I think it’s fair to say that I have admired Bernie Sanders and the values he holds longer than most people who don’t live in Vermont. I remember the excitement I felt when he was first elected to the House as well as the incredible moment when he was elected to the Senate. In my mind, his work in politics is the extension of two of my great heroes, Eugene Debs, whose words gave the title to this site, and Michael Harrington, whose work transformed the way I saw economics and justice when I was in college.
I have no doubt about Senator Sander’s commitment to economic justice for all people and I have no doubt that he would work for all people in this country, regardless of race, sexuality, and gender expression. He’s spent his life fighting for values I champion, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see his message resonating with voters, especially young voters.
But I have to say some his supporters online are hurting him. I’m troubled by the misogynistic tone of their attacks on Secretary Clinton, their troubling ageism (which makes no sense incidentally), and their willingness to engage in the same kind of tactics we’d decry from Ted Cruz. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with unflattering photographs of Senator Clinton and accusations that are often not about the policy differences between the two candidates, but personal attacks that seem designed to obscure the real work Senator Clinton has done in her life on behalf of the disadvantaged.
None of this, in my view, is coming from the Sanders campaign, which has been admirable. Perhaps some of his enthusiasts online might do some reflection about how their behavior is differing from that of the candidate they support. If it can make someone who has admired Sanders for almost three decades question his support, how must it play among voters who are unfamiliar with him?
Fight this fight on policy, on questions over which candidate is more likely to advance the progressive agenda, and which best represents your values. I’d ask the most enthusiastic supporters of Bernie to lay off the politics of personal destruction that Senator Sanders would certainly ask you to stop.
Feel the Bern, but spending your energy explaining his economic vision for America will do a great deal more to build support for him than ugly attacks possibly could. If we want to transform our economic and political structure to better reflect the interests of the vast majority of Americans, that’s the discussion we desperately need.
Update: The I’m A Woman card was featured on my Facebook page the very next time I logged in after posting this. If you’re honestly ignorant enough to believe that being a woman conveys an advantage in our political system, you’re too ignorant to vote.