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Bernard Sanders and the Gender Climate Crisis

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Bernard Sanders and the Gender Climate Crisis

“We’ve got to bring China and Russia and Brazil and Pakistan and India and every major country on Earth into the fight against climate change, and here is my dream — maybe it’s a radical dream, but maybe just maybe, given the crisis of climate change, the world can understand that instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year collectively on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.” — Bernard Sanders; Manchester, New Hampshire; February 7, 2020

I agree with Bernard Sanders, and if given a chance to vote for him in November, 2020, I fully intend to cast my ballot in his support. In truth, I like Elizabeth Warren more than Sanders. It would be a mild thrill to be in the same public space in which she delivered a speech. In contrast, I wouldn’t walk across the street to listen to Sanders. Nothing personal. I just don’t like him as a person, perhaps because I suspect his flaws all too much resemble mine. In particular, he takes his own privileges as a white male far too much for granted. He really doesn’t understand what it takes for a woman to aspire to high political office. He seems to comprehend the ravages of racism far more than sexism.

Perhaps if Sanders had paused at the debates in Manchester last night and looked both to his left and right, and then said, “It is such a pleasure to be here at this venue compared to four years ago. I share the stage tonight not just with one woman hoping to be in the White House, but two women with whom I currently serve in the U.S. Senate; two exceptionally intelligent and capable women who deserve your careful consideration. Eight years from, no matter which one of us wins this year, may that figure double again, and may there be four women up here, and three men, and may half of that total number be people of color, and not just one, as is the case tonight. May there be a lesbian former service woman as well as a gay male veteran. That would be one way to know that I have indeed been part of a successful movement.”

In fact, I would like Sanders to explain why Senator Elizabeth Warren got ” “20 percent less speaking time than the leading male candidates onstage — including Joe Biden,” despite getting more votes than Biden in Iowa. Warren was limited to as much speaking time as two male candidates who have a very limited portfolio of performance as elected officials. In other words, she was treated like a novice. (NOTE: On Feb. 11th, Andrew Yang dropped out of the race, a decision on his part that was hardly made at the last moment. One wonders if he was not encouraged in some oblique manner by certain men in the Democratic Party to stay in the race until after the New Hampshire debate was over, in hopes of subtracting from Warren’s chances of speaking.)

Smug about his own entitlement to public space, it would never occur to Sanders to concede that the number of women qualified to be president will outnumber men by the final years of this decade. Until he realizes that, his emphasis on the climate crisis is a waste of breath. The gender climate crisis is intimately connected with the geophysical climate crisis, and the solution requires a mutual reconciliation.

There is a way that he can demonstrate his commitment to feminist social justice, though: he needs to promise in public, repeatedly, that he will appoint women to SIXTY PERCENT of the positions for which he can nominate and appoint individuals to carry out his policies. Why sixty percent? As a token gesture that would begin to rectify the imbalances of the past.

We will soon see if Bernard Sanders is truly radical, or if he is just another hyperliberal white male.

*. * *

I have revisited this statement in my thoughts several times the past couple of hours. I know that I am being harsh on Sanders, and I fear that the Democratic establishment would be all too happy to point to my comments as “typical” of the discontent with his campaign proposals.

And just now it hit me: he always acts as if he is the only one who has fought the good fight all these years. There is another one percent besides the wealthy one percent. There is also the one percent who have given of their time and money over many decades to oppose the right wing catastrophe of social and ecological dystopia. Bernard Sanders may think he is the rightful leader of that one percent of veteran cultural workers, but it’s hard to lead people who do not feel acknowledged, except as a source of campaign funds.

In fact, it’s when it comes to fundraising that one realizes that Senator Sanders has no idea of what it is like to be in that one percent, and own no property, and live paycheck to paycheck. Despite my rental status at age 72, I started giving a small ($25) monthly contribution to Senator Sanders several months ago, and my “reward” was to be pestered every (expletive deleted) day with requests for more money. It never stopped. One would have thought that I was a deadbeat who deserved to have a bill collector pounding on his door. It was relentless, and it showed me that Senator Sanders has no respect for me. In point of fact, his methods are no different than anyone else’s. If Bernard thinks he is a “radical,” how about this approach instead:

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your contribution. It more than suffices right now, for I do realize how many of my supporters do not have a large surplus of funds to draw upon.

Instead of sending money, please consider having a conversation with someone who might be interested in working for or contributing to this campaign. If you could, with their permission, pass on to us their e-mail address, that would be of great assistance in helping to build our base. Please send that information to:
(address)

With all best wishes for our mutual affirmations,
Bernard

Now I had received that letter every day, I would not have unsubscribed. But having received nothing but constant requests for more money — when I have given what little I can spare — I had no other choice.

POST-NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTE COMMENT:

I would note that although Senator Sanders received more votes than any other Democratic candidate, the combined number of votes that Senator Klobuchar and Senator Warren received far surpassed Sanders’ tally. More men and women appear to believe that one of the women running for President is a better candidate than a man. If the same pattern holds in the upcoming primaries in Nevada and South Carolina, then Sanders is going to have to do very well in California. He appears to be well in the lead here in the state with the largest population in the country, but his supporters may not realize that his antipathy towards the belief that a woman can be elected is now viewed as their core belief, too. They need to ask themselves how they would be viewed if Sanders’s statement had been one about race, “A (fill in the race) can’t beat Trump this year.” The failure to acknowledge that one statement is just as reprehensible in its chauvinist assumptions as the other is part of the reason some people profoundly mistrust his movement.