Project Wonderful

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a #BernieBro

I thought I had closed the book on the Bernie Bro phenomenon and was feeling quite satisfied when I got two messages from male friends who are supporting Bernie insisting that my take was unfair because it failed to address the over-use of the "Bernie Bro" label. Clinton is after all, a politician and cries of sexism should not be used to shield her from legitimate critique.

I think it is very telling of the current state of the progressive community that in order to have my complaints of sexism validated I need to be so obsequious and specific. A wise Facebook picture I was recently tagged in said, "expecting marginalized peoples to disregard their own emotions to calmly educate you is the epitome of entitlement." Whatever Bill Clinton did, or Gloria Steinem said or a Clinton supporters tweeted, the Bernie Bro phenomenon is a problem, and a cancer on our community and it needs to be addressed by all of us, full stop.

Having said that, CampaignSick is a blog about campaign life, elections, and women's political power. So let's talk.

Simply criticizing Secretary Clinton does not a Bernie Bro make. It should be noted that by that standard I would be a Bernie Bro. The insufficiently addressed problem with Bernie Bros is not even the nature of their attacks on Hillary. At least to the extent that is reasonable to expect, those have been acknowledged by mainstream Bernie supporters. (Yes, those are a thing.) It's the Bernie Bros' attacks on me and my reasons for supporting her. It's their insistence that an aspect of the electoral system that doesn't yield their desired outcome must be rigged against them. Although not overtly sexist this last part is certainly male entitled, not to mention ironic since the system was designed by and for white men.

When we apply the Bernie Bro label indiscriminately we weaken our own argument. Contrary to a response I got from a Twitter follower, the Bernie staffers I caught having a pizza party at 7:30 two days before the caucus were not Bernie Bros, they were just being little punks. (Kids today, amiright?) That would be like a Bernie supporter responding to my post about a staging location director accidentally giving me lit with the wrong polling place by calling her a corporate shill. I believe the constraints of gender have played a large part in Hillary's less progressive decisions, but there is nothing sexist about a Bernie supporter saying, "not good enough!" Hillary's gender does not exist in a political silo and it is a ridiculous and counterproductive bar to set to ask us to unpack the invisible backpack of gender and conclude that it excuses any and all distasteful behavior on the part of professional women.

Before Bernie Sanders' candidacy looked competitive people said, "well it's good that the primary won't be a coronation." Of course Hillary Clinton or any woman is not entitled to run unopposed by dint of her gender. However political context being what it is, it seems as if a coronation is the only way we can ever nominate a woman. Please read this excellent piece on the un-discussed gender dynamic in the race to learn more about why I feel that way. It makes me feel incredibly sad and frustrated and powerless. I've been a girl/woman for 31 years and politically sentient for about half of them. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be 81, to have fought for equality your whole life, to be this close to a woman holding the highest office in the land and see the possibility that it might again elude you. But it doesn't excuse Gloria Steinem implying that young women who support Bernie Sanders are doing so to meet boys or because they don't know any better. Which is, in fact, sexist.

Having done this for 10 years, I should not be surprised by extreme thoughtlessness even from Democrats. Then again, maybe the only way to do this for so long is to have unwavering faith in the moral arc of the so-called target universe. When you are a woman and you fight for equality in the public space, it is intensely personal. It is demoralizing and it is pervasive. There is barely an interaction personal or professional where I don't see gender at play. For this reason it is sometimes hard to see the line between "it's sexist" and "you're sexist," but nobody wins when women are trivialized or reduced only to that one identity. The reason I take this primary so personally is not because I so greatly admire Hillary Clinton, although I do. It is because more so than on her, or Wall Street, or Citizens United, it feels like a referendum on women in public life.

And right now, were it within my power, I would hand Bernie Sanders the nomination on a silver platter if it meant that we would once and for all be treated with respect.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Yes, The Bernie Bros are Alive and Well

Alright, I know this is CampaignSick and not HillaryClintonBlogspotFanclub. Let's not forget there are many, many races and election-type activities happening right now that are not the Presidential election. We will get back to talking about those campaigns soon. I apologize. It's just that those campaigns are not trolling me on social media and posting sexist and inflammatory things in my Facebook feed.

After working for John Edwards in 2008, I never again thought I would get to a place where I felt almost as if my continued existence was predicated on my candidate winning the Presidential nomination and I never thought that candidate would be Hillary Clinton. Even after I become heavily invested in electing our first woman President, I enjoyed the relative freedom and serenity of being a nomination contest by-stander. I liked being able to post things that were critical of Secretary Clinton and her campaign and I also liked sharing positive things about Bernie Sanders. Even though he was never going to be my candidate, Senator Sanders has always evoked a genuine affection in me. Being a New York Jew, his accent and demeanor were comforting and familiar, almost familial. More to the point, I appreciated that he takes bold stances, is able to dream larger than the current political context, and advocates to move us in that direction. Then came the Bernie Bros.

Bernie Bros are a strain of a larger virus in the progressive movement known as brogressives. A brogressive, as defined by Urban Dictionary is a "politically liberal or left-leaning person who routinely downplays injustices against women and other marginalized groups in favor of some cause they deem more important." A brogressive is not just a run of the mill sexist. Plausible deniability (even internally) is a trademark of brogressivism. A brogressive probably won't say that Hillary Clinton has canckles, but will accuse me of voting with my vagina. He will then patronizingly explain to me why that is not a sexist thing to say and that I'm sexist and anyway Hillary voted for the war in Iraq.

In addition, perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the brogressive, and what makes him so pernicious, is his aggressive application of the lens of male privilege to his interactions in the progressive movement. Brogressives insist their subjective viewpoint is objective truth and that facts, when inconvenient to them, are subjective opinion. If they aren't winning, the rules must not be fair. The latter is apparent in the Bernie Bro's stubborn refusal to accept the realities of Iowa delegate math but is perhaps best exemplified by Sanders Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver's reaction to the DNC data breach controversy that took place in December. In a post titled "Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager is Gaslighting the Democratic Party" I wrote:

At the end of they day they still broke the rules. No one made them save those lists. They got caught. And now suddenly it's everybody's fault but theirs? ...As one friend put it, you don't get to steal something from my house because the door is unlocked, blame the alarm company and then sue the police for arresting you...

Check out this clip of abusive- husband-in-an-episode-of-Law-and-Order/Bernie Rights Activist, Jeff Weaver. In it, he suggests that the Clinton campaign stole Sanders data during a security malfunction back in October then quickly backtracks when pressed and admits he made it up and just "assumed." (Because that's how things work in his paranoid, narcissistic world.) In another clip Weaver calls the DNC's decision to temporarily suspend access an "inappropriate overreaction." Hmm does that scenario sound familiar? Every woman reading this has had the experience of being wronged by a man in some way only to have him turn it around and accuse her of "overacting." Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager is gaslighting the Democratic party.

And that last point is really the rub. By no stretch of the imagination is every Bernie Sanders supporter a brogressive. Far from it. They account for a very small, disproportionately vocal fraction of his base. However, almost to the bro, every brogressive is for Bernie and with Sanders' rise in popularity BernieBros have been given a platform on the national stage and a chance to have their microaggressive brand of politics validated by playing a part in choosing the Democratic nominee. It is a brand that politically active women like myself recognize all too well.

It is for this reason that an article on a friend's Facebook wall titled "The 'Bernie Bros' Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism" and subtitled by my friend "debunking the myth of the Bernie Bro," filled me with a level of frustration and umbrage erstwhile reserved for Republican propaganda. The content of the article makes the straw man argument that most Sanders supporters are not Bernie Bros and that supporters of other campaigns can be just as vile. While both those things are certainly true, the premise is specious in that it refutes a claim that no one is making and in doing so dismisses the issue, not to mention the experiences of women in the progressive movement. "Really?" I thought, "We're doing this again? I'm being gaslighted about being gaslighted."

I don't feel that it needs to be reiterated, but once again for the cheap seats in the back, of course not every Bernie supporter is a Bernie Bro. I thought we went over this with White Feminism/#NotAllMen/#AllLivesMatter. If it's not about you, it's not about you. It doesn't mean it isn't a problem. On top of that of course Bernie doesn't have the market cornered on obnoxious, combative, self-righteous or pedantic supporters. Frankly, if he did he'd be winning by a landslide. People get extremely worked up over Presidential politics (hi!) and are quite frequently awful.

The Bernie Bro is a very specific type of bad actor whose recent prominence is emblematic of a larger, simmering, intra-movement culture war. Brogressives want to make it harder for women to be in the progressive space. They want to diminish my voice to amplify their own and right now they are using Bernie Sanders' campaign as a megaphone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nobody’s Calling You Sexist*

*unless you’re being sexist

Look, I get it. I supported the white guy (oops) in 2008 in a primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you are a progressive, being called sexist sucks. No woman wants to be accused of being a traitor to her gender and any man who is truly an ally knows that in context, “I’m not sexist (racist, homophobic…)” is often the ugliest phrase that can escape your mouth. I get it. I really do. Good news for you is nobody’s calling you sexist just for supporting Bernie Sanders. At least I’m not.

There is absolutely a Feminist argument, albeit one I don’t find overwhelmingly compelling, to be made for supporting Bernie Sanders. Although I would challenge a few of her points, my former Professor Liza Featherstone makes the case brilliantly here. Even if you do agree with me that Hillary Clinton would be a fiercer advocate for women you might still find that the things that appeal to you about Bernie Sanders override that concern. None of that makes you sexist.


There is a difference, a gulf, a chasm if you will, between YOU’RE sexist and IT’S sexist.
It’s sexist that we have never had a woman President. It’s sexist that Hillary Clinton is held to every double standard in the book. It’s sexist that she—a woman who is in some circles reviled for being progressive—is also being portrayed as a calculating corporate shill for simply having a robust public record in professional politics, an accusation right out of the Republican playbook. No woman could have come this far without her enormous breadth and depth of experience, some of which inevitably involves political calculation. For better or worse Hillary Clinton is who she is and has had to make some of the decisions she has made in the way she has made them because of the confinements of her gender. And you can say "that's not a good enough excuse for me" and that's valid, but it's sexist to not acknowledge that that is the case. It’s sexist that the media consistently downplays her accomplishments. It’s sexist that people bring up her husband’s infidelity as a campaign issue. It is because of a long history of sexist attacks on Secretary Clinton that people think to themselves, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t like her.” It’s sexist that in a society that minimizes, disenfranchises, and is stacked against women that I am accused of simplicity for citing her gender as a reason I am excited to vote for her. And by the way, to accuse me or women like me of sexism for considering Hillary’s gender in our votes is to engage in the politics of people who ask why we don’t celebrate white history month or have straight pride parades. It’s sexist that I should even have to explain this to you.

I’ve started this post a half dozen times and put it down because it is so mind-numbingly evident to me that I barely know what to say. But apparently it is not so evident to some. My social media accounts have devolved into a litany of white men with neither my expertise nor lived experience attempting to explain Feminism to me. I am genuinely stunned by the number of intelligent people who have responded to my posts that laud the appeal of a woman president or criticize sexist media coverage with “yeah but big banks, but Iraq.” Look, if Iraq is your issue, if moving toward a more European style social system is your issue, then those are totally legitimate reasons to support Bernie Sanders. No candidate is perfect. We all have to use our values and histories to make a judgment call about which traits and issues to place the most importance on and who will do a better job at delivering our vision. There are in fact dozens of reasons to support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. I just don’t see what they have to do with Hillary Clinton’s shoes.

Were Bernie Sanders to face anti-Semitism-- and I can guarantee you he will should he be become the nominee— I would call it out, not just because I am Jewish but also because it is the right thing to do. When Carly Fiorina is critiqued for not smiling enough or for her lack of “likeability” I call out that sexism too, even though I believe she would be a disaster as Commander in Chief. I don’t worry that anyone will take my progressivism or support for Hillary Clinton less seriously when I do so, because by doing so I am demonstrating progressive values. Acknowledging that Hillary Clinton has faced an almost unfathomable amount of gender bias in her lifetime is not an endorsement of her, or of anything, other than common sense and decency. Admitting that sexism exists and gender needs to be talked about will not give you Clinton cooties, I promise. I have plenty of friends who have done so and still passionately support Bernie Sanders. On the flip side, refusing to do so is indecent even if it does not change your vote one iota.

It would be unfair of me and it is not my intent to imply that you are sexist unless you place the same priority on gender equality that I do or unless you agree with me on the means to achieve it. But if you obstinately deny that Hillary is being and has been treated unfairly because she’s a woman, if you belittle me for caring or accuse me of “voting with my vagina” then you, my friend are absolutely sexist. And if you continue to feign offense because you can’t tell the difference between “it’s” and “you’re,” well then it’s just acting like an asshole.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hillary Clinton Won The Iowa Caucus

I would really love to spend the introduction to this post reflecting on how hypocritical it is of Jeff Weaver and his legion of Bernie Bros to spout conspiracy theories about the deck being stacked against them while simultaneously denying the existence of the well-documented historical and institutional misogyny which stacks the deck against Hillary, but I got about 12 seconds of sleep last night and I have to be up at 5am tomorrow so let's dive right in.

Hillary Clinton won the Iowa caucus. Not just by a coin flip, not a virtual tie, she won. Might I add, she is the FIRST WOMAN EVER to do so.

First off, I'd be remiss if I didn't say in terms of the expectations game, both field teams hit it out of the park. Who would have thought 8 months ago (besides me, no one ever listens) that Bernie Sanders would have come within one percentage point of Hillary Clinton? At the same time, in a caucus with unexpectedly high turnout and large volumes of new registrants the fact that Hillary still won pretty much puts that whole "enthusiasm gap" myth to bed. Really great job to everyone. I hope you are enjoying a well-deserved rest before going on to Nevada/South Carolina/some other life entirely.

Now let's address the coin flip thing. Look, I am the first to argue that the Iowa caucuses are far from fair or democratic and a coin flip seems like an arbitrary way to settle things. However, it's actually not uncommon in electoral politics.

Nobody really knows how many coin flips took place last night and who won those flips. Since it is standard procedure to decide the assignment of a contested delegate with a coin flip, caucus captains were not required to record them unless they reported their results via the Iowa Democratic Party's smartphone app. The articles circulating claiming that coin flips occurred in 6 precincts and that all of those were won by Clinton are based on that bastion of reliable reporting, Twitter. Literally people tweeted that the coin flips happened and that Clinton won all of them and "journalists" reported it because of the long tradition of balanced and well-researched election coverage. (And yet somehow the media is skewed against Bernie Sanders?). According to the information that the Iowa Democratic Party did collect, seven coin flips occurred statewide and Sanders won six of them. You can read about that from the Des Moines Register, here.

In addition, even if Clinton had won six out of six coin flips it would not have affected her total number of delegates. That's because the delegates elected at the precinct caucuses are not delegates to the state convention, they are delegates to county conventions. At each county convention delegates are elected to the the state convention and those delegates are the ones who get go to the Democratic National Convention and vote on the nominee and they were the ones being reported last night. The difference of one delegate from a precinct caucus would not have changed the outcome of any of the county conventions, and therefore the state convention, so the report that Clinton won "by a coin flip" even by the furthest stretch is an absolute fallacy (or judging by the sources making this argument, a phallus-y).

True, she won by a razor thin margin and that can have all kinds of implications going forward, but as I wrote this morning, when a baseball team wins by one run, even in extra innings, nobody says they "virtually tied" the World Series. Let's end the sexist cycle of minimizing Hillary's accomplishments and admit she made some history.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mission Accomplished

Oh....Jebra. Compared to the rest of the Republican field I find Jeb Bush incredibly likeable. If you can't troll your own self, who can you troll?

The 2016 Un-Democratic Caucus

Hello from Iowa! In case you stumbled on this blog by accident I should start out by saying that the Iowa Caucuses are on Monday. I was in Iowa for the caucuses in 2008 and let me tell you, it was quite a time! If you are unfamiliar with caucusing, I have included a video on what it is and how to do it above, expertly explained by the 2008 Obama campaign which was after all pretty darn good at it.

The caucuses are a fun tradition, great for party building and allow a crude form of ranked choice voting. For example, you if like Martin O'Malley but can't stand Bernie Sanders you could caucus for O'Malley and if he is not viable at your site, caucus for Clinton when you reorganize. However, they are undemocratic absolute bullshit. If caucuses were held in any general election Democrats would be up in arms and Republicans would be signing their praises because they are more or less designed to disenfranchise.

First off, there is no secret ballot, a feature of any democratic election that we generally regard as sacrosanct. Imagine you are a local official running for a tough re-election. In most cases it would not be in your best interest to endorse since your district is deeply divided. However, caucuses essentially force an election night endorsement. Additionally, if your mom is a passionate die-hard Bernie precinct captain and you support Hillary you have to stand there look her in eye and break her heart a little bit, or caucus for Bernie for the sake of your relationship. Your boss knows who you caucus for. Your employees know who you caucus for. Your professor know who you caucused for and visa versa. Your union boss knows, etc.

Now, I personally am no shrinking violet when it comes to my support of a candidate, but I recognize that comes from a certain place of privilege. There are no repercussions to my vocal support of Hillary except for my getting temporarily unfollowed and awkwardly fighting with my Vermont-based uncle on Facebook. However, there are people who are dissuaded from participating by the caucuses' lack of secrecy either because they don't like to be publicly political or they fear indirect social or financial backlash.

When you turn up to vote in most elections you are not allowed to "electioneer" or even wear a campaign t-shirt within a certain range of the polling site. However, at caucuses electioneering is encouraged. Each candidate camp gets to make a statement and attempt to persuade individual uncommitted caucus-goers or caucus goers whose candidate is not viable. This can be terrifying if you are the type to be intimidated by politics in the first place or if you, like me in 2008, are so emotionally invested in your candidate that you open your mouth to convince people to come over to your corner and almost start crying. To their credit, Iowans are pretty used to neighbor disagreeing with neighbor every 4th or 8th winter and tend to be respectful in this way as compared with us "caucus tourists." Anyone who has knows you can't live in DC and flip out every time you cross paths with a Republican staffer. The person running the caucus does their best to keep things civilized and you definitely should not expect shouting or fist fights, but for many it remains a highly emotionally charged situation.

Finally and probably most obvious and most frustrating, you have to physically be there at a specific place and time. Not even the most regressive general election in the United States requires that participants show up for a specific half hour window. This means that caucuses favor those who are physical and economically mobile. I wound up canvassing what I could best describe as retirement mobile home park this week. In a 50-household packet I met a retired Catholic priest who could not attend because he had to take his mother to the doctor, a community college professor who had to teach and could not get anyone to cover her class, and five separate seniors who physically could not get there in the ice and cold. We could come up with countless more scenarios of would-be caucus goers who are not able to get to the caucus, most of which would involve members of vulnerable populations. It should be noted that the Iowa Democratic Party has made efforts this year to make the caucus more accessible and while those are commendable, they are, Bernie Sanders would say "not good enough." Caucus-goes still have to be available during the designated timeslot and how many 80 year old Dubuque grandmothers can't make it out on their own but are set up to tele-caucus?

In conclusion, if we as Democrats are fighting to widen participation not just because it benefits us but because its the right thing to do then the time for caucuses has come and gone.

(But it is still really fun to be here.)

Campaign Love and Mine,


Sunday, December 20, 2015

I Don't Even Know

From Independent Journal. Presented without comment.