Ghosting text messages from a man is not good behaviour, but in the last week I have stopped responding to the ones I get from Bernie Sanders. Much as I once believed in him – in us, in our possibility of a future together – I’ve known for a while now that it was over. Even before it was confirmed this week Hillary Clinton had won enough votes to become the Democratic nominee for president, it was clear that I was going to have to make the reluctant declaration that #imwithher. Why reluctant? Hillary Clinton is not the first woman president of my dreams, but in the (fake-orange) face of a fascist alternative, I will back her to be the next president of my strange, benighted, lovable homeland.
My parents hung a tattered poster of all of the American presidents up to Jimmy Carter above the ping pong table in the home I grew up in, and maybe that’s why I was aware from quite a young age that my country had never been lead by a woman, or indeed anyone who wasn’t a white man. Aware enough that by the age of eight I’d declared the presidency to be my personal life ambition. My dad displayed in his office the corresponding picture that I drew – a grown-up version of myself in the Oval Office, wearing a sensible navy suit with power shoulders shoulders – for 20 years.
In time, I relinquished that dream (of the job, not of the suit). I accepted that another, better-qualified woman would get there before me. But in 2008 I cast my primary vote for Barack Obama, in particular because, unlike Clinton, he’d opposed military action in Iraq (that he did not fulfil his original promises regarding foreign policy, such as the closure of Guantanamo Bay, is very disappointing). While I admired Hillary Clinton as a brilliant, gifted politician, and a smasher of gender barriers, my lifelong desire to see the presidential glass ceiling smashed wasn’t strong enough for her to win my vote then.
A Hillary Clinton presidency is not going to be a very progressive one beyond the matter of her gender, and that makes me feel downhearted
And it’s not really strong enough to win my vote now – not as the sole motivation. Much of my ambivalence about Hillary Clinton remains. Certainly I agree with her positions on women’s rights and gun control, and in principle with her position on health care, though I don’t think it goes far enough. I remain concerned about her closeness with the political establishment in Washington D.C., as well as her relationship with the financial establishment in New York. Having come of age in the late 90s, I also can’t overlook the legacy of Bill Clinton’s exploitative treatment of women in the workplace, and Hillary’s silence about it. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Hillary had left Bill in the late 90s it would have ruined her political career, so I can see why she stood by him. But to me, this makes some of her claims to be a bastion of feminism somewhat shaky.
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A Hillary Clinton presidency is not going to be a very progressive one beyond the matter of her gender. In contrast with the key principles of the revolutionary Sanders campaign – things like universal healthcare, free tertiary education, political finance reform, opposition to corporate influences – that makes me feel downhearted. Sanders’ vision of a more socialist America is probably to the right of the UK Labour Party, and much of it would be impossible to execute under our congressional system, but it nonetheless represented the more equal society that I, and millions of other people, would like to live in.
But that has become moot. It’s impossible for me to ignore that much of Trump’s rhetoric about immigration and religion echoes the kind of hatred that caused my great-grandparents to leave eastern Europe around the turn of the 20th century to start their new lives in the United States that made my own life here possible. But I don’t think that your own family should have to have experienced this to know that Trump’s vision is violent, fascist, and unacceptable. A Donald Trump presidency would be an unprecedented kind of disaster for America – a country that I am happy to criticise but which I also am happy to have grown up in and would hate to see destroyed.
Bernie Sanders has said that he’ll do anything possible to prevent Trump from being elected, and that’s why I’ve stopped answering his texts. Sanders should resign himself to knowing that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president, and we all must do absolutely everything in our power to support her. And when Clinton wins, though she may not be the first woman president of my dreams, I’ll think of all the eight-year-old kids in this country who’ll never know a poster of presidents that are only white men. They’ll be children who will have only lived in an America where a Black man and a woman are president.