I was waiting for California.
Despite the irresponsible journalism on the part of the Associated Press, who declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee THE DAY BEFORE the final big primary day during which some of the most populous states (including my home state of California) would be voting, despite friends in my Facebook feed saying that Bernie Sanders should just concede already (again, A FULL DAY BEFORE MY STATE EVEN GOT TO VOTE). Despite the fact that people have been saying that Bernie Sanders should concede for months.
I was waiting for California.
When the AP defended their reportage of Clinton as the presumptive nominee, Senior VP and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said:
AP concluded that Hillary Clinton had enough delegates to clinch the nomination after a painstaking but very straightforward exercise.
By Monday evening, 571 superdelegates had told us unequivocally that they intend to vote for Clinton at the convention. Adding that number to the delegates awarded to Clinton in primary and caucus voting to date gave her the number needed to be the presumptive nominee.
That is news, and reporting the news is what we do.
Nothing in that discourages or prevents voters in six states from exercising their right to go to the polls today and cast their ballots.
Technically, she’s right. Technically, it’s true that nothing about reporting this fact keeps people from exercising their right to vote. Except that, as a professional news outlet, she knows all about how media narratives shape how people think, how they feel, and whether or not they take action. It’s her job to know that, and if she doesn’t know that, she’s terrible at her job. So she was either being clueless, or disingenuous.
Either way, that AP story was simply the most recent example of Clinton’s victory being proclaimed “inevitable.” News outlets had been saying that for months in countless opinion pieces and opinion pieces disguised as actual articles. Then individual bloggers, and even those who do no writing at all began parroting that “fact” all over the place. She’s going to win. Of course she’s going to win. It’s inevitable.
And then I would see friends of mine in my social media feeds saying things like “I’d vote for Bernie, but he has no chance of winning.” And I’d say, “Of course he has no chance of winning if people like you who support him don’t vote for him.” Even during the times when Sanders was winning states and catching fire at rallies, people who supported him were saying over and over again that, while they support Sanders and would vote for him if “circumstances were different” (if circumstances were different, we wouldn’t need him to win so badly!), they didn’t want to “waste their vote” when it was inevitable that Clinton was going to win, not just the primary, but the General Election.
All those people. Deciding not to cast their vote for a candidate they believed in. Creating the very perceived inevitability that concerned them.
If you think that mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign had nothing to do with that, I have a bridge to sell you in Bernie Sanders’ Brooklyn.
But I was waiting for California.
And it was a long wait, because I voted early by mail:
As I waited, I had people insinuate that the only reason I was voting for Sanders was because of ingrained sexism. Never mind that I’m a media-savvy feminist who writes critically about female representation in media images for a living. I had fellow liberals tell me that I needed to make sure to examine the reasons why I was so anti-Clinton. Because it was probably ingrained misogyny, and I needed to check that.
But my feelings about Hillary have nothing to do with her being a woman, and everything to do with the fact that throughout my voting life, I’ve been feeling her forced on me. As an inevitability.
I’m a native New Yorker, and I was living there when she and her family bought a house in Chappaqua, New York to set up residency so that she could run for the Senate. When, as a First Lady twice over she moved to a state she’d never before lived in to run for office and be that state’s representative. That didn’t sit well with me.
It was one of my first elections (I turned 18 in 1997), so I’ll admit that I wasn’t terribly knowledgeable about much of anything. But I couldn’t help but think, “Why doesn’t she run for senator in Illinois, or Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or Arkansas?” Later, I learned that the Democratic Party urged her to run in New York, and somehow that made it worse. Now the party had pushed someone who had no experience with our state to run for senator and represent us. It was a decision made by committee.
I didn’t vote for her. Twice. She won twice. And then she voted for the Iraq War.
And that was before I knew that she’d served on the Board of Wal-Mart for six years. That was before I realized the extent of her ties to corporations. Actually, that was before I really started to care about such things. Before I started to really understand how broken our system is. Before any of that, I was already uninterested in having her be the woman to represent me for anything.
Fast-forward to 2008. Here was Clinton running for president the first time, and for the first time, I was conflicted. Because in addition to possibly having the first female Presidential nominee, we also had a chance at the first black President of the United States. I, as I’m sure many women of color did, felt torn. Is it more important for me to see a woman’s face, or a brown face leading my country. But Obama voted against the Iraq War. And Obama started from the ground-up politically in Chicago, working at the grassroots level before working his way up to becoming an Illinois senator. When I heard him speak, he reasoned the way I did. Saw the world the way I did. At the time, I joked that Obama was a black, male, Harvard-educated me.
I became a proud Obama supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same gender you are.
Two Presidential terms later, Clinton is back, running for President again. At first, I started out a Clinton supporter, for no other reasons than 1) No one else was prioritizing campaign finance reform and income inequality to my liking, and 2) I had become even more of a feminist, and since my true first-priority issues weren’t being addressed much, my secondary priority of electing a woman would have to take precedence. Even though this was not the woman I would’ve picked. Even though this was the same woman I had already not voted for three times.
And then came Bernie Sanders.
And he was actually talking about the things I wanted to be talking about after Occupy. After Ferguson. After Baltimore. After so many acts of police brutality and miscarriages of justice. After thinking that no one in the political establishment cared about any of these things, this senator from Vermont was not only showing he cared but that, as I later learned as I did more research, he’d always cared. Suddenly, there was someone daring to talk about these issues out loud. Daring to expect that we could do something about them as a nation. Daring to suggest that, as President, he would prioritize these issues of inequality specifically as the biggest threat to getting anything else done.
I became a proud Sanders supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same gender you are.
That’s something that I’ve come to realize. That while Clinton is a woman, I see nothing of myself in her, and I see nothing of her in me. There’s a gulf that I don’t know how to bridge. I’ve been trying and failing to bridge this gulf for sixteen years.
So, I waited for California.
And today was a difficult day. Sanders didn’t win my home state, nor did he win the second-largest state delegate-wise that was voting yesterday. While there’s an extremely slim chance that he could convince the over 300+ superdelegates he’d need to change their support from Clinton to himself, his loss in California forced me to acknowledge his defeat.
I looked at the results first thing in the morning and immediately felt disappointment like a punch in the gut. I had a sinking feeling before going to bed last night, but now it was certain. I’ll admit it – I was near tears. As I talked to people on social media, I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so upset, until a friend of mine insisted in one of her statuses that we should accept that Clinton won, even if we didn’t vote for her, and just celebrate the fact that we’ve achieved such a huge milestone already. Keep in mind that we’d all only just gotten the results. I said the following in this person’s comment section:
I’m thrilled that we have our first female candidate for president. I’m sorry it’s her. I’ll vote for her, I might even volunteer for her as it gets closer to November because #NeverTrump, but it will be difficult to be truly enthusiastic. At least, it is today. I’m trying to be happy about it, and I just can’t. Because today, what I learned is that as much as I’ve tried to give this country the benefit of the doubt, it will only be ready to elect a woman or elect a person of color as President at the expense of changing a broken system. The US can apparently only have one or the other. It can’t have both. And we will always choose safety and sameness (and yes, I know a female President is a HUGE change, but I’m talking about how she will govern), and that is frustrating and disappointing. My only hope is that the judges and senators that we elect through this primary have as much fight in them as Sanders has.
I’m really not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but there’s are legit reasons why many people are disappointed today. It’s not just “because sexism.” It’s not that simple. And I think this feeling is important for Clinton and her campaign to remember. Because these feelings are not going to go away. It’s not just about Sanders as an individual, but about what his supporters want from our country.
And it’s not even just what we want from our country, but what we need and expect from our country now.
Still the “just get over it alreadys” and the “thank God, now we can move ons” and the snarky “Superdelegates don’t vote until July 25th ORLY???” comments continued to be bandied about. Finally, I posted this:
I was irritated that one of the very reasons I haven’t been a Clinton supporter since 2000 – that she is beholden to mainstream, establishment politics and interests – was now manifesting itself in my social media feeds. Demanding party unity from me the freaking day after the primary. The Great Political Machine working through my friends.
I’ve spent a very long, very difficult day trying to come to terms with this loss. Trying to come to terms with what it says about our country. And in spite of that, trying to find joy in the fact that WE COULD HAVE OUR FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT IN NOVEMBER. Which despite everything I’ve said up until this point is something I’m hugely happy about.
And I want to make this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR. While I’ve never supported her as a candidate until now, I have always had the utmost respect for her and everything she’s accomplished. It’s not easy to be a woman in any male-dominated field. I can’t even imagine what it has been like for her to not only navigate politics, but do do so entirely in the public eye thanks to the scrutiny placed on her because of who her husband is. The fact that she has come through all of that, achieved so much, and is now thisclose to the Presidency is astonishing.
As I said above, I WILL be voting for Hillary Clinton in November. There’s no question about that. You got me, Machine, OK? You got me. YOU FREAKING WIN. “Uncle!” Whatever. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton not simply because a Trump victory would probably start the Apocalypse, but because Clinton and I DO agree on many issues. We’re both liberals, and we’re both women, and there are indeed values we share.
I’ve become a Hillary Clinton supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same as you are.