I’m still waiting for an official announcement, but several people who have protested Sanders being given such a prominent speaking role at the convention have received emails stating he has been demoted to a panel about resistance organization in the Trump era. Considering that the Women’s March has told so many different stories in an attempt to spin this, they have lost my trust and I am watching them carefully, however, if this is true it will placate me. If he has to be there, resistance organization at least is an appropriate topic for him. That being said, there are several ways I’ve attempted to see the Women’s March spin this.
First, before the apology, they had promoted Sanders as having a big role in the convention.I am not going to let them spin this as that they intended for him to just be a part of a panel discussion all along.
Second, Women’s March organizer, Linda Sarsour, had a livestream denouncing those of us who were upset about Bernie being given a prime spot at the Women’s Convention as racist. I witnessed the outrage from the start, and the criticism about Sanders speaking was very ANTI-racist. For instance,
1. Many women of color were outraged about the decision. In fact, the friend who informed me about this is a woman of color who was just as furious as I was.
2. We were outraged that Bernie was referred to as “Senator” while Rep. Maxine Waters was NOT addressed by the Women’s March promotional material with her title and wondered why Bernie’s achievements were recognized and not hers.
3. From the start, we were asking for a woman or a woman of color to head the convention. Examples that were suggested included Maxine Waters, Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama, Kirsten Gillibrand, etc.
4. Most of us agreed that the list of other speakers sounded great, Bernie was the problem.
5. We were mad that Bernie was the ONLY speaker who got a news article with his picture on the front that described him as “opening the convention” and the “headliner.”
6. We were asking why the women who would be speaking were not so honored with a news article, their picture being circulated, etc.
7. We were angry that Rep Maxine Waters words, “reclaiming our time,” were being used to promote a white man.
The outrage over Bernie was not racist and that a white man holds so much privilege that speaking out against him opening and being given such prominent billing at a women’s convention can be spun as racist is, frankly, alarming. Many of us were speaking out because we feel he is a poor advocate for people of color and women. While his focus on issues that affect white men will help everyone, it will not help knock down the barriers that prevent women and people of color from rising at an equal pace with white men, which is one of the many reasons why he is a poor choice to address the Women’s Convention. Bottom line, the criticism of Sanders was anti-racist and anti-sexist, and the Women’s March is harming their cause and alienating supporters by attempting to spin it as such (see the responses to Tamika Mallory’s allegations that she was thrown off a plane if you want an illustration of how doing this is harming their cause).
Finally, some thoughts about this whole debacle. Like a lot of people who supported HRC, I was scared to flaunt it. And during the primary I bit my tongue, a lot. I actually even created a Facebook group for Democrats who wanted him to drop out and separated it from my identity so I could vent my frustrations. Between fear of being harassed and fear of further alienating Sander’s supporters, I think me and a lot of HRC’s supporters suppressed a lot of rage. And there have been articles documenting that HRC had a lot of devoted supporters (the success of Pantsuit Nation?), but they were scared to be open about it. Hence, why she won both the primary and the popular vote by such staggering numbers.
And over this weekend, that rage was released. The Women’s March honoring Sanders was the final straw, and until they issued their apology, 98% of the comments were from people furious over Bernie headlining, and while some were Sander’s supporters who sympathized or did not think it was the right place for him to speak, most of it was from HRC supporters for whom this was the final indignity. Since the election had already happened there was nothing left to lose with unleashing on the people who had been so unforgiving and willing to cause so much damage because their candidate lost. Meanwhile, the Sander’s supporters calls for unity and moving forward rang as extremely hypocritical and too little too late.
I wish I had been more vocal during the primaries. I think the lesson is to not let fear hold you back from only backing your candidate so it is no surprise to people when they win. Basically, if Sanders supporters pull this crap with Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Corey Booker, or whoever runs against him in 2020, I am not going to be silent again.