidate, whether it is their particular candidate or someone else.
Senator Sanders has enthusiastically and unequivocally endorsed Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States, and he reiterated that full-throated endorsement once again in a prime-time speech, beneath a Bernie-blue glow of stage lights and his own campaign ad pulsing through the speakers. His candidacy is well and truly at an end, and nothing will make that change.
If the DNC were a wedding, well, the couple has spoken their vows and it is all over but the formal kiss. Yes, there is a moment where the audience can “speak now or forever hold your peace” but let’s be frank: If you objected so passionately that you are ready to heckle and boo the affianced, you should have stayed home and drank on the couch. Once you accepted the invitation to the nuptials, you pledged to hold your tongue during the ceremony.
On the trail, Clinton was loud. Clinton was shouty. Clinton yelled to her audiences. She passionately spoke about the issues that mattered to her, the policies she would make a reality, her vision for the future and her fears for a country with a Republican in the White House—especially if that Republican were Donald Trump. And that is perfectly acceptable, because there is a time and place for loud, for passionate, for angry, and for emotional, even if the pundit class wants to call it “shrill.”
Because Clinton has long learned the lesson that when a woman is prepared to speak, she has to do it loudly. She has to shout over the din of voices telling her she doesn’t matter, her opinions aren’t good enough, or that there is some man doing it better. She has seen how quickly some of the most self-proclaimed progressive allies will turn on a woman if they don’t get their way, drowning out their favorites with boos and cries of betrayal if they step out of line.
In 2013, when Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s famous filibuster drew to an end and there were still minutes left before the session expired, State Senator Leticia Van De Putte demanded of the body of politicians refusing to recognize her on the floor, “Did the president hear me or did the president hear me and refuse to recognize me? At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”
The time for speaking over women is over. The time for self-aggrandizing protest in the name of a second place candidate who has told you he doesn’t even want it is over. Now it is time for a woman to speak without the assumption of being interrupted.
It is time for a woman to be heard.
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