Open Letter to Secretary Clinton

Written on:May 18, 2016
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Dear Secretary Clinton,

Some people think that I am supporting your opponent, Senator Sanders, because I want the boys to like me, or because I am not a true feminist or Democrat. I have been told that I must be an idiot by some of your supporters for supporting Sanders instead of you, and you have—most condescendingly—said that you “feel sorry” for people like me (Sanders supporters). I am a 34-year-old woman, and currently working on a Ph.D. in public affairs. I have been a self-proclaimed feminist since I was a preteen, and I was beyond excited to register as a Democrat in NY, where I grew up, the moment I turned 18. When I was a senior in high school, I vocally defended your husband in my Participation in Democracy class when most of my classmates expressed their desire to see his impeachment lead to his removal from office. After finishing my bachelor’s at Syracuse University, I quit my job and packed up my life to help with voter registration and mobilization in inner-city Detroit to benefit Democrats in the 2004 Election. I even defended you during the Benghazi hearings, and felt as though congressional Republicans were using you as a scapegoat to cover their own mistakes that led to the attack on the embassy. Do I now qualify as a true feminist and Democrat to you? Do I now have the right to criticize you, or does doing so still make me a sexist idiot somehow?

Now that I have defended my character, something I have had to do quite regularly against the proclamations of the Democratic Party establishment that I used to naively believe represented my values, let me tell you why I actually support Bernie. I have believed, since long before the Citizens United and rulings gave us SuperPACs, that the most fundamental problem facing our country is the amount of influence that moneyed interests have in our government and political system. This influence is THE reason why virtually nothing has been done to combat climate change. It is THE reason why the U.S. is involved in endless military entanglements overseas. It is THE reason why we have continued to move in the wrong direction in reforming our banking and financial systems to prevent another collapse. And though Obamacare has made things better for some, money in politics is THE reason why we have been unable to break free from our for-profit “sickcare” system and bring about substantive improvements to how healthcare is paid for and received by the American people.

You, Secretary Clinton, do not represent a shift away from this oppressive, oligarchical system. You, Secretary Clinton, continue to solicit large sums from the moneyed interests, both in the form of maximum donations from wealthy individual donors directly to your campaign, and in the form of unlimited donations from various interests to the multiple SuperPACs that back you. You have used the excuses that “everybody’s doing it” and “Obama did it” to justify the continuation of this morally corrupt practice, except everybody is NOT doing it. Bernie Sanders is NOT doing it. You could have funded your campaign with small, individual donations as Bernie has done, but you know that you cannot generate enough grassroots enthusiasm among the masses. Instead, you accept corporate money, and then tell people that Bernie is too “pie in the sky” when he is showing that his “pie in the sky” idea of rejecting campaign funding by wealthy interests can be done. Furthermore, you are the only candidate currently in the race who has accepted large sums of money from a number of Wall Street entities in the form of speaking fees for speeches whose content you continue to hide from the American people. You claim that simply accepting their money does not mean that you will favor these interests, but let us take a look at your record. Prior to your run for the U.S. Senate in 2000, you were credited with influencing your husband’s decision to reject a bill that eroded bankruptcy protections for consumers. After your Senate run, and having accepted campaign donations from the financial services industry, one of the first votes you cast in the Senate was in favor of eroding those very consumer protections that you believed should remain intact prior to your Senate campaign. Also, as Secretary of State, one of your only major accomplishments was to sell hydraulic fracturing for natural gas—a process with well-documented, serious environmental risks—around the world. Is this what a true progressive would have done? Or are previous/anticipated campaign funds involved? I suppose that we can never truly know.

Perhaps these were simply errors in judgement? You do have a few such errors on your record. Yes, I know that, in hindsight, you regret voting for the Iraq War. Okay, everyone makes mistakes. But what about your record of supporting almost every destructive trade policy that has altered the landscape of our economy by encouraging middle class jobs to be moved across the border into Mexico or overseas? These policies have benefitted neither American workers nor the exploited workers in maquiladoras and the like, only wealthy corporate executives. Once again, you have only been able to recognize these issues in hindsight. Also, were you not against full marriage equality until just a few short years ago? Either you were lacking in judgement and previously did not believe in equality for all people, and then had a change of heart, or you lacked the courage to support equality until it became politically safe to do so. Bernie Sanders has been speaking up for LGBTQ rights since before that acronym was in use, and long before running for president was on his, or even your, radar. It is true that President Obama only shifted on this issue fairly recently, and while I praise him for helping to shift the nation, I was always disappointed that he spent as much time as he did on the wrong side of history. Moving forward, we need a president who has a record of exercising greater foresight than hindsight.

Throughout this race, though, my greatest frustration has been over how Bernie Sanders and his supporters have been treated by you, your campaign, and the Democratic establishment headed by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. There have been clearly documented instances of voter disenfranchisement in New York and Arizona, and suspicious behavior by state and county Democratic parties has been witnessed across the country (e.g., the number of polling places being reduced to only a quarter of the number in previous years). The DNC, as directed by Wasserman Schultz, has sought to drastically limit the number of debates compared to previous primaries, and to hold them at times when viewership would be low. Given that everyone has known who you are for decades, and Bernie Sanders was only well-known by progressive, political junkies like myself prior to the start of this race, what other reason was there to limit the number of debates other than to help you maintain your name recognition advantage? Also, Bernie supporters have been characterized as violent—very vocally so by Wasserman Schultz regarding the Nevada state convention—yet no evidence of this has been presented beyond some threatening voicemails left for the Nevada Democratic Party chair. I have listened to many of these voicemails, and suspiciously, all of the callers were a bit too eager to clearly identify themselves as Bernie Sanders supporters. Regardless, Bernie Sanders and his most vocal supporters and representatives have never embraced violence, and if the callers who left the threatening voicemails are in fact Sanders supporters, I can assure you that we (the Sanders movement) do not want them if they intend to incite, threaten, or carry out acts of violence. Adding to my frustration is the fact—largely ignored by the major media outlets—that the only person who has been arrested for violent behavior over the Democratic race is Wendell Pierce, the actor and ardent supporter of YOUR campaign who attacked a Sanders supporter. Furthermore, by pointing out obvious electoral malfeasance and bias committed by the DNC and the news media, I am often brushed aside by you and some of your supporters as a radical, Alex Jones-loving conspiracy theorist.

This brings me to where we are today. I am told that, as a “good Democrat,” I MUST vote for you if you are the nominee, because Trump must be defeated. I can assure you that since I vote based on my progressive values and principles, I will never vote for Trump. However, my rejection of Trump does not entitle you to my vote. It does not give you the right to “guilt” me into voting for you. I have reached a point in my life, as have many frustrated progressives, at which the lesser of two evils cannot continue to be the only choice we are allowed to have. We would like to push forward with the new progressive movement that Bernie Sanders has inspired, so many of us will only vote for a candidate willing to do so. Therefore, Secretary Clinton, if you are the Democratic nominee and you lose to Trump, you will be to blame, not disillusioned Sanders supporters. You will have lost because you continued the practice of funding your campaign with wealthy, elite donors. You will have lost because you viewed your potential presidency in terms of what you would do, not what we would do. You will have lost because you refused to do the hard work of embracing and representing the progressive members and would-be members of the Democratic Party. You will have lost because you likened Sanders supporters to imbeciles for having the audacity to question your record, and for seeking an alternative to the corrupt status quo that you undoubtedly represent.

If you have any intention of uniting the Democratic Party and defeating Trump should you become the Democratic nominee, I ask you to be a “good Democrat” and begin courting Sanders supporters and hearing their cries for true progressive change—what the modern Democratic Party is supposed to embody—and fully embrace the Sanders platform. Furthermore, I ask that you acknowledge and denounce the obvious corruption and bias that have occurred in the Democratic Party under the direction of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and call for her resignation as DNC chair. Though these actions will not make you the genuine progressive that Sanders supporters desire—and we will continue to fight for him until the very end—perhaps they may allow our fractured party an opportunity to heal and become the party of progress once again.

With utmost resolve and sincerity,

J.S. James

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