Disclaimer: The words expressed are solely the opinion of the author and do not represent the PVI editorial staff.
It’s been a year since the contentious Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and yet repeated calls for unity within the Democratic Party seem to have yielded few results. While the new and old faces of the Iowa Democratic Party play nice in public, the discord between Clintonites and Berniecrats is still palpable.
And I can tell you why. In one simple sentence. A sentence no one has had the courage to state publically. Even I feel compelled to say it anonymously. Trust me. It’s the truth. And I don’t think anyone can handle this truth.
We don’t trust you.
It’s not hyperbole. That’s it. That’s all. And it’s the truth. We don’t trust you. Berniecrats don’t trust your judgment, your actions, or your words.
First, there’s your judgment. You support neoliberalism. You won’t admit this. You won’t use the word to describe yourself. I’m not even sure you acknowledge there is such a thing. While they didn’t invent American neoliberalism, it was the Clintons who embraced it and made it the entrenched Democratic political philosophy for two decades. Clinton 42 ushered in triangulation, which embraced conservative ideology regarding corporate economics, Wall Street, welfare, and the military industrial complex while maintaining a liberal stance on identity politics.
Again, I’m not sure you will ever admit this, but your open support of Clinton’s neoliberalism gave tacit support to: a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the top 1%; support of the TARP bailout; support of the Keystone XL Pipeline; a vote for the Iraq War; a vote for the Patriot Act; support of the death penalty; acceptance of Citizens United, Super PACS, and big money in politics; privatization of the American prison system; opposition to medical cannabis; disproportionate incarceration rates for African Americans; support for offshore drilling; refusal to support a national minimum (living) wage of $15 an hour; and support for NAFTA, the TPP, and other global trade policies that eviscerated the American middle class. However, Clinton’s stance on identity politics made her an ideal, liberal candidate in your eyes, allowing you to hide behind the (D) to justify your (continued, ardent) support of Clinton while you swept her neoliberal economic philosophy under the rug.
Then you were offered a candidate whose vision for America defined true liberalism – social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. But you wouldn’t budge. You wouldn’t listen. Your lives were comfortable and your minds were closed. Your first argument was always that there was never really a difference between Clinton and Sanders. After all, they voted together 93% of the time while in the Senate. Of course they did. Because when you’re a neoliberal and a democratic socialist, you’re going to vote together when your only other option is hardcore, Tea Party conservatism. Then you’ll rightly argue that she won the popular vote by 2,672,043 votes. But we all know those votes, and probably more, were anti-Trump votes, not pro-Clinton votes.
You campaigned for an economic system that has crippled the American middle class. You supported that. You did. Own up to it. Admit that Clinton’s vision for the Democratic Party had nothing to do with liberalism or progressivism. Until you own it, and admit it, your judgment will always be in question. This is why Berniecrats don’t trust you.
Then there are your actions. With the insurgent campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, their appeal to the working class (honest and dishonest, respectively) should have tipped Clinton off that a progressive VP choice would have been her best option. Instead, she chose Tim Kaine, the cardboard cut-out poster child for triangulated, centrist neoliberalism. Instead of distancing herself from DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after she resigned in disgrace, Clinton welcomed her with open arms. Clinton was so out of touch with the working class voter, she didn’t bother to visit Michigan or Wisconsin after she won the primary. How can you trust anyone with such poor judgment? And how can Berniecrats trust anyone who trusts someone with such poor judgment?
Unfortunately, the Berniecrats’ mistrust of Clintonites hit close to home. After campaigning as a unifier, Berniecrats on the Iowa SCC soon learned they had been duped by current IDP chairman, Derek Eadon. As his first gesture, Eadon gave SCC Berniecrats every indication that he supported Keith Ellison for DNC chairman. After the vote, they discovered that Eadon led the five Iowa DNC members in a bloc vote for Tom Perez, the candidate foisted into the race by the neoliberal establishment to counter Ellison (because unity – no thanks), even though previous allies, like Chuck Schumer, could tell which way the wind was blowing and threw their support behind Ellison. Eadon returned to a stunned SCC, explaining his decision with a litany of criteria, but no explanation of how Perez fit that criteria better than Ellison. His main argument was maintaining Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, which Ellison had assured would not change.
Then came the firing of two female IDP employees, who were given smaller severance packages than their male counterparts. One of the positions was filled with a straight, white male (yes, a Berniecrat), while the other position remains open. Eadon campaigned on a platform of transparency, which has translated into poor decisions behind closed doors. No explanation, just poor optics, and continued poor judgment. His olive branch to the SCC Berniecrats was a ruse. Why should they trust anything Derek Eadon says or does? As of now, they shouldn’t.
Not to be left out, Polk County Democrats put their poor judgment on display by electing Sean Bagniewski as their new chairman. Whether they admit it publicly or not, Berniecrats in Polk County (and especially those who comprised half the delegation at the Polk County Convention) abhor Bagniewski after his corrosive behavior at the convention. Based on this decision alone, if Polk County Clintonites want unity, they’re lying. Bagniewski magnanimously offered ‘co-chairmanship’ to Berniecrat Dylan Funk, a gesture he seems to have forgotten the moment after it was made. Is it becoming at all clear why Berniecrats don’t trust you?
Deciphering your poor judgment and actions leaves little room for what’s been said. Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ comment lost her some votes. Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard felt it necessary to comment on Heather Ryan’s entry into the District 3 congressional race by stating she’s ‘nutty’ and ‘people need to stop encouraging her.’ Meanwhile, after the Polk County Supervisors could only muster the courage to raise the minimum wage to $10.75, SCC member and Rynard’s Iowa Starting Line partner, Rick Smith, thanked the supervisors for their courage in hammering out a (non-living wage) decision rather than thanking the Fight for $15 activists who were fighting for the IDP platform, as all members of the SCC should be doing, including Rick Smith.
The only way there will ever be unity locally, statewide, and nationally, is for the Clintonites in every county across the nation to go to their county meeting, stand up, and say ‘I was wrong.’ Because you were. Because your poor judgment, actions, and words have bred an unrelenting mistrust. It’s your job to win back the trust of your fellow Democrats. Otherwise, there will never be unity. Fortunately, Sanders won Iowa voters 18-45 by a landslide, while Clinton carried the 45+ vote by a smaller margin. And we know the older you get, the less likely you are to admit you’re wrong. So this is a waiting game. Berniecrats won’t hold their breath for Clintonites to acknowledge their poor judgment. They’ll stand strong, forge ahead, make small gains, and wait for the Clintonite neoliberals to die off. Unless they truly do want unity. Then they’ll stand up at their next county meeting and say –
“Hello. My name is ___________ and I’m a neoliberal. I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
Until then, we won’t trust you. Unity is entirely in your hands.