When the overwhelming preference among young people for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton first became apparent, old-school feminists like Madeleine Albright were quick to vote-shame younger women for abandoning the cause of feminism.
Now come the concerned citizens preemptively scolding supporters of Sanders who might be tempted to stay home if Clinton is on the ballot in November. We’re told that we have a moral duty to vote for Clinton, that we are sexist if we dislike her, and that a refusal to vote for her would be an act of privilege because vulnerable people will be hurt if Trump wins.
Well. Let’s talk about privilege and vulnerable people for a minute.
There’s no question that a Trump win would be a disaster. It would give a vain, unstable, and completely unqualified man great power and fan the flames of racism, violence, and xenophobia.
But if you are helping Hillary Clinton win the nomination, please don’t talk to me about privilege. Because you are choosing, right now, in this moment, to support a candidate who is deeply disliked by independents, has historically bad favorability ratings, is under investigation by both the FBI and the NSA, and is running much worse in head-to-head polls with the Republicans than Bernie Sanders.
In other words, you are choosing to put the country at risk by supporting the far weaker and far more vulnerable candidate. And then telling me I must support her. What does that say about your privilege?
But worse than that, you are supporting a candidate who has knowingly helped sell out poor and working people throughout her career and who has shown little regard for poor and powerless people around the world.
Hillary Clinton, your candidate, has a terrible record in many regards. It’s a record that would have made nearly any other candidate a non-factor in a Democratic primary. And it's a record that many voters, especially younger voters, find morally unacceptable.
Gay families? She threw them under the bus in 2004 and was laughably late in supporting same-sex marriage in 2013, when it was a done deal.
People in poverty? She wanted a “formal role” in passing welfare reform, which doubled extreme poverty and tripled it in single-mother households. Even now, her starting point for negotiating a higher minimum wage is only $12/hour.
Middle class families? She had a chance to fight for families that lost their houses during the mortgage crisis but chose not to join other Democrats who were trying to crack down on Wall St. She still opposes any measures that would hold the financial sector accountable, and she offers nothing at all that would even begin to address the growing concentration of wealth in a very small number of hands while wages are stagnant, at best, for everyone else.
Criminal justice? She is for the death penalty, was the only Democratic candidate in 2008 opposed to retroactively reducing sentences of the (mostly black) prisoners given unusually severe sentences for drug-related offenses, and continues to benefit from the for-profit prison industry.
Why did your candidate get in bed with the for-profit prison industry? No one has yet explained that to me.
Climate change? She promoted fracking around the world, and still supports it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is confident that she will support the Trans-Pacific Partnership if she wins, despite the concerns she's talking about during the campaign.
Before you vote for her or tell me how to vote, I suggest you read why the Sierra Club calls the TPP an enormous threat to the climate.
Innocent civilians around the world? You better take a seat, because this is a long list that starts with the millions killed in the illegal and immoral Iraq War, a war she had to know was based on lies, was in contravention of international law, and would take place in a country whose population was 50% children.
Later, she voted (along with every Republican) to block a ban on cluster bombs. Why did your candidate oppose a ban on cluster bombs? Do you know what happens to the portion of them that don’t detonate? They become landmines that kill innocent people. That's why 84 countries have signed on to outlaw them.
As Secretary of State, she worked to block a ceasefire in Syria because she cared more about isolating Iran and supporting Israel than creating peace, a policy that helped create 10 million refugees and 250,000 dead. She approved arm sales to Saudi Arabia that were used to bomb Yemen, killing 2,800 civilians by airstrikes, even as the Saudis and Boeing were contributing to the Clinton Foundation. She supported regime change in Libya, consequences be damned.
She broke a 2008 campaign pledge and supported free trade in Colombia despite knowing that the government was using threats of violence against trade unions, as $130 million was given to the Clinton Foundation by Frank Giustra, a billionaire who profited from the deal.
She supported an illegal coup against the democratically-elected president of Honduras, in contravention of international agreements, the advice of her ambassador, and the unanimous vote of every nation in South America, because her pal Lannie Davis was consulting to the people behind the coup, and because Zelaya had the temerity to advocate for higher wages.
She and her State Department put pressure on the government of Haiti to keep them from raising the minimum wage to 62 cents an hour because Fruit of the Loom and Levi’s thought that was too high.
Money in politics? There have never been insiders quite like the Clintons, who have been given vast sums for their pro-business policies and their ability to close deals that support corporate interests. This is the very core of the problem with our democracy.
In addition to all this, there is now ample evidence that she knowingly broke the law by using a private email server, which she falsely says her predecessors did as well, perhaps because she was told by the NSA that she could not use a Blackberry, perhaps so she could avoid Freedom of Information Act requests.
What do you conclude from all this? Do you dismiss it? Excuse it? Deny it? Roll your eyes? Or do you conclude, as I have, that no matter what she says, she is a politician who serves the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else, and that she is a pseudo-feminist serving the patriarchy's interest in power, war, and the globalization of corporate interests above everything else.
For Democrats to support this candidate is to say the poor people who have suffered, died, or been displaced because of her agenda — and those who would suffer under her presidency — simply do not matter. And that seems like the very definition of privilege.
If you are voting in a way that reflects little or no regard for college students, for all young people who will live with the climate we're pushing beyond the breaking point, for people living in poverty, for innocent people around the world who are merely pawns in her geopolitical chess match, you really ought not to tell me and other Sanders supporters how to vote.
Especially — especially! — when we have a candidate who stands on principle, whose campaign is funded entirely by voters, who is leading a movement of energized citizens who would help him bring us the fundamental reform we need to a system that is now in crisis mode, who rises in the polls every single week, and who would crush any Republican candidate in the general election.
So I say to supporters of Hillary Clinton: do not put our future in such jeopardy. Withdraw your support for your candidate. Hoping she is not indicted before November, hoping you can shame young people into supporting her, hoping fear of Donald Trump will get independents to vote for her — this is a reckless and selfish course, one that puts every American at tremendous risk.
Use your privilege to do the right thing. Get behind the candidate who is stronger in every regard. Tell the super delegates that having Hillary Clinton on the ballot in November puts our democracy at risk.
Unless you want to risk electing a fascist in November, I think you have a moral responsibility to help elect Bernie Sanders.