Privilege is what allows Sanders supporters to say they’ll “never” vote for Clinton

The latest installment of “The Internet Explodes with Hatred for Hillary Clinton” happened earlier this month. The Democratic presidential candidate, whose own record on AIDS research and funding is better than any other candidate, mistakenly said that former US first lady Nancy Reagan was a key supporter of AIDS research. Reagan was, in reality, horrible 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” claims 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?

Clinton’s stellar record on AIDS is ignored while people indignantly attack her for making an inaccurate statement. I like Bernie Sanders. I really do feel the Bern. But I see Democrats brush aside things that 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. Clinton is flamed for being a “career politician” and an “insider” when Sanders has been in political office much longer than she has. (Clinton 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 Clinton for speaking in favor of the omnibus crime bill in the 1990s when she was first lady, a position with no political power. But Sanders, 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.

I’m not here to argue about Clinton versus Sanders. 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 Clinton 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 pass that very bad crime bill law, I want you to take a long, long think about why that is. If you’re reviling Clinton for campaign contributions made by banks, but did not revile Barack Obama for the same thing, I want you to take a long, long think about why that is.

 I would support half a Snapple as the Democratic nominee rather than go back to the policies of Reagan or Bush. Those of us who are old enough to remember what it was like to live under the Reagan and the Bush administrations remember how bad it was. How much better almost everything–including the economy and job growth—got under Bill Clinton and Obama. I lived through this, 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 Clinton 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 Sanders 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 Clinton has today, yet will still claim that she’s “dishonest.” That’s some impressive chicanery, and I mean that.

 Supporting Sanders should not be the same as hating Clinton. 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 Clinton. 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 Sanders over Clinton, or disliking Clinton’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 Clinton 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.

Let’s think practically about the election in November.

 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” Clinton? If Donald 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 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.) Trump excuses his followers who attack a homeless Hispanic man on the street, claims that Mexican immigrants are rapists, refused to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan, supports banning Muslims from entering the US, advocates killing the families of terrorists, and is openly sexist. Trump is the worst America has to offer.

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” Clinton so much that 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 Clinton constitutes, as I saw someone say earlier this week, an “inviolable principle,” meaning that it’s more important than the lives of vulnerable Americans? That all applies equally to any Clinton supporters saying the same about Sanders. (We have yet to see the full weight of American anti-Semitism aimed at Sanders, and if he wins the nomination, we most certainly will.)

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.

This post originally appeared on Bitter Gertrude. We welcome your comments at

home our picks popular latest obsessions search