A couple of days ago I endured an unedifying Twitter war with a posse of Hillary Clinton supporters, led by Salon.Com editor Joan Walsh. This should be surprising since my followers are very few in number by Twitter standards — less than a thousand. Ms Walsh has 143,000 or so. Why would she or anyone else care what I said about the Clintons? The fervor of the response bespeaks a real anxiety on her side. The logic of the responses variously suggested a) stupidity, b) dishonesty, c) professional Clinton trolls, or d) all three.
Call me paranoid, but I see a cowardly, intellectually dishonest campaign to diminish Bernie Sanders. The ultimate target is not Sanders himself, since his prospects for victory in the primaries are seldom viewed as great. The real target is the political credibility of progressive reform that addresses class. The alternative to such reform is the mush we get from the Clintons and allied Democrats. Hillary’s fans march under the banner of neo-liberalism. There was a similar smear campaign directed at Dennis Kucinich in 2004. I think the world of Dennis, but his chances were even slimmer than Sanders’. The attacks made no more sense than those on Sanders, as far as electoral competition was concerned.
The signs of such a campaign include:
* Rep Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) saying “I’m not sure Bernie likes immigrants.”
* Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) claiming Bernie is too extreme.
In my opinion, saying someone has a race problem is code for racism. I view it as slanderous. Hillary tweeters claim it merely refers to Sanders’ purported indifference to issues of importance to African-Americans. Pretty rich in that Bernie is a veteran of the civil rights movement while Hillary was a Goldwater Girl. Of course that was long ago. Since then Sanders has remained attached to his radical roots. For a time Hillary evolved in a genuinely progressive direction. But she also married you-know-who and wound up in the Rose Law Firm and on the board of Walmart.
Under the Clinton Administration we witnessed the abolition of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the ballooning of mass incarceration, the rubbishing of the nation’s foremost intellectual on minority voting rights — Lani Guinier, the militarization of local police forces, and the total failure of health care reform. How you transmogrify that into a creditable civil rights record for Hillary is a mystery to me. Ms Walsh makes an effort. Her basis for Hillary’s civil rights cred is a couple of recent pronouncements and hiring some African-Americans in her campaign.
About the clownish Rep. Gutiérrez and his clownish comment, we cannot resist pointing out that in the recent Chicago mayoral race, he supported Rahm Emanuel while Bernie supported Chuy Garcia.
Invocations of anti-racism to disrupt movements attentive to class issues are nothing new. Coming from authentic anti-racist campaigners, such commentary would be worth consideration. Coming from Clintonites, it’s a joke.
Of course in the U.S., if not everywhere, race and class issues are intertwined. Advocacy of universalist measures in the interests of the working class disproportionately help oppressed minorities but do not necessarily combat the virus of discrimination. Unfounded claims that Sanders is uninterested in race aim to throw him off his message, which is resonating. (I read that in Salon.)
I should be used to Twitter, but this was the first time I experienced a giant wave of mostly dumb tweets. Writers of some notoriety, especially pertaining to issues in feminism, have had it much worse. What you see are all the usual fulminations from those with weak minds. Claims that you have exalted your own importance. Attributions of things you never said, sometimes with quotes. Assorted straw men. Just flat, shameless misstatements of fact.
Slightly more interesting was the gambit of focusing on Sanders’ purported relationship with the National Rifle Association. I won’t rehash the arguments for and against because I don’t care about them. What is noteworthy was the extent of detail provided, the accuracy of which I couldn’t vouch for, on Sanders’ gun record. Somebody has compiled a list of anti-Sanders talking points pertaining to guns.
As noted above, the intent of the trolls is to throw the Sanders movement off-message. Their arguments are not worth engaging in their own terms. Matters of class have been excluded from the national dialog. Not incidentally, race has not fared well either. I fully expect Bernie to give the latter the attention it deserves. The trip is just starting, and the best is yet to come.