Bern On vs. Bern Out
Katha Pollitt’s assertion that “feminism is a distraction” to Senator Sanders is probably truer than Bernie would like to admit [“Why Didn’t Bernie Get Me?,” May 23/30]. But Pollitt’s critique of the Sweet Bern was focused only on domestic issues. While each of these is important, they are also inseparable from the broader—and often unexamined—gender-justice issues.
It would be very valuable to have a national candidate who put gender-justice issues at the forefront of foreign as well as domestic policy. Those countries where women have quality access to educational, political, and economic power tend to be, simply, better places to live. Sustainable birth rates, stronger economies, muted militarism, and well-educated children tend to develop within societies to the degree that they approach gender justice. May the day come soon when oil takes a backseat to justice in our foreign-policy considerations.
Bernie could have outflanked Hillary on gender-justice issues but didn’t. Although it would have been heartening to have had Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, or historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in the race, all things considered, Clinton is steps ahead of Sanders in several areas—and, of course, worlds more worthy and presidential than that bombastic, too-well-heeled, chicken-hawk, lyin’ landlord.
The first reason that Katha Pollitt cites for supporting Hillary is electability. This is odd, since polls repeatedly show Bernie doing better against Trump than she does. While it’s true that Bernie hasn’t faced the withering fire of the Republican attack machine, Hillary has done so for years, and it has resulted in very high unfavorable ratings among Democrats and Republicans alike.
The second reason Pollitt cites is that Bernie’s “entitlement is so vast, so deep, so historically embedded” that he really doesn’t viscerally understand the obstacles faced by women. Apparently, being in favor of equal pay, reproductive rights, the ERA, the Violence Against Woman Act, and childcare for all—and voting for all these things—is not sufficient to establish his bona fides on women’s issues.
As a 69-year-old progressive white male, I recognize my gender and skin privilege. While I can intellectually understand the obstacles faced by women and black people, it’s hard for me to have the visceral response that Pollitt does to women’s issues. However, it’s equally clear to me that someone like Hillary—who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars multiple times for a single one-hour speech (not for her campaign, but for herself personally), whose daughter married a hedge-fund manager and had a $5 million wedding, who lives in a giant house and has had around-the-clock personal security for years at taxpayer expense—cannot viscerally understand the issues facing someone of a decidedly working-class background like me.
I also believe that Hillary has staked out many positions harmful to women and black people.
I understand identity politics. It is important both symbolically and practically to have a female president, just as it was important to have a black president. I just wish it could be someone like Elizabeth Warren, who is smart, competent, and tough like Hillary, but actually seems to have some non-poll-tested core principles. Speaking of identity politics, as a Jew, I am offended that Hillary gives full-throated support to AIPAC and the Netanyahu government. Either she is cravenly seeking the Jewish vote or she doesn’t know a fascist when she sees one. I will vote for her, but with no enthusiasm.
Thanks to Katha Pollitt for being the voice of reason about the Sanders campaign. As a lifelong socialist and civil-rights, antiwar, pro-labor, and women’s-liberation activist, I too have failed to “feel the Bern.” The fact that a CBS exit poll found that a full third of the West Virginia primary voters who voted for Bernie plan to vote for Trump in the general election, whether or not Bernie wins the primary, is worrisome. Are these folks massively confused or simply dishonest?
The left, whatever its disagreements with aspects of Hillary’s policies, must go all out for her. Then we need to build true mass movements to push more progressive policies.
Michael Kazin’s stimulating essay, “What Is ‘the Establishment?’” [May 23/30], would have done better to ask “What Is Capitalism?” The hope that we can bring about fundamental change by exposing an immoral cabal and crushing its power is, as Kazin suggests, futile unless we understand what needs changing.
Capitalism is a relationship between workers and owners: The owner takes the product made by the worker and sells it as a commodity for profit. The owner then gives the worker a pittance for a wage. “The Establishment” consists of those who ride on this arrangement and benefit from it. They use their power, which is considerable but not absolute, to maintain and strengthen this arrangement.
Relationships are harder to change than getting rid of a class of exploiters.
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The Past as Precedent
Beverly Gage’s review of Lisa McGirr’s The War on Alcohol [“Drunk on Power,” May 23/30] is timely and spot-on with regard to today’s convoluted political system. One cannot read the article without making the comparison to the current debate regarding women’s healthcare—specifically the abortion issue.
Local and state anti-choice activists working to pass more and more restrictive rules, coupled with agitation on the national level to “prohibit” the procedure, are directly comparable to the activities that took place in the early 20th century regarding alcohol. Prohibiting the procedure entirely will create an underground system that may reduce the total number of women employing it, but will also serve to place women in peril while enriching the back-alley providers.
It is important to review the past and learn from it. McGirr and Gage are providing solid material for this continuing learning process.
D.D. Guttenplan’s “The Future of Bernie Sanders’s Grassroots Army” [June 20/27] misspelled the name of the creator of FeeltheBern.org. She is Daniela Perdomo, not Daniela Perdoma.