Saturday, February 6, 2016

I asked Clinton's campaign to respond to sexism from its supporters. Here's how it responded

A few weeks ago, Sanders rapid response director Mike Casca tweeted out a statement urging supporters to "follow the senator's lead and be respectful when people disagree with you". Predictably, Greenwald notes, Clinton-supporting journalists have since made a big deal about it,
as though this proved that Sanders supporters really are uniquely abusive. That’s absurd. What that actually proved is that pro-Clinton journalists at large media outlets vastly outnumber pro-Sanders journalists — that’s what it means to say that she’s the “establishment candidate” — and have collectively used their platform to spin this harmful narrative, forcing the Sanders campaign to try to defuse it.
Greenwald is obviously right about this, but an interesting point is that you don't have to buy into the pressured-into-it theory to dismiss what the Clintonites are arguing. Instead of insisting that Sanders supporters are uniquely reactionary, you can conclude that the Sanders campaign is uniquely active and progressive about this issue, and holds its supporters to a uniquely high standard.

To test this, I decided to contact the Clinton campaign to ask them if they had anything to say about incidents of sexism coming from their supporters against young women who support Sanders. It's easy enough to show that this bigotry exists, and it should be just as easy for the Clinton campaign to make a token statement - even just a tweet! - disclaiming it. So my letter was simple:
Hi there,
I'm Carl Beijer with the Baltimore Post-Examiner, and I'm putting together an article on the sexist harassment of women, in particular young women, who support Bernie Sanders. Two quick questions, if you will:
1) Is Hillary Clinton's campaign concerned about this issue?
2) Is Hillary Clinton's campaign taking any steps to deal with it?
I look forward to your thoughts and any information you can give me. 
After a week with no response, it seems clear that the Clinton campaign has no interest in addressing this issue. This is a particular shame since one doesn't need to agree that there's a Hillaryman Problem - some kind of pervasive, out-of-control public menace - for Team Clinton to agree that acts of sexism should be decried as such. This is if anything more true for her campaign, which routinely positions itself as the vanguard of modern feminism.

But unlike the Sanders campaign - which is even willing to decry often dubiously alleged incidents of bigotry from random supporters with no actual role in his operation - Clinton has evidently decided that she doesn't want to take a stand on this. There are of course all kinds of possible strategic and logistical explanations for this, but the bottom line is that Sanders is making efforts to fight sexism that Hillary Clinton does not. Expect excuses for failures like this for the next eight years.