Not one Democratic primary has taken place, and already the charges of sexism are being lobbed at Senator Bernie Sanders, who, despite being an outsider without a horde of corporate donors, has been able to narrow the polling gap with the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.
Leading the pogrom is Salon writer Amanda Marcotte, who along with others, claims that the socialist lawmaker’s following is filled with men (“brocialists” and “brogressives” are the common pejorative) who discount the struggle for female representation in politics, despite their progressive beliefs about economic justice.
In both legitimate media, and the ever-expanding realm of online social networks, they pick apart Sanders’s policy critiques for dog whistle messages about Ms. Clinton’s gender, and, most recently, they quite literarily judged a book by its cover. Doug Henwood’s critical review of the ex-Secretary of State hasn’t even been released, but its cover, which features a drawing of Ms. Clinton pointing a gun, is said to reflect fear of having a strong woman in charge.
Ms. Marcotte is one to point fingers. Her own book, It’s a Jungle Out There, was criticized for containing what some viewed as racist imagery. Further, journalist Matt Bruenig debunked the notion that only the dreaded “bros” are voting for Mr. Sanders, pointing out that both camps are evenly split along gender lines, and that what really divides their fans’ demographics is age (Mr. Sanders’s biggest group of fans is the under 30 set).
It would be one thing if Ms. Marcotte simply argued that what the country needs is a president who stands for shifting the political center of gravity to the right. But what’s ironic is that her reasoning makes her the sexist, for all discussions of actual politics or policy are disregarded. Ms. Clinton’s sole defining feature is her genitalia in Ms. Marcotte’s world, and such cold reductionism is misogyny defined. Not to mention that Marcotte, a professed liberal, would force herself to side with a variety reactionary causes by that logic. In the 1980s, would she have attacked British unions for protesting Margaret Thatcher? Is she cheering austerity in southern Europe because a tough female German Chancellor is pushing it on a Greek government run mostly by socialist men? Would Marcotte have cheered British colonialism, because, after all, Queen Victoria was guilty of nothing more than being a smart, competent woman?
Those hypotheticals aren’t put lightly, because the fact is the election of the first female president of the United States would be an achievement the same way it was for Barack Obama to take the oath of office in 2009, or if Sanders became the nation’s first Jewish Commander-in-Chief. But even President’s Obama’s most ardent supporters lifted him above Ms. Clinton in 2008, on policy grounds. In this case, the Clintonistas are deflecting criticism not of Clinton as a person, but in spite of her living record, and that’s undemocratic. Every candidate should have their records out in the public, and criticized from all sides in order for us to have an honest debate about our country’s future.
Worse, these false accusations deflect who the real underdog in the race actually is. Here you have ostensibly progressive feminists, protecting someone nearly assured the nomination due to her dynastic position in the party’s establishment. And then there’s a man who previously didn’t have big donors or name recognition, and who currently still doesn’t have what it takes to get the nomination. But for the crime of forcing a party chieftain to actually work for her goal instead of glide toward it in an empty primary, these foot soldiers are punching down.
It’s easy to disregard hacks and tricksters, recognizing that they come with the electoral territory. But what’s interesting is that the Democratic Party is at a moment of reckoning, when a socialist is actually forcing left-wing ideas about economic and environmental justice into the debate. And yet, it isn’t the far right that’s fretting about class talk, but the establishment of the so-called liberal party and its supporters.
That’s why one can’t say the Republican Party, for the freak show that it is, doesn’t have a monopoly on craziness.