From the outset of this primary season, just as in 2008, Hillary Clinton’s supporters have viewed the quadrennial democratic process as a mere formality. Clinton, we are told, deserves the nomination — it is her “turn,” she is “inevitable.” Accordingly, supporters of Clinton have, often without bothering to engage in substantive discussion, dismissed her opponents as non-serious, their proposed policies as fantastical, and their supporters as delusional time-wasters. This political denigration has manifested itself in a variety of ways, from Clinton surrogates saying that young women support Sanders because “the boys are with Bernie,” to Clinton supporters suggesting that I “do not know how politics works” because I intend to vote for Bernie, to, most recently, Brock Thompson’s Blade column of Feb. 26 in which he condescended to Bernie Sanders’ supporters: “Playtime is over.”
The problem with this approach — aside, of course, from its patent offensiveness and corrosiveness to democratic and political discourse — is that it lacks any basis whatever in reality. Like many who support Hillary Clinton, those of us who support Bernie Sanders are reasonable, thoughtful, educated individuals who support our chosen candidate for principled as well as pragmatic reasons. This is not, for us, “playtime.” Though not without his flaws, Bernie Sanders has presented an inspiring vision of a better America, one that addresses the needs of our poorest, one which is far truer to the soul of the Democratic Party than the “no we can’t” defeatism pushed by Hillary Clinton. Bernie recognizes that marginalized communities, including LGBT people, are disproportionately impacted by economic disaster, and has presented concrete proposals to address those problems.
Bernie’s record reveals a man who reliably exercises the moral judgment we require in a president, even where that flies in the face of what is popular. It is unsurprising, then, that he has been a staunch ally to our community. As a mayor in the 1980s, at a time when gays and lesbians were nationally demonized as infested with a plague sent by God, Bernie ushered through an ordinance protecting us against employment discrimination in his city. As a new congressman, Bernie spoke out on behalf of gay and lesbian service members and called for their full and equitable inclusion in the military; he likewise objected strenuously to the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.” Years before President Obama and the Democratic Party embraced it, Bernie supported marriage equality. Even now, Bernie advocates for prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in lending and credit, and extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to LGBT people. In short: Bernie Sanders has supported our community, even when we were among the most reviled minorities in the United States.
I was therefore astonished to read Thompson’s ahistorical claim that it has been Hillary who has been a “staunch supporter” of our community, so we should “be there” for her instead of for Bernie. One would think that, at this point, Clinton’s active support for the Defense of Marriage Act need not bear repeating, but here we are. Not only did Clinton push for DOMA at the time of its enactment — she could not even muster the moral courage to press for a full repeal of it in 2008. Nor does Clinton’s support for marriage qualify her as an ally: She “bravely” arrived at that position only after a majority of Americans and every other major Democrat had already endorsed it.
There may be good reasons to support Clinton — but given the history and policies discussed above, all must admit there exist legitimate reasons to oppose Clinton and to support Bernie. So, supporters of Hillary Clinton: It is time to stop dismissing us, to stop insulting our intelligence, to stop treating us as annoying obstacles to the coronation of your “kween.” Take us and what we have to say seriously and engage us with respect. If you cannot do that, perhaps it is you who does not “understand how politics works”: Votes must be earned.
Noah Baron is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.