OPED: Women for Bernie shouldn't have to explain themselves

Tribune News Service
Hillary Rodham Clinton talks as Bernie Sanders listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

If anyone had told me that I would one day be damned to hell for my political views by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, I should never have believed it. And yet that very thing appears to have happened in New Hampshire on Saturday when Albright introduced Hillary Clinton at a campaign event by declaring, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!" If she meant by this that women who do not support Clinton for president are sinners, then please reserve me a seat in Hades' black chariot.

It's insulting to progressive women who support Sen. Bernie Sanders to hear every day that our support is an indication of misogyny. Why do Clinton's backers imagine that women "owe" the candidate something different and special, something more than she is owed by men? Every American is free to vote as he or she wishes. To attempt to curtail or lessen that freedom for anyone is anti-democratic, with both a big and small "D."

If Clinton wants my vote, then she can try to earn it, like anyone else. But my refusal to support her is based on reasons far more serious than her entitled attitude or that of her followers.

Sanders voted against the Iraq war resolution, while then-Sen. Clinton allied herself with the Bush regime and voted for it. For this reason, she personally bears a small part of the responsibility for hundreds of thousands — perhaps over a million — avoidable deaths in a stupid war that brought nothing but grief to that unfortunate country, and our own. I do not care whether Clinton is a woman or a space alien: I cannot and will never support a Democrat in a primary who did not speak out forcefully against invading Iraq at the time.

That is a deal-breaker — I can hardly believe that my party has seen fit to put a pro-Iraq war candidate on our ticket at all — but there are a lot of other reasons I don't support Clinton. Her ties to Wall Street, for instance, are off-putting in the extreme. She claims that accepting $650,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs won't influence her policymaking with respect to the financial industry. If not, then why won't she release the transcripts? (It would be unwise for Democrats to give her the nod without seeing those Goldman speeches, for they will almost certainly come out during the general campaign.)

Clinton says she is a "pragmatist." When "pragmatism" means betrayal of the Democratic values in which I most strongly believe — opposition to war, opposition to the death penalty, support of a single-payer healthcare system, support for breaking up the banks — that is not pragmatism, that is caving. Clinton is an establishment candidate through and through.

Much as I support Sanders' lifelong, rock-ribbed liberalism, I might have been persuaded to vote for a Democrat somewhat to the right of him in hopes of bringing some moderate Republicans along for the ride — especially in view of that party's clown car primary. But none of those halfway-reasonable leftists ran: not Al Gore, not Russ Feingold, not Elizabeth Warren. And the very clownishness of that madly tootling Republican vehicle, I believe, virtually ensures that whichever Democrat secures the nomination will win the general.

I am infinitely more concerned about economic issues such as income inequality and the mess of our infrastructure than I am about women's issues — if by that we mean breaking the glass ceiling of the presidency. (Understanding women's issues more broadly, income inequality certainly qualifies.) It's the perfect year for the resurgence of the left, and for Sanders. I'm very hopeful, much as I was in 2008. Is there a chance of making positive change? Maybe yes.

My commitment to the democratic process means that I support the right of others to argue that their candidate is more worthy than mine, if they can. But let's respect one another along the way — and leave the afterlife out of it.

Maria Bustillos is a Los Angeles journalist and critic who wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.