Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sanders, Trump, and their Angry White Men

This is the Election Cycle of the Angry White Person, Mostly Men. This particular kind of Angry White Person supports either Trump or Sanders, and is defined both by their privilege and by saying they’d rather stay home than vote for anyone else. A surprising number of Sanders supporters have said they will vote for Trump if it’s HRC/Trump. This phenomenon bears examining.

This is a certain type of Angry White Person, not all angry white people everywhere, just in case you’re feeling fragile and need a #notallwhitepeople or #notallmen. Or even a #notallSanderssupporters, because it most definitely is a subset, and a minor one at that, but so vocal, so active, so, well, LOUD, they’re impacting the election cycle as a whole. I may yet vote for Sanders myself, not that it matters, as I’m in California and our primary is like five minutes before the election.

This subset of Angry White People I’m talking about are attracted to either Trump or Sanders, period. Their personal politics will push them in one direction or the other, but the basic exchange between voter and candidacy is exactly the same.

Right now, white people are starting to lose their privilege (or, more accurately, fear they might lose it) as we strive as a culture for equilibrium. White people are being asked to examine their complicity in a system that’s racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic, etc. Many white people, especially men, are upset and angry that they, who believe they are good people– who ARE good people– who believe they are “not racist” and “not sexist,” are still associated with systemic oppression, still asked to examine their privilege. Unjustly accused, they believe, of being “the bad guy.”

Along come two angry white men, both of whom say “America’s problems are not your fault. YOU’RE the victim of an unjust system. You have every right to be angry! The system is rigged against you, so get angry and fight back!”

This is music to the ears of a certain type of white person. Trump lays it at the door of “political correctness” unjustly oppressing white men, and Sanders lays it at the door of an unjust economic system. I agree that economic injustice is a massive problem in the US, but that’s immaterial to the point I’m trying to make.

Many Sanders supporters are baffled when their fellow Sanders supporters say they would stay home and allow Trump to win or even vote for him themselves should the general election be Trump v HRC. Liberal and progressive politics center around championing the vulnerable, and in general, those voters recognize the danger that Trump– and the GOP in general– present to the vulnerable in the US. They understand that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good when actual lives are at stake. They know that the luxury to pretend that Clinton is the same as Trump only comes with the kind of privilege that insulates one from the consequences of the election. They understand what Sanders’ support of feminism and anti-racism initiatives means.

But, as we’ve seen, not every Sanders supporter actually listens to Sanders, and many are so caught up in the message that they, as white people, are victims of an unjust economic system that they refuse to consider how the consequences of this election might impact people more vulnerable than they, making them “Bernie or Bust.” And while there are indeed “Bernie or Bust” people of color, the vast majority of them are white– the vast majority of Sanders’ supporters in general are white. It’s been a problem dogging the Sanders campaign from the beginning and the reason he’s not likely to win the nomination.

This particular type of Angry White Sanders Supporters are defined by their response when it’s suggested that they should “vote blue, no matter who” in the general election to protect the vulnerable against the real dangers of a Trump presidency. They reject, with angry indignation, the idea that the actual lives of the vulnerable should take precedence over what they’re mistakenly calling their “conscience,” but what is really “my anger is more important than the lives of the vulnerable.” They say, “If I’m Bernie or Bust, don’t blame me, blame Hillary Clinton,” which means exactly same thing: my feelings matter more than, to name just one example, protecting Muslims from the policies of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. They’re more than willing to sacrifice the safety of vulnerable Americans if they don’t get precisely what they want. They see compromise as a line impossible to cross, no matter the cost– especially when the cost is one they themselves will not have to pay.

This kind of Angry White Person is excited to finally be in a place where they’re back in the center, where they’re The Victim, where they’re no longer associated with The Bad Guy, The Man, The White Male Monolith, The Patriarchy. They finally have a place that tells them that they’re the true victims of injustice.

Of course they aren’t going to vote for HRC; of course they’re going to believe whatever debunked propaganda they can find about her, of course they’re going to disparage her in sexist terms; of course they’re going to demonize her. There’s a certain kind of person who needs to believe the propaganda about her, because he’s enraptured by a world wherein white people, especially men, are the victims of an unjust system, not the architects and enforcers of one. He can’t– or he won’t– entertain the notion that white people can be both simultaneously. “Bernie or bust” = “my worldview at ALL costs.”

(And here it is again, in case you tend to confuse “people who do this” with “all you people do this”: #notallSanderssupporters #notallwhitepeople #notallmen.)

While White Anger is pretty much the alpha and omega of the Trump campaign, it’s only part of the Sanders campaign. Yet it’s such a vocal part that it’s become one of the most persistent negative aspects dogging it, doing Sanders much more harm than good.

There are two kinds of anger dominating Sanders followers: The first is the righteous anger over decades of economic injustice bolstered by every aspect of the oligarchy we foolishly made of the republic we were given. It’s an anger that recognizes that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, Islamophobia, and every kind of injustice and bigotry are serious problems in and of themselves in addition to, not in opposition to, economic injustice, that recognizes the importance of intersectionality. These are people fighting for the vulnerable, whether their own intersectional identities fall into any of those categories or not. I believe these are the (somewhat silent) majority of Sanders supporters. I hope they are. I would count myself among them, no matter who I vote for in the primary. In the general, I will proudly cast my vote for either Democratic candidate, because these issues– these people– matter to me.

This brings me to the particular kind of White Anger I’m discussing– the second kind of anger dominating Sanders followers. It’s an anger that rejects any consideration of other issues, that rejects any consideration of others, period. The White Anger that revels in its own importance and cannot, even for a moment, entertain the notion of having to return to a place where their white privilege or their male privilege– their association with, and potential complicity with, systems of oppression– becomes important, instead refusing to leave the circle where they can claim that they are the ones against whom the gravest injustice has been committed, everyone else be damned. The people who would throw the vulnerable under the bus to preserve the illusion that they are the ones suffering the gravest injustice, deserving of the most urgent attention, and entitled not just to the front of the line, but to the entire line.

 

 

 

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“I’ll Never Vote for Hillary!” Yeah, OK.

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The latest installment of “The Internet Explodes with Hatred for Hillary Clinton” happened earlier this week, when HRC (whose own record on AIDS research and funding is better than any other candidate) mistakenly said that Nancy Reagan was a lowkey supporter of AIDS research, when Reagan was, in reality, a massive asshole about AIDS in every possible way. Clinton immediately apologized, then apologized again, at length. Yet we’re still seeing a wagonload of “I’ll never vote for her” from progressives, as if her words about Reagan trump (and I’m using that verb deliberately) her actual record on AIDS research and funding. Why?
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Clinton’s stellar record on AIDS is ignored while people indignantly attack her for making an inaccurate statement. I like Bernie. I really do feel the Bern. But I see Democrats brush aside things he and other male politicians have done while raining fire on Hillary for the exact same thing– or something much less. This happens all the time. Hillary is flamed for being a “career politician” and an “insider” when Sanders has been in political office for much longer than she has. (Hillary was first elected to political office in 2000; Sanders was elected to his first office in 1981 and his first national office in 1991.) People flame Hillary for speaking in favor of the omnibus crime bill in the 90s when she was First Lady– a position with no political power– but Bernie, as a member of Congress, actually had the power to enact it into law, voting in favor of it despite the fact that many of his colleagues did not.
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I’m not here to argue Hillary vs Bernie. I genuinely like them both. I’m here to say that I’m sick of seeing her reviled for the same things people forgive easily when they’re done by men, and that the stakes are too high this election cycle to indulge that or leave it unexamined. If you’re reviling Hillary for saying something racist and stupid in 1994 in favor of a crime bill that turned out to be a very bad idea, but you’re not reviling Sanders for actually using his political power to make that very bad crime bill law, I want you to take a long, long think about why that is. If you’re reviling Hillary for campaign contributions made by banks, but did not revile Obama for the same thing, I want you to take a long, long think about why that is.
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Those of us who are old enough to remember what it was like to live under Reagan and the Bushes remember how bad it was. How much better almost everything– including the economy and job growth— got under Clinton and Obama. I lived through it, and I would support half a Snapple as the Democratic nominee rather than go back to the policies of Reagan or (any) Bush.I see people swear up and down their hatred of Hillary isn’t because she’s a woman, or doesn’t stem directly from decades of vicious, lying conservative propaganda— they will swear it!– and then immediately turn around and eviscerate her for something Bernie did (or is) himself, or call her a “crook,” or say nonsense like, “She doesn’t have an honest bone in her body.” Conservative copywriters, whoever you are, I applaud you for your success in taking a complete and total fabrication and successfully integrating it so far into the American consciousness that there are people who agree with nearly every policy position HRC has today, yet will still claim she’s “dishonest.” That’s some impressive chicanery, and I mean that.
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We should be closely examining all candidates for office, and balanced, honest criticism of a candidate’s record and policies is crucial. Respectful debate about the candidates is necessary and healthy. But supporting Sanders should not be the same as hating Hillary. Too many people are not debating the candidates and their various records or platforms logically, instead viciously reviling Clinton– often in misogynistic terms– for things they routinely excuse in male politicians. And I have to say, the level of unfocused, irrational vitriol feels an awful lot like what conservatives have been doing to Obama for years.

There’s not a thing wrong with choosing Bernie over Hillary, or disliking Hillary’s current policy proposals. However, the out-and-out hatred we’re seeing from some Sanders supporters (and about which I am hardly the first person to write), bears some serious scrutiny. While the Sanders campaign has made real efforts to deal with the worst of it– the “Bernie Bros” acting as a misogynistic mob, attacking Clinton and her supporters Gamergate style; the “Bern the Witch” controversy– there’s still far too much active hatred, and far too much of it is misogynistic or coded misogyny. Far too much of it stems from willing belief in conservative propaganda about HRC that has been debunked over and over.

I think we all expected it, but I did not expect it from our side.

It’s one thing to prefer one candidate over another. That’s healthy. That’s admirable. It’s another to actively HATE a candidate for doing EXACTLY the same things as the last three men you voted for, despite her liberal record.
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Let’s think practically about the election in November.
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If Trump gets elected, how many vulnerable people will be hurt, how many programs cut, how bad will the the economy get under conservative policies? How much damage will be done if Trump, an open racist and misogynist, is empowered to command our military, veto bills, and nominate people to the Supreme Court, impacting life in the US for decades to come? Trump exhorts his followers to attack Black protestors at his rallies (“The next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” a follower said  after punching a Black protestor at a rally earlier this week), excuses his followers who attack Mexicans on the street, claims Mexican immigrants are rapists, refused to distance himself from the KKK, supports banning Muslims from even entering the US, advocates killing the families of terrorists, and is openly sexist. Trump is the worst America has to offer.
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How privileged do you need to be to imagine that it’s a good idea to risk the actual lives of vulnerable Americans because you “hate” Hillary so much you vow to stay home if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination? How protected from the consequences of a Trump presidency do you need to be to think your hatred of Hillary constitutes, as I saw someone say earlier this week, an “inviolable principle,” meaning, more important than the actual lives of vulnerable Americans? That all applies equally to anyone saying the same about Sanders. (We have yet to see the full weight of American antisemitism aimed at Sanders, and if he wins the nomination, we most certainly will.)
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Vote for whoever you like in the primary. But let’s step away from vicious attacks and hatred. Let’s step away from buying into debunked conservative propaganda about Clinton’s trustworthiness. Let’s look at the candidates’ actual proposals and weigh those proposals’ actual strengths and weaknesses. Let’s respect each other’s choices in the primaries.

And whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, the stakes are far, far too high for us to selfishly stay home because we didn’t get our first choice. I will happily, proudly vote for either Clinton or Sanders, and I hope you will do the right thing and join me.

NOTE: The comments for the post are now closed. Thanks for reading Bitter Gertrude!
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