While conservative pundits continue to engage in a circular firing squad as they either decry or support Donald Trump, there is similar back biting going on among some Democrats who seem to forget that the number one goal is to make sure that a Republican is not elected to the White House in November. Unlike on the GOP side of the aisle, none of the Democrat candidates are insane or extremists, and thus, the issue becomes (i) who is most electable and (ii) who best represents all Democrats. In a piece in The Nation, Joan Walsh makes the case that she believes Hillary Clinton is best qualified and deserving of support. Here are excerpts:
Invited by the French Institute for International Relations to join its Annual Conference on the United States in Paris, along with my new friend Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, I went on to address several classrooms of university students in Toulouse. I got the most questions about Donald Trump, of course, but the Hillary Clinton–Bernie Sanders race was a close second. French students are excited to know there’s an actual socialist in the race; female French students are worried that Clinton could lose, yet again.
I did something in France I don’t often do at home: I came out of the closet as a full-fledged Hillary Clinton supporter. And this time, as opposed to 2008, I’m backing her without apology, as the right and even radical choice. More than without apology; after 40 years of voting for male presidents, I’m supporting Hillary with excitement, even joy.
Had I not declared myself last week, in a Toulouse university lecture hall, I’d have probably done it here anyway, after watching the CNN Democratic presidential town-hall meeting Monday night. The town hall itself was great; Clinton, Sanders, and Martin O’Malley all looked admirable and presidential, in contrast to their awful Republican rivals. Democrats have a lot to be excited about this year.
But one moment got me particularly excited, and not in a good way. It came when a young white man—entitled, pleased with himself, barely shaving yet—broke the news to Clinton that his generation is with Bernie Sanders. “I just don’t see the same enthusiasm from younger people for you. In fact, I’ve heard from quite a few people my age that they think you’re dishonest. But I’d like to hear from you on why you feel the enthusiasm isn’t there.”
Yes, the “likability” issue. I found myself thinking: Not again. Why the hell does she have to put up with this again?
My problem wasn’t merely with the insulting personal tone of the question. It was also the way the young man anointed himself the voice of his generation, and declared it the Sanders generation. Now, I know Bernie is leading among millennials by a lot right now in the polls. Nonetheless, millions of millennials, including millions of young women, are supporting Hillary Clinton. And my daughter, as Nation readers know, is one of them. I find it increasingly galling to see her and her friends erased in this debate.
Which brings me to another reason I’ve felt compelled in the last week to come out publicly and forcefully for Clinton, which is Sanders’s dismissing Planned Parenthood’s endorsement (and that of NARAL Pro-Choice America) by labeling them part of the “establishment.” I appreciated Sanders supporter Kathy Geier’s acknowledgment here in The Nation that her candidate once again came off as tone-deaf on an issue of gender. Yet Geier seconded Sanders’s assertion that these two groups fighting for reproductive justice deserve to be termed “establishment”—and therefore unfavorably compared to the upstart, grassroots, and genuinely radical groups that back Sanders.
Just like my lefty friends who praise Sanders for loudly promoting the single-payer solution to healthcare because it’s important to raise the issue’s standing and profile, I praise Clinton for making repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid from paying for abortion for poor women, a major public campaign issue. I acknowledge Sanders has voted the right way, and I’m grateful for it. But Clinton is leading on it, the same way she brought up the vile Planned Parenthood video hoax in the very first Democratic debate. That leadership matters to me.
Finally, I’m struck by the insistence among Sanders supporters that Democrats who support Clinton—and right now, we are still the majority—are doing so joylessly, like party automatons. On Monday, on my Facebook page, where a lot of my close friends are supporting Sanders, three people I love shared the same op-ed by Republican operative Alex Castellanos, which purported to explain why Clinton’s campaign “sags” (get it?) while Sanders “surges.” This is the same Castellanos, by the way, who defended calling Hillary Clinton a “white bitch” during the 2008 campaign, when Jeffrey Toobin complained about it. “Some women, by the way, are named that, and it’s accurate,” he said smoothly. Trust me: If Castellanos had used a racial slur against Obama eight years ago—”Some black men, by the way, are named [N-word, or your slur du jour], and it’s accurate,” for instance—no progressive would be enthusiastically touting his views on the 2016 Democratic campaign. Not one. Could I really be the only one who remembered his ugly sexist attack on Clinton?
Eight years ago, I found myself drawn into the media vortex, standing up for Clinton in the face of extraordinary media bias and sexism of the type Castellanos typified. I styled myself as a Clinton defender, not exactly a supporter, partly for journalistic reasons, and partly because I was genuinely torn about not supporting the amazing African-American senator running in the primary against her.
I’m being told it should be, that once again the historic quest of the first front-running female presidential candidate should take a backseat to another historic crusade, that of our first Brooklyn-born Jewish socialist.
I’ve always admired Sanders, but I happen to think he has more than a tin-ear on gender. He routinely talks about “mothers” needing family leave, and he doesn’t even seem to try to substitute the now-customary (on the left, anyway) “he or she” or “him or her” into his speeches.
Still, the larger message to Clinton supporters is that our demand for equal representation at the highest level of government at last, by a supremely qualified woman who is thoroughly progressive if not a socialist, must sadly wait. Again.
I won’t wait. I’m supporting Clinton, joyfully and without apologies. That’s not the same as without reservations; I continue to wonder whether she’ll be more hawkish on foreign policy than is advised in these dangerous times. I’m concerned that she’s too close to Wall Street; I really wish she hadn’t given those six-figure talks to Goldman Sachs. But I genuinely believe she’ll make the best president.
I’ve come to feel passion for Clinton herself, and for what I see as a movement that supports her, even though only Sanders is judged a “movement” candidate. I believe she’s evolved back to be the progressive Democrat she used to be, more progressive than her liberal husband. Some of my feelings remain defensive, but in a warmer sense: I really don’t want to see her abused again. I’m tired of seeing her confronted by entitled men weighing in on her personal honesty and likability, treating the most admired woman in the world like a woman who’s applying to be his secretary. I’m stunned anew by the misogyny behind the attacks on her, and her female supporters . . .
[W]omen will be hurt the most by a GOP presidency. Naturally, I will back Sanders if he’s the nominee. I promise I’ll eventually feel joy about it—after grieving, if Clinton were to lose again. But if that were to happen, it wouldn’t be because I was too busy protecting my lefty bona fides to say I support her, enthusiastically, this time around. I stand with a lot of women who feel the same way, including my daughter, and we won’t be erased.