As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth some more about whom I would vote for in the California primary today. It is in many ways an awful choice to have to make, choosing between two such supremely qualified candidates. On the other hand, it is also the best possible choice to have to make, to have one’s electoral cup runneth over with two such excellent choices. Given the way they complement, and the way they differ, I wish they were the principle choice for the general election in November.
But I have to make a choice today, and I’ve chosen to go with Clinton. It’s hard because there is so much I like about Sanders: I like that he has forced a public dialog about wealth distribution in the United States and championed having the fundamental underpinnings of modern American life – in particular health and college education – available to all. I like that he has been able to move the needle as far as he has as an outsider, and, indeed, that he has challenged the status quo that tends to benefit political insiders at the expense of important policy values carried by outsiders. I like him as a man, and as a refreshingly ordinary man for whom intense attention does not appear to have caused him to internalize his own celebrity. And, as a Jewish person in America, I like that he has been able to open doors I was not convinced were open to other Jewish people aspiring to serve the country in such an office.
Identity politics are not the basis by which I generally like to make political decisions, however. Choosing the “X” candidate without any other inquiry into the candidate’s qualification is not likely to lead to good governance. And in this primary they are of little utility to me in any direct way anyway, because while on the one hand I’m Jewish, on the other hand I’m also a woman. Either way my purely demographic interests are advanced regardless of which candidate wins.
At the same time, one of the reasons diversity is an important value is because everyone is both shaped and inherently limited by their own lived experience. Problems and solutions will go unseen when they fall into blindspots, which is why it is good to have a diversity of perspectives represented. And I was starting to see a problem.
My thinking about which candidate to support started changing in the wake of some of the “Bernie Bros” behavior. Before I continue I want to make clear here that I do NOT in any way blame Sanders for them, nor do I think he is in any way responsible for their behavior. In fact I credit him tremendously with the repudiation he has expressed regarding some of it, even though I do not think he was obligated to; I simply appreciate it as good leadership (and wish Trump would do the same regarding the lesser angels counted among his supporters). But I did find a certain vein of insufferable self-righteousness among a few too many of Sanders’s vocal supporters tedious, and at one point the thought suddenly occurred to me: if Sanders wins, are these going to be the smug and sanctimonious voices steering my country for the next four years? That realization began to take the bloom off the Sanders rose for me, but it didn’t fully change my mind. I still quite liked him on his own merit.
And then I started encountering criticism of Clinton that was simply a bridge too far, so ludicrous that it foreclosed any possible legitimacy. I wish I could remember the specifics – it may have been the impression a number of complaints about her left me with – but once having been struck by that observation I couldn’t ignore it, and it prompted me to rethink the substantive merit of all the other criticism she’s been attacked with. I started to suspect that she was a lot less terrible than I was being led to believe and instead suspect that it was what I was deliberately being led to believe.
I soon encountered a few other items that reinforced this suspicion. Articles like this one make a very credible argument that when we think about what is “wrong” with Clinton, she is being held to an impossible standard we do not hold male candidates to.
I also found her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel particularly telling and compelling:
Seeing what has happened to her has made me acutely aware that there is a double-standard in how we judge women’s accomplishments. She was told what game she needed to play, she played it, and then as soon as she strove for more she was punished for it.
As a woman trying to forge a successful and fulfilling career (especially one in public service) this realization is very worrying because there is no reason to believe I won’t be similarly affected. Will my fate be like hers, where I am allowed to serve the world in some capacity, but as soon as my dreams become too big I will have my wings clipped?
Clinton has refused to let her wings be clipped. She has tremendous fortitude and strength of character to even still be standing when so many have tried to knock her down. When I think of what it takes to be the kind of leader we need the President of the United States to be, that’s exactly it.
The Office of the President of the United States is not just another policy job. It is fundamentally a leadership position whose main purpose is to champion America and all its people. And I have no doubt that she will do that. I don’t mean to say that she is above all criticism or that I agree with all her policies. I am committed to pushing against her when necessary. But thanks to the leadership she has demonstrated already, of pushing through barrier after barrier, including the unseen barriers of implicit bias too many of us, men and women, still tend to carry, I know that if she can yet push through this one last electoral one then I, and lots more qualified people whose abilities and contributions have too often been too easily demeaned or dismissed as hers have been, will be able to.