In the last few weeks, as Bernie Sanders has inched closer to Hillary Clinton in the primaries, her more ardent supporters have responded by attacking the sexism of "Bernie Bros" and their online comments.
Without question, there has been a disheartening amount of seemingly sexist comments made about Hillary from people who you would otherwise expect to at least support her unenthusiastically. But the response from the Hillary supporters has basically been a general blanket statement that goes something like this: "Bernie Sanders supporters hate Hillary because she's unlikeable as a woman, and her policies really aren't that different than his. If she were a man they'd be singing a different tune."
We are now no longer Sanders supporters, but a "sexist mob." It's a provocative and completely baseless claim. But it's working. The idea that Sanders supporters are somehow unique in having some online anger issues completely ignores the ever-present atmosphere of the Internet and how people interact with those they don't agree.
From the sexist comments I've read, which there are a few, I offer this: I do not believe Sanders' supporters, many of which are young men like me, hate her because she is a woman. I believe they hate her for who she is and much of what she stands for. But in that hatred, some of the most immature supporters are using her gender as a way to express their vitriol and disapproval. Is this any better? Probably not. Is it different? Certainly, yes. Is it unique to Sanders supporters? Obviously, no.
"We are now no longer Sanders supporters, but a 'sexist mob.' It's a provocative and completely baseless claim. But it's working."
Labeling all of "us" a sexist mob like our beef with Hillary has to do more with her being a woman than our general fears about another moderate, left of center, establishment democrat in office isn't just unfair, it's a blinders-on-generalization to defend a flawed candidate. Proof of this is the simple fact that I and many Sanders supporters would vote for Elizabeth Warren if she were in the race over Hillary or Bernie. That's why there were dozens of petitions from thousands of progressive liberals urging her to run, and why there just as many now in hopes she becomes Sanders' vice president.
So when I see every article vehemently defending Hillary (SOME IN ALL CAPS LOCK) including that line about her and Bernie's policies being so similar, my mind is boggled. No matter how many times they say it, it will never be true.
Unless, of course, you're talking about women's rights.
Even putting aside the Clinton ties to Wall Street and her embarrassingly destructive policies for poor people and the shrinking middle class, my No.1 fear (and many of the people who I know who are voting for Bernie) is that we're putting in another War Hawk, someone even worse than Obama, who by the way dropped more than 23,000 bombs on predominantly Muslim countries in the last calendar year.
If Clinton has proved anything over her last couple years in the political spotlight, it's that she is ready to be more aggressive, more violent and more unforgiving in her military worldview than any "liberal" president we've had in recent memory. I'd even go so far as to say that it is precisely our sexism, and our inherent gender biases that do of course exist, that soften the messages she has sent repeatedly loud and clear. If say, Jim Webb, made some of the comments she made, we'd have an awfully different impression of her. Here are a few simple examples:
Via TIME magazine, January of 2014:
As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama's expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration's most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues -- Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid -- Clinton took a more aggressive line than Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.
After Obama took office and began the Iraq withdrawal, Clinton lobbied to keep a sizable force there.
Via The Guardian, November 2015:
Hillary Clinton distanced herself from Barack Obama's strategy for defeating Islamic State extremists on Thursday in a sweeping foreign policy speech that called for greater use of American ground troops and an intensified air campaign.
Via Global Research, August 2015:
I want the Iranians to know that if I'm president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them," Clinton said. She endorses using cluster bombs, toxic agents and nuclear weapons in US war theaters. She calls them deterrents that "keep the peace." She was one of only six Democrat senators opposed to blocking deployment of untested missile defense systems -- first-strike weapons entirely for offense.
Via Salon, September 2015:
Even so, her speech about the [Iran] deal highlighted what ought to be-but probably won't be-a deeply examined part of her ideology: her hyper-hawkishness. In the speech, Clinton spent most of her time "talking tough," as they say. She flatly declared that the deal did not signal "some larger diplomatic opening" and insisted that she would "not hesitate to take military action if Iran tries to obtain a nuclear weapon." (If the president of Iran casually threatened to bomb the United States, there would be hell to pay, but no matter.) She also pledged to to arm the already-well-stocked Israel even further, and to expand the American military presence around Iran. Never mind that multiple American intelligence estimates have concluded that Iran suspended its quest for a nuclear weapon long ago; we can always use more ships in the Middle East.
Via The Nation, May, 2014:
But we don't need a memoir to know that, comparatively speaking, two things can be said about her tenure at the State Department: first, that in fact she accomplished very little; and second, that both before her appointment and during her service, she consistently came down on the hawkish side of debates inside the administration, from Afghanistan to Libya and Syria. She's also taken a more hawkish line than Obama on Ukraine and the confrontation with Russia.
The message is clear: Hillary Clinton is promising a "more muscular" foreign policy, as The Huffington Post put it. More muscular than 23,000 bombs dropped in 2015? More muscular than the drone strikes in Yemen that have left so many innocents dead and so many openings for the recruitment of Islamic extremists? More muscular than a government "quadrupling" the defense budget of Europe? More muscular than $610 billion spent in 2014? More muscular than spending more on military than the next eight nations combined?
It sounds a lot like the tough talk we heard from Bill Clinton in the 1990s, right before he helped start a policy of mass incarceration that has destroyed low income and minority communities in America. I think I speak for all Bernie Sanders supporters when I say: No, thanks.
Her language, her willingness to speak about killing more people we have no business killing, is reprehensible to us beyond forgiving. This is not a Republican telling you this. I believe Benghazi is a non-scandal if there ever was one. I believe Hillary's "emails" are essentially a non-issue. But for Bernie supporters, it's Clinton's promises of more war, more weapons, and more "strength" that sends shivers down our spine.
In many of these Hillary defenses, a broad assumption is made that us American liberals must like Obama, and in turn like her, because she isn't so different. And since we don't like her, and we like Obama, it must be solely because she's a woman. So let me make this clear: Obama has been a good president, solving many massive domestic issues he faced when he came into office, no doubt. But he's also been far more violent, far less transparent, and far more divisive than he promised he would be. Only in the last year have I really seen shades of the president I voted for, and assuming that I "like" Obama and would "like" Clinton the same if she was a man is demonstrably inaccurate on both ends.
"...for Bernie supporters, it's Clinton's promises of more war, more weapons, and more 'strength' that sends shivers down our spine."
Then, the same democrats who claim us far left progressive Bernie supporters are criticizing Hillary like the GOP would, drop lines like this: "FIRST AND FUCKING FOREMOST, COOL, YOU LIKE BERNIE'S WISHES AND DREAMS APPROACH TO POLITICS. "FREE COLLEGE FOR EVERYONE AND A GODDAMN PONY." That sounds an awfully lot like the kind of GOP criticisms that have been lobbed at Bernie, too.
Sanders has a message that he's managed to stick to, unrelentingly, throughout his entire political career: Poor people in our country are suffering unfathomable hardship, and it's about time the wealthiest nation on earth took care of them. Clinton's voting record doesn't prove she gives two shits about it. That is really the heart of it. His overwhelming support from my generation (in Iowa, 84 percent of under 30 voters caucused for him, when a year ago he only scored 7 percent amongst all voters in the polls), is a look into the future of our country.
My generation isn't moderate, we are overwhelmingly liberal or independent, we're not scared of the word socialism, we are non-religious, party independent, and we aren't interested in waiting around for the 50/60/70/80 year old rich white politicians of either party to catch up and start cutting our military spending and putting it into a sweeping Medicaid program, college tuition programs and ripping apart our prison system. And all of those things make us just like our favorite Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Our friends are in college debt, they're opioid addicts, they're in jail, or they're unable afford a house -- and some of that is because of policies the Clinton family has supported or even pushed. Hillary Clinton talks about fixing addiction but takes more money from Big Pharma than any candidate in this race. Asking us to forget that because Clinton is "more electable" or has been treated unfairly for being a woman while our friends cycle through rehab centers or overdose in dark hotel rooms is condescending and out of touch with the plight we feel.
She has my vote if Bernie doesn't win the primary, which he maybe won't, but I'm certainly not going to concede their policies are similar or they are somehow equivalents. Five years ago, Hillary wouldn't have said most of the stuff Bernie said in the 1980s. And so much of her now far left progressive rhetoric is because she's seen how well it has worked for him. For long-time supporters of Sanders, this reality is as clear as day. He's been pulling people to the left since his days in Vermont, when many of his ideas that were called "radical" and "unattainable" became mainstays in today's government.
Worst of all, though, is that the "Bernie Bro" label for abusive online commenters that the Clinton camp throws around implies that all of Sanders' supporters are young, white, privileged men, which as The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald pointed out, simply isn't true. So to wrap this up, I will offer you some of his words:
There are literally millions of women who support Sanders over Clinton. A new Iowa poll yesterday shows Sanders with a 15-point lead over Clinton among women under 45, while one-third of Iowa women over 45 support him. A USA Today/Rock the Vote poll from two weeks ago found Sanders nationally "with a 19-point lead over front-runner Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 31 percent, among Democratic and independent women ages 18 to 34." One has to be willing to belittle the views and erase the existence of a huge number of American women to wield this "Bernie Bro" smear. But truth doesn't matter here -- at all. Instead, the goal is to inherently delegitimize all critics of Hillary Clinton by accusing them of, or at least associating them with, sexism, thus distracting attention away from Clinton's policy views, funding, and political history and directing it toward the online behavior of anonymous, random, isolated people on the internet claiming to be Sanders supporters.
As for Hillary and her record on women's rights, which in the conversation of gender and sexism and having our first female president has been a major talking point for her campaign, I have one simple challenge: Find me a positive, progressive policy for women that Hillary Clinton has supported and Bernie Sanders hasn't. If you can, leave it in the comments.
Isaac Saul is an editor at the Positive News website A Plus.
A version of this post originally appeared on IsaacSaul.com.