I’m Not Your Sister, Bernie Sanders

I’m Not Your Sister, Bernie Sanders

In his recently released ad for his 2020 Presidential campaign (announced this week), Bernie Sanders touts togetherness.  “Brothers and sisters,” he says, “we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

We sure do, Mr. Sanders, but let’s get one thing straight: I’m not your sister.

I’m not your sister, because you haven’t been a brother to me.

I’ve always admired you.  I’ve never made a secret of that.  But I stand by what I wrote at the end of your 2016 campaign: you are not presidential material.

Certainly, a lot of people believe that you are.  CNN’s Julian Zelizer writes: Democrats should learn from some aspects of Sanders’ example and use them to galvanize a strong base.”  But, Senator Sanders, the thing is, it wasn’t your leadership that made your 2016 campaign so popular.  It was misogyny.

Oh, not your misogyny, surely.  Your defense of women’s rights, for all its occasionally patronizing tone, has been strong.  But the misogyny of the Democratic base, and particularly of young male socialist “independent” voters?  That was the source of your momentum.  And there’s a serious concern that it could be again in this campaign cycle.

Now, for our readers here, a few reminders.  Since most people don’t take attacks on Hillary Clinton as personally as I do, they may not remember how vicious the tone of the 2016 campaign was, even within the Democratic primaries.  They may not remember how many people declared that they were voting not for Sanders, but against Clinton. And while Clinton certainly has votes and words in her past that deserve critical scrutiny, she was easily one of the most qualified people in the country for a job in the executive branch.

Because, lest you forget, the executive branch is a different part of the government from the legislative, with different methods and goals.  And while I reckon most people, including myself, would much rather see Bernie Sanders in the oval office than Donald Trump, if we rephrase it as a matter of type rather than degree, neither of them belong there.

But I’ve said all of this before.  A lot has changed in the past few millennia (years, in Trump time).  Why am I still harping on these wrongs?

Well, because Sanders is still diverting resources from the Democrats who should be running.  Within 24 hours of announcing his candidacy, Sanders earned nearly $6 million for his 2020 campaign.  That’s $6 million that could have gone to Kamala Harris, or…nah, I’m not going to pretend to be neutral.  It should have gone to Kamala Harris. So should the emotional energy and the rhetorical outpouring in support of Sanders.  

This may seem counterintuitive, given that I am young, a Democrat, and a socialist.  I fit right into Sanders’ demographic. And I can’t pretend I wouldn’t be delighted if Sanders were to become our first president of Jewish ancestry [1].  I can’t pretend I disagree with his major campaign promises. Socialized healthcare, free college tuition, a livable minimum wage…what compassionate person doesn’t want those things?

But Sanders is not the man to deliver them.  For Dumbledore’s sake, he’s not even a Democrat!  He is certainly a good speaker, and influential, and respected (perhaps a bit more than his rhetoric deserves).  But Sanders is not a leader, or a diplomat. He is an old white man who has spent his life working as an ally to the oppressed, and has gained a deserved following for doing such.  But he’s not the kind of leader the executive branch needs. He is, as I have stated, an agitator. We need him, but not in the Oval Office.  If he is seen, again, as a safer alternative to dangerous female candidates and candidates of color, then he does us more harm than good, even if he is not chosen as our candidate.

And that’s what really offends me about Sanders’ new campaign.  It’s so short-sighted and self-aggrandizing. Sanders has such a broad platform, and he could be doing much more with it than glorifying himself.  He could be lending his support to a candidate that shows promise of being the kind of rational, level-headed influence this nation needs. Someone younger, who represents the future of this nation.  Cry ageism all you want, but Sanders is closer to 80 than to 70, and if someone is too old to be hired as, say, a school principal or retail manager, we should seriously consider whether they’re too old to lead the nation.

So, Senator Sanders: I still respect you.  But I respect you less and less as you lose yourself in the rush of being loved, and in the lust for power.  You have come to believe you have superhuman abilities, and you do not. You are an expert in one thing — acting as a liberal influence within the legislative branch–but that doesn’t make you an expert in anything else.  Lord knows I’m not the biggest advocate for humility, but even Mr. Darcy said pride should be “under good regulation.” I guess what I’m saying is that Jane Austen wouldn’t vote for you.

I’m not your sister, because you haven’t been a brother to me.  A brother should encourage his siblings and help them to move forward, but you have stood in our way.  You’ve overshadowed us, and we are wilting. Cease and desist before you kill our 2020 campaign the way you did our 2016–not by poisoning it, but by starving it of the resources it needs.

[1] A small correction here: in previous writings, I mentioned admiring Sanders for his open Atheism.  As it turns out, the closest I could find to a direct admission of this was that he is “not particularly religious,” and in some cases, he has expressed vaguely spiritual beliefs.  I suppose it will be still longer before we get the secular president we deserve.

Evangeline Van Houten

Daughter of a high school English teacher and an English professor, Evangeline is a survivor of Academia and an aspiring elegant person. She lives in St. Louis with her family and a lot of books.