Hobgoblins and Trolls: Why I Will Not Vote for Bernie Sanders in the Primary

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 “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the term “Bro” has problematic connotations. Since I have been called a “neoliberal shill” by men and women equally, I cede the point. Therefore I have changed every instance of “Bro” in this piece to “Bernsplainer” and trust that will resolve any controversy. – BD

This morning, The Hill, eager to inflate their comments ratio, giggled about Hillary Clinton’s poor opinion of Bernie Sanders, his leadership team, and his record in Congress. Not only is this “hot-take” irrelevant to anything happening in the primary generally or in the impeachment trial today, it provides another opportunity for Bernie’s most avid supporters to pile on Hillary Clinton (who, it should be noted, is neither running in the primary OR currently on trial in the Senate) for alleged warmongering, pizza-pedophilia, corporate Shrillary K$llton rigging of EVERYTHING. And of course it’s working: the comments are aflame with rage.

Unfortunately, Clinton’s well-earned and, in my opinion, correct position will be overshadowed by the gleeful hand-wringing of the punditry that this “controversy” is evidence that the Left is deeply divided at its core. Good golly, how many times must we hear that old tune? Since when has any Democrat been unable to articulate its party’s positions? I’ll go: Yes to decent, affordable health care for as many people as possible. Yes to living wage, affordable college for those who want it. Yes to reproductive freedom. Yes to sensible gun legislation. Yes to equal justice under the law. There’s more, but we all say the same stuff. We can also articulate the Republican platform: No to alla that, plus yes to tax breaks for the wealthy, yes to punitive policies toward the poor, and yes to protecting their power at all costs.

Whatever you think of the New York Times Editorial Board’s 2020 Presidential Endorsement, they are correct in observing that:

“Nearly any [candidate] would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how… “

I am a left-wing Democrat. Always have been. In high school, after Jimmy Carter resumed the draft, I advocated for our school to bring in a conscientious objector to provide a counterpoint to our annual, mandatory Army-recruitment assembly. Like any white, middle-class teenage “radical,” I felt perfectly comfortable shouting my arguments at the conservative principal of my purple-district, suburban school and even accused him of being a tool of the government war machine. And yet, he was unpersuaded. Since then I have learned to read the room, to tailor a message, to listen to opposing points of view, and even to reconsider some of my positions based on evidence. Never in so doing has one ounce of my colossal reservoir of outrage been diminished. To me, this is a sign of maturity; I don’t have to scream at anybody. To the vocal cadre of purists, however, a nuanced position is evidence of a deep-seated neoliberal corporatism that undergirds a misguided insistence on an agenda of identity politics that will only get Trump reelected.

OK, Berner.

This year will mark my ninth vote in a presidential primary and election. Over three-dozen years, five states, and one foreign country. In spite of deeply-held views on LGBT equality, the barbarism of capital punishment, wanting sensible gun legislation, opposing the attack on unions, racial disparities in sentencing, demonization of the poor, systematic voter suppression, and the dismantling of women’s reproductive freedom, I have had to vote Democratic in every single election. HAD TO. Clinton (the handsy one, not his wife) enacted policies that had direct negative effects on me personally and were anathema to me politically, but I voted for him. Why? Because George H. W. Bush was objectively worse on everything else I cared about. Am I still enraged by Joe Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the Thomas hearings? Boy howdy. Will I run to the polls to vote for him in 2020? Hold my beer.

What the hardcore Sandernistas fail to grok is that Bernie, for many people, is depressingly old school. Does he remind me of some activist white men of his generation who treated women in the movement as coffee-getters, stenographers, envelope stuffers, and only considered liberation in terms of sexual availability? Sure does! Does it surprise me that Bernie gets annoyed when he is forced to acknowledge that systemic racism will still be a Thing after millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share? Sure doesn’t! Am I grateful that he is a pain in everybody’s ass in the Senate when it comes to getting legislation I agree with passed? Sure am because that’s where this curmudgeonly, progressive old grand-pappy does his best work.

Will I vote for him in the general election? Of course.

But, Bern Units, this constant haranguing has got to stop. My lack of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is based on my own lived experience and observations as a human on this earth, not because I haven’t heard the Good News of his Mystical Perfection and Rightness in All Things. Yea, though I have borne witness to the miracle of the bird, I do not care.

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Jesus.

I feel for the New York Times Editorial Board. They took the unusual step of endorsing two candidates instead of rallying behind just one and are getting some pretty amusing blowback for it.  Of all the primary candidates left, I have to agree that Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are worthy of endorsement, imperfect though they may be. Sure, Warren has a golden-retriever-like enthusiasm I find both adorable and irritating* and Klobuchar has, like, anti-charisma, but whatever; they have a good legislative track-record and policies I support.

What the New York Times did not do is endorse Bernie Sanders and I am here for it. While I agree with a lot of his positions, I am concerned that Bernie has never been seriously vetted over his legislative record or how he’ll pay for his plans. Nor has Sanders built a grassroots movement of any consequence, even though he insists such a movement will be critical to advancing his national progressive agenda. What I do see is an unchecked, cult-like following that not only refuses to acknowledge even the slightest flaw in their candidate, but attacks en masse any criticism of Bernie or policy disagreement with a viciousness, toxicity, and divisiveness rivaled only by the MAGA crowd.

No thank you.

We already have a chief executive whose followers took him seriously but not literally, who can’t take criticism, and who has not changed his political beliefs in 50 years. Again, I agree with Bernie on many things, but he clings to the idea that class is the source of all our problems, despite tangible evidence to the contrary. He has a tendency to dismiss racism, misogyny, and homophobia as “social issues” less deserving of his attention. All  are vestiges of a 70s progressivism that does nothing to inform the moment we are in.

Trump has proven that there is a significant portion of the electorate that has no idea how our system of government works or why our republic is unique among all nations. Team Sanders, for example, was profoundly ignorant of the primary process, the existing rules of the Democratic Party, and the workings of the electoral college in 2016. They didn’t get the memo, so they called it “rigged.” The MAGA crowd believes anything Fox tells them about the limits of executive power, even if it is the exact opposite of what they were told about President Obama. Worst of all, one of our two political parties is willing to abdicate its power as a co-equal branch of government to a lawless administration for the sole purpose of tilting the balance of the third branch of government toward a theocratic, anti-poor, anti-labor, white-supremacist Constitutional worldview. Against the will of the majority, for at least a generation.

I want a president I can criticize without incurring the white hot wrath of the faithful telling me how wrong I am about Dear Leader. Look, no one feels that way about Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren. Neither one of them is anybody’s savior, they do good work, and they can take a punch. That’s who should be president: nobody’s favorite and nobody’s fool.

Meanwhile, the Bernsplainers and Bots are busy pushing #NeverWarren on Twitter right now, because she criticized Bernie for saying something that sounded like he thought a woman couldn’t win in 2020. Bernie claims he expressed concern because of how dirty Trump will play. Here’s the thing: a woman beat Sanders by 4 million votes and Trump by 3 million, and both campaigns were the sorest losers and sorest winners, respectively, this country has ever seen.

If Bernie is truly interested in the Office, he needs to come get his people.

#HeWon’t.

Bernie Sanders is nothing if not consistent.

 

 


*  as I would a Warren-like energy in a golden retriever

Forced-Birth: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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The good old days…

Yesterday, 207 members of the House and Senate filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court requesting them to reconsider the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two landmark cases that enshrined a pregnant person’s constitutional right to seek an abortion without undue government restriction. The definition of “undue burden” is one of the issues before the Court when they hear oral arguments in spring over June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, the text of which is identical in all but location to Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case the Court already heard and struck down as unconstitutionally restrictive in 2016.

But that was before Brett Kavanaugh’s performative aggro blubbering landed him a spot on what was already the most conservative Supreme Court in recent memory. If the Court overturns 40 years of precedent, they would end the federal guarantee to legal abortion and leave the matter to the states. They would also, in effect, privilege the rights of a blastocyst over those of an adult living human whose womb is required to keep the little spark of heaven alive.

For anyone paying attention these last few years, there has been a concerted, organized, far-reaching attack on reproductive freedom in this country, including (but not remotely limited to):

  • TRAP laws: bad-faith, burdensome, medically unnecessary attacks on abortion providers couched in concern for women’s health
  • Crisis Pregnancy Centers“: misinformation boutiques disguised as health clinics offering pregnancy “counseling” from non-medical professionals that steers “patients” away from abortion. “Literally.”
  • The GOP Long Game to Remake the Judiciary
  • The Conservative Right-Wing State-by-State Legislative Strategy to chip away reproductive rights.

Until women started getting elected to local and national legislatures in greater numbers, many of these laws were passed without much pushback. In response to Virginia’s 2012 Transvaginal Ultrasound Law, for instance, state Senator Janet Howell (D-Obviously) introduced the pointed-yet-whimsical legislation suggesting that maybe men seeking Viagra should have to get a rectal exam before the government pays for their meds. The following year Texas state senator Wendy Davis held a Capra-esque filibuster to protest that state’s restrictive omnibus abortion bill before it was ultimately passed. Women in power are responding.

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 Long may she reign…

My most recent hero is Senator Mia McLeod, human woman, who introduced the South Carolina Pro-Birth Accountability Act just this month in response to her state’s proposed six-week abortion ban. McLeod’s bill highlights the very problem with defining anti-abortion measures as “pro-life:” If the state requires a pregnant person, by law, to carry a baby to term that they would otherwise not do, then the state is obligated to compensate that person for services rendered. The bill goes on to enumerate other budgetary, medical, emotional, caregiving, and educational expenses inherent in raising and caring for a child. McLeod reminds us that it is unconstitutional for South Carolina or any other state to take a person’s property without just compensation; and a womb is pretty personal property.

Why, you may ask, does this issue give you, a nominally Jewish, menopausal lesbian, an aneurysm every single time it comes up? For starters, I used to work for Catholic Charities, and while we were lock step on all matters death penalty and economic justice, we were never going to be together on abortion; however, what I did learn from the experience is that internally consistent arguments made in good faith deserve attention and respect. For all its faults, the Catholic Church (hoo-boy) recognizes, through its tenets of social teaching at least, that the sanctity and dignity of a child’s life — and that of its family — may sometimes require support beyond birth.

Apart from the blatant bad-faith assertions that “women’s health and safety” are what motivates these “informed consent,” forced-birth bills, what galls me to the core is the presumption that a person who seeks an abortion just hasn’t heard the “good news” or isn’t aware that mighty oaks from little acorns grow, or whatever.

Goofy GophersBREAKING: We know. We’ve known since we were in 7th grade and every month thereafter for FORTY YEARS or so, that a little proto-acorn that doesn’t run into a tadpole knocks you on your ass with cramps for three days. We also know that letting every single acorn in your yard grow into a tree is both unmanageable and really bad for the plumbing.  The kinds of people who promote informed consent bills either don’t have reproductive systems, don’t understand how they work, or never have conversations with people who do; or they simply don’t want anyone using theirs for fun.

For me, the most rage-inducing element of these relentless, hypocritical, ignorant attacks on reproductive justice is the claim that it’s all about the unborn child. “What about the CHILDREN?” I see a lot of “It’s a child, not a choice” license plates on cars around here and would pay good money if my horn could beep out the names of every child in foster care whenever one cuts me off. If it were truly about the child, as Sen. McLeod’s bill lays out, the state wouldn’t squawk about funding Medicare, SNAP, TANF, a living wage, paid maternity leave — all the programs these so-called “pro-lifers” deride as liberal socialist giveaways for the mooching class.

They design these draconian, forced-birth bills as if they will only affect some “other” group of “takers” to teach them a hard lesson about personal responsibility, because surely none of their daughters or sisters or wives (or mothers) would ever find themselves in such a position. Oh, honeys.

My mother, for example, was nineteen when she got pregnant by a boy she met in college. Her father was a doctor, and, as was ever thus for middle-class white women, he offered to arrange for her not to have the baby. Since this was more than a decade before Roe, doing so would have put my grandfather’s medical license at risk. My mother didn’t want to be responsible for that, so she opted* to marry my dad instead. By the time my sister was born, it was clear that the marriage wasn’t going to last. She might have made a quicker getaway too, had she not got pregnant with me. Grandpa repeated his offer, which my mother seriously considered (a weird thing for me to know) then ultimately, obviously rejected.

Growing up in a single parent household before it was fashionable was no picnic. I don’t mean to imply that my childhood was a Dickensian hell-scape of unrelenting strife, but I won’t deny that being the object of my mother’s anger was scary, unsettling, and formative. But at least she was there. My father did the weekend thing for a couple of years, got married again, got divorced again, then disappeared for a while. As far as I know, he never paid child support and rarely looked back.

He did find Jesus (who, turns out, was in New Mexico), married for a third time, and had some very nice, new children and step children. Then he got divorced again. Naturally, he is a family-values, Christian conservative. A thrice-divorced conservative Republican who hasn’t been held accountable for at least one set of his kids? I have a pretty good idea who he voted for in 2016.

Which brings me to a rather obvious question: where are the fathers in these bills? Since everyone seems to be okay with letting the government tinker around with bodily autonomy, would it not be more efficient to give every male baby a reversible vasectomy when they are born rather than force an adult human to go through pregnancy and birth? Also, how come I know how the male reproductive system works, but they think an ectopic pregnancy can be, like, smooshed back up in there?

So here we are. The United States of America is poised to re-criminalize abortion and thereby suborn women’s full rights as citizens to the contents of their wombs. There is not a single legislator advancing a forced-birth agenda who believes it will put an end to abortion in this country. Not one. The point is to relegate it to the shadows; to make it dangerous and illegal, when America was great. The point is to shame. The point is to punish.

As for all these children saved from abortion, they are the gift of righteous punishment. And boy are they never going to forget it.

 


This was but one of many factors my mother considered and should not be construed to be the only reason my sister and I are here today. The point is that a pregnant person weighs many, many things before choosing whether it is time to start a family.