I almost voted for Bernie Sanders. After all, in important ways his politics are closer to mine than Hillary Clinton’s are, and his campaign for the White House is inspiring. So why not put my tiny grain of sand on his side of the scale in the primary? Unfortunately for electoral democracy, I neglected to read the instructions on my absentee ballot, which clearly stated that it had to be postmarked the day before the actual primary, and thus missed my chance to vote. In the end, I marked my ballot for Hillary and mailed it anyway, figuring New York City’s Board of Elections is so dysfunctional that maybe they would count it by mistake.
Why didn’t Bernie get me? Well, there’s electability: I just don’t believe Americans are ready for a 74-year-old self-described socialist with a long far-left CV who would raise their taxes by quite a lot. By the time the Republicans got finished with him, he’d be the love child of Rosa Luxemburg and the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then it’s hello, President Trump. There’s the question, too, of how much Bernie could actually accomplish. Would he make an effective president, as I think Hillary will—all the more so now that she’s been forced to see that a significant part of the Democratic electorate is to her left?
Part of the answer is simpler, though: Bernie didn’t ask for my vote. Oh, you can go to his website and find a page of boilerplate setting out his general commitments to women’s rights: He’s in favor of equal pay, reproductive rights, the ERA, the Violence Against Women Act, childcare for all, and so on—a laundry list, indeed, of the causes dear to the heart of those often derided by his supporters as bourgeois feminists content with incremental change. I am aware, too, that Bernie has a good voting record on those issues in Congress. But there’s a difference between someone who votes the right way, and someone who introduces legislation and champions the issue. He never convinced me that gender issues, specifically the persistent subordination of women in every area of life, were of much concern to him. There were all those little tells. Pooh-poohing Planned Parenthood and NARAL as “establishment” when he didn’t get their endorsement. Arguing for parental leave because it allows a new mother “to stay home and bond with her baby” instead of as something that benefits fathers as well, and something that women need in order to work and advance on the job. Doubling down on the idiotic quip by his surrogate, Killer Mike (“A uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States”), with the pseudo-lofty pledge “No one has ever heard me say, ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, vote for a man.’ I would never do that, never have.” Is there a word for someone whose entitlement is so vast, so deep, so historically embedded, and so unconscious it includes the belief that they got where they are by a resolute devotion to fair play? It’s not reassuring that his senior campaign staff, like his long-time political inner circle, is almost entirely white and male.