All of us

Another endorsement has gotten Bernie Sanders in trouble.[1]

In an earlier statement, a Sanders aide said: “The goal of our campaign is to build a multiracial, multi-generational movement large enough to defeat Donald Trump and the powerful special interests whose greed and corruption is the root cause of the outrageous inequality in America.

“Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values.

“The truth is that by standing together in solidarity, we share the values of love and respect that will move us in the direction of a more humane, more equal world.”[2]


The latest is from Joe Rogan[3] and is, for similar reasons, reminiscent of the Cenk Uygur endorsement that Sanders eventually repudiated.[4] Like Uygur, Rogan has made a number of intolerant comments.[5]

Such endorsements are especially problematic for a candidate who some dismiss as yet another old white male. It’s one thing to have a candidate like Hillary Clinton in 2016, whose sole attribute for the presidency seemed to be her gender, but would otherwise have been yet more of the absolute fucking same neoconservatism and neoliberalism that have formed a mainstream bipartisan consensus since the fall of the Berlin Wall.[6] But endorsements like those of Uygur and Rogan enable folks who are yearning for somebody besides yet another old white male to say, with some justice, “we told you so.”

In a statement that followed a flood of progressive protest over the endorsement, which Rogan made on Thursday, the [Human Rights Campaign’s] Alphonso David said Sanders had “run a campaign unabashedly supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people”.

But, he said, Rogan had among other remarks “compared a black community to Planet of the Apes” and “dehumanised transgender people by misgendering them and promoting misinformation”.[7]

To some degree, such folks will never be satisfied with any white male candidate. White males have become “the problem,” to the exclusion of all other concerns, including class,[8] including the climate crisis.[9] Some even seem to suggest that white males can have no legitimate grievances about inequality.[10]

I am remembering a book I dislike. It’s Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul Alinsky, and in it, Alinsky advocates what pretty much amounts to a “victory at any cost” approach. As a scholar, some of those costs trouble me: Alinsky advocates simplifying the truth, even to the point of deception, to win. All of it, he claims, is rationalized by the benefits of victory. In other words, the ends justify the means.[11] I fear that this may be the approach being implemented by the Sanders campaign and I have to say that it grates. I don’t like this one bit.

The message I can endorse from other folks is that they are worried about being left behind if, as Naomi Klein argues against, we attack social inequality in a piecemeal fashion.[12] Sanders has been most visible for his attacks on class inequality. Rightly or, as I think, wrongly, his message on other forms of social inequality has seemed to me, at least, more muted.

I know how it feels to feel left behind.[13] Naomi Klein gets this right in her interview with Laura Flanders:

Sometimes said explicitly, sometimes sort of sotto voce, which is like, “Look, let’s just save the planet first and then we’ll deal with, you know, racism and inequality and gender exclusion and sort of just wait your turn.” And that doesn’t go over very well because for people who are on the front lines of all of those other crises, they’re all existential. I mean, if you can’t feed your kids, if you’re losing your house, if you are facing violence, all of it is existential.[14]

Really, we see an attitude similar to that which Klein critiques in the “Vote Blue No Matter Who” (#VoteBlueNoMatterWho) hashtag. The idea is easy enough to understand: Donald Trump is such an existential threat that we must get him out of office at any cost. Other concerns can wait. And, as Klein notes, the same is too often said of the climate crisis. And the promise, as it always is, is that we’ll get to these other concerns later.[15]

I’ve been trying to find a real job for nearly 19 years. I’ve been listening to promises that we will get to my grievances for that entire time.[16] I think Klein is recognizing[17] that such promises seem absolutely hollow.[18]

This is why I think we have to mean, not just say, “all of us.” We all have grievances. None of them can wait. Constructing a just society requires that they all be addressed.

I’d like to hear Sanders saying that more clearly and more loudly.

  1. [1]Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign
  2. [2]An unnamed Bernie Sanders aide, quoted in Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign
  3. [3]Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign
  4. [4]Michael Finnegan, “Bernie Sanders retracts endorsement of Californian who defends crude sex ratings of women,” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-12/bernie-sanders-endorses-cenk-uygur-young-turks
  5. [5]Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign
  6. [6]Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism
  7. [7]Martin Pengelly, “Bernie Sanders ‘must reconsider’ Joe Rogan endorsement, says LGBTQ group,” Guardian, January 24, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/24/bernie-sanders-joe-rogan-human-rights-campaign
  8. [8]Amy Chua, Political Tribes (New York: Penguin, 2018); Amy Chua, “How America’s identity politics went from inclusion to division,” Guardian, November 9, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/01/how-americas-identity-politics-went-from-inclusion-to-division
  9. [9]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  10. [10]James Rush, “Goldsmiths Students’ Union diversity officer explains she cannot be racist or sexist because she is an ethnic minority woman,” Independent, May 12, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/goldsmiths-students-union-diversity-officer-says-she-cannot-be-racist-or-sexist-to-white-men-because-she-is-an-ethnic-minority-woman-10244520.html
  11. [11]Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (New York: Vintage, 1989).
  12. [12]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  14. [14]Naomi Klein, quoted in Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  15. [15]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/2011/08/03/dickens-redux/; Jonathan Capehart, “This is what’s ‘deplorable’ about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and this campaign,” Washington Post, September 12, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/09/12/this-is-whats-deplorable-about-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-and-this-campaign/; Michael Lerner, “Psychopathology in the 2016 Election,” Tikkun, November 3, 2016, http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/psychopathology-in-the-2016-election-3; Ben Smith, “Obama on small-town Pa.: Clinging to religion, guns, xenophobia,” Politico, April 11, 2008, https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2008/04/obama-on-small-town-pa-clinging-to-religion-guns-xenophobia-007737
  17. [17]Laura Flanders, “Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail,” Truthout, January 6, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/naomi-klein-climate-solutions-that-neglect-inequality-are-doomed-to-fail/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

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