To All My Friends 'Feelin' The Bern' From A Young-ish, White, Liberal Who's 'With Her'

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waves to supporters during a rally at Santa Monica High School Football F
US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waves to supporters during a rally at Santa Monica High School Football Field in Santa Monica, California, on May 23, 2016. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on May 23 rejected an invitation to take part in a final campaign debate against her rival Bernie Sanders, her campaign said. / AFP / RINGO CHIU (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear lovers of all that Berns,

It was 1999 and I was a twenty-one year old intern at the United Nations' Headquarters in New York. I fought hard to earn my spot, had to be smarter and tougher than the many boys who were up for the same job. Once inside, I was often the only female in the room.

A hollow feeling accompanied it, as if the opinions and experiences of half the human race--my half--didn't account for much in real global decision-making.

That fall, President Bill Clinton welcomed a record number of Heads Of State to The UN Millennium Summit. I observed from the background as 140 of the most significant world leaders gathered for a group photo--an awkward family reunion for sure--and I counted. Seven. There were seven women in a sea of neckties.

And First Lady Hillary Clinton stood off to the side, biding her time.

As countries promised lofty goals for the new millennium, I wondered how we would actually make the world "safer" and more "equitable" for women, when there were only seven females at the negotiating table. At the time, Hillary was catching flak for daring to be a First Lady with a political opinion, boldly making choices outside of chinaware and charity; and for standing by her recently impeached/acquitted husband and his very public affair. She wore a determined smile and a fierce pantsuit and I watched from a distance that day, and over the next 15 years, as she withstood every manner of insult and false threat imaginable, all while raising her professional title from First Lady to Senator to Secretary Of State.

Hillary became one of the most powerful political figures of my lifetime, as well as one of the most targeted and vilified.

In recent headlines alone, Hillary has been blamed for the Benghazi terrorist attacks; subpoenaed for using personal e-mail on the job; mocked for publicly wearing the same blouse twice; and ridiculed for not swiping her subway card correctly. She, like my younger self, has had to work harder, be smarter, take more hits than any of her male counterparts (some of whom have weathered full blown sex scandals in their ongoing political careers).

But what's really bothering me is how much Hillary bashing is coming from you, Bernie lovers; from people whose opinions I admire, from folks who've spent their lives creating a better society. My Facebook feed is Bern-ing up and, along with singing his praises, there is plenty of misplaced blame being heaped on Hillary. It's as if she alone has come to represent everything corrupt and loopholed about American politics. Suddenly, Hillary is the face behind economic injustice and corporate personhood...and now she's an "untrustworthy", old-guard politician who won't fix what's actually broken.

Meanwhile, conservatives are laughing all the way to the voting bank, baiting Bern-ers to echo their fact-less witch hunts and relentless media attacks. Some Bernie fanatics even insist they'll vote for Trump over Hillary, or that they won't vote at all, which is deeply troubling.

How does anyone know what Hillary will do as Commander in Chief? Every turn up until now has been a political dance and, though her moves were her own, we've never seen a Hillary that's not playing to another man's tune.

She may not have a perfect, Vermont-based, white male voting record; She may have dirt on her hands from being the all-out underdog in a male-dominated political system. But she is a heck of a lot better than the G.O.P.'s alternative... especially when it comes to women's rights.

And there it is again, that hollow feeling that equality for women is just not that important in today's political landscape, even a liberal one, even 15 years into those promised millennial goals. While Bernie may be supportive of "women's issues", that's not the same thing as championing them. As a Senator, Hillary introduced eight pieces of legislation that expanded and protected women's access to reproductive health care...which is eight more than any other presidential candidate. And the latest reports show American women's economic status is backsliding, not progressing, with certain women now twice as likely to fall into poverty than men.

So, to be clear, I'm not "with her" because she is a woman...and I totally am.

Only a woman who has continually stood against a tsunami of sexism is going to ensure that issues like mandatory parental leave, the gender pay gap, access to safe and affordable reproductive rights, and female representation in government are paramount to her tenure in the Oval office.

Young, white, liberals make up most of Bernie's supporters, most of them female. So I'm speaking to my ilk now when I remind you that Hillary in the White House means women's rights finally come off that back burner--and with Roe Vs. Wade hovering around a locked Supreme Court, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Hillary didn't make the rules in Washington, yet she's criticized for playing the game every male politician plays, Bernie included. She has held a hand at the "boy's table" for decades, the only woman to reach as high in the ranks of political power, only one door left to open; that hollow feeling must be her constant companion.

And she is still willing, no fighting, to step directly into the G.O.P.'s line of raging, sexist fire and lead us to a better state of our collective union.

If not for you, my Bern-ing friends, and your steadfast calls for systemic revolution, many of the issues confronting Hillary's campaign would not be forefront. Pointing out her weak stance on economic justice and her history of political maneuvering may even influence her choice of running mate (here's to hoping the most qualified woman for the job gets the nod). And I urge you to continue to shout your political cries, to post your digital memes, and to hold Hillary's feet to the corporate fire all the way to the Democratic Convention. Political debate is healthy and essential and she can handle it.

But I also implore you to compromise. Know when to take a step back and sacrifice your utopian economic vision for some pragmatic political realism and, finally, a woman's turn at the helm. In the most likely event that this is Hillary's day in the sun, and Bernie's turn to stand off to the side, please don't throw any more shade, nor jump ship entirely.

There is a path to a more equitable and just world and it's gonna take all of us liberals and lefties to forge it together ... lest we're drowned out and disenfranchised by a "trumped up" billionaire who, among other -isms, revels in his outright sexism.

So, if Hillary's name is staring back from your ballot in November, even if you're still feeling a residual Bern--for the sake of our daughters and their daughters--help me smash that last major glass ceiling into tiny pieces by casting your vote For Her.

Towards real equality,

Kiri Westby

Changemaker/Rulebreaker/Storyteller

www.kiriwestby.com

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