When I decide who I’m going to vote for, I ask myself a few basic questions.
The first one is “will this person make it more likely that kids like me don’t go hungry in the future?”
The second is “will this person, to the best of their abilities make life better for working class people?”
On the foreign policy side, “will this person not embarrass us and avoid anything that resembles bombing poor and marginalized people in other countries/sending poor people to die and kill in other countries.”
A quick analysis of that list demonstrates where my priorities are; and that is with improving the life for the poor anywhere. That’s how I decide who I’m going to support when I vote. I decide this way because I grew up poor. Until you take care of basic needs like food and shelter, it’s really hard to focus on things like, say, whether the boys are taking me seriously in boardroom debates (spoiler alert: I’m not getting invited to any boardrooms). Working class women rarely have favorable working conditions and they don’t expect to, and the men don’t either. They don’t have paid leave. Childcare. Access to medical care. Any workplace protections against exploitation, including gender based exploitation (this one you can thank the killing of unions for, a process that began in the 80s and which the Clinton’s continued and will likely continue). Up until very recently, I’ve been both food and housing insecure. My concerns in politics continue to be dominated by preventing that both personally and collectively. For the first time in my lifetime, we have a candidate whose central focus is preventing that.
We’ve actually grown less progressive on social and economic policies in the last few generations. Under your grandparents, they would have just called Sanders a Democrat. He’s not even anymore progressive, except perhaps on race and gender, than FDR, who was President during the last Depression. Sanders didn’t leave the party, the party left him and the rest of the economic progressives sometime in the 80s. Now we are facing the kind of economic insecurity that ushered in the Progressive policies in the 30s that we now take for granted. Republicans and the rest of the country were not any less bigoted in the 30s. Those policy changes were fought for, people died for them, and it was just as improbable to get FDR’s New Deal passed as it would be today. Fortunately for us, our grandparents had the fortitude to vote with their conscience. Additionally, for millions of Americans this economic situation is equally brutal to the ones facing our grandparents. The jobs report says one thing but the homeless numbers and the hunger numbers don’t lie. People are still struggling. People with jobs are struggling. And our social safety net is weaker than it was for Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. Things have actually gotten worse for the poor in my lifetime. My mom worked my entire life and I still went hungry and there seems to be a contingent of Democrats that is woefully out of touch with that reality. Some of the people who are voting for Sanders are people who see his approach as the most sensible way out of their situation. The only reason his policies aren’t considered mainstream here, unlike how he’d be portrayed in nearly every other industrialized country, is because America drank the neoliberal kool-aid and then forced it on everyone else. There is no doubt in my mind that Clinton has drank the kool-aid, and everyone else with power has too. If you genuinely believe that the neoliberal policies that began in the 80s is the best way to move forward for your community and self then I respect that. I disagree with you and I’d be happy to have a chat about it, but I respect it. But for the left to sit here and pretend like Sanders’ views are somehow outside the purview of the mainstream while not also challenging what that mainstream is and how it got to that point is disingenuous at best and red-baiting at its worse. If you truly believe in progressive policies, you should be rejoicing about return of the word socialist in a positive light. It has been a very long time since we’ve been able to be openly that progressive and it is a radical and significant cultural shift, one which benefits all progressives no matter where they sit on the spectrum.
Media representation in this election, like all previous elections, has been utter nonsense. Clinton certainly takes some bullets for being a woman but the Clinton campaign has also done everything in its power to ensure that Sanders is marginalized by engaging in Cold War tactics and basically ignoring his candidacy. Many Sanders supporters are frustrated not just with how Fox News treats Sanders and his positions, but also how MSNBC and Salon and Huffington Post have treated Sanders and his positions, from refusing to cover him at all to labeling his supporters in destructive and divisive ways that are going to hurt us if Hilary is the nominee in the general. I can’t even imagine how the media would have treated Warren if she had thrown her hat into the ring; she’s both more progressive and aggressive. And the vast majority of Sanders supporters, including the bros, would have backed her.
This election has also been dismissive of working class people in general. We DO vote (and we’d vote even more if you made the elections national or state holidays so we had time off work and if you provided transportation; maybe advocate for those things if you are really concerned with representative democracy). We DO read. And we DO think for ourselves. We have policy positions and we can vote outside narrowly defined demographic categories whose significance were determined and circumscribed on the same liberal campuses we don’t get to attend for a variety of economic and social reasons that only Sanders seems to be aware of. We are NOT all mindless bigots and those of us that are (AND NEWSFLASH: YOU HAVE THEM TOO!) vote for Trump, not Sanders. Many of us have long-standing commitments to a variety of Civil Right’s movements and see the Sanders candidacy as a continuation of that. Talking about the working class as though they are idiots you need to save from thinking, is precisely why the Democrats lose elections, why it is so easy for the Republicans to cipher off those votes, and is also incredibly frustrating to watch and to attempt to defend from my position. I met as many bigots with problematic views towards women, nonwhite people and the poor on the left as I did on the right and the folks on the right at Stanford would usually at least hear my arguments before grabbing the pitch forks or saying something immensely classist.
If you are a Hilary supporter and there are lots of reasons to be, that’s great. I still love you. I voted for Hilary in the 2012 primaries because I felt that her and Obama had remarkably similar positions and she was the one with the most experience and ability to actually carry them out. I then voted for Obama in the general, because I agreed with his positions. The difference this time around is that Sanders’ is actually closer to my views than Clinton is, so I’m voting for him. I think they have basically equally poor shots of carrying their positions out, but if their views were the same I’d vote for the one that I thought had better odds of carrying out policy. Their views are not the same and I have the right to vote based on policy position and so does everyone else. Be a Clinton supporter, she’s worked really hard and has been influential to me as a young woman. I get the appeal. I will vote for her if she is the nominee in the general but don’t tear down Sanders’ supporters. Defend her positions, defend her record, make a case for why she is the better candidate that holds her up as equal to the men. Because that’s the thing, Hilary is strong enough and smart enough that she doesn’t need us to qualify her positions or election by her gender, I judge her by precisely the same standards I judge the male politicians.
And that’s why lean Sanders.