I have been supporting Bernie Sanders as a political candidate since I was 13. His first presidential campaign was the first time I ever got excited about the political process. I will dedicate the rest of my life to politics and I owe a lot of that to his campaign including my generation in the electoral system when no one else was.
I can’t generalize about all of Bernie’s supporters. I have met quite a few of them that are kind, amazing, truly revolutionary people. I supported Bernie because of his policies, but I ignored the sexism that came with being one of his supporters because I wanted to be liked. I found and lost myself in Bernie’s campaign.
I fell in love with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign at the beginning of the 2020 primary. I loved seeing a strong woman who was thriving in politics because of how smart she was. Someone who prioritized getting things done with transparency and unapologetic grit. I started volunteering on the Warren campaign and did that for months.
When I started supporting Bernie’s 2020 run, I was genuinely passionate about his policies and his ideas. I was ruthlessly committed to seeing him win. The thing is when you are ruthlessly committed to one goal, sometimes you lose sight of what else is important.
I turned a blind eye to the sexism that ran through his campaign. I turned a blind eye to the sexism that plagued the entire 2020 primary. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t there. I wanted to pretend like being a woman wasn’t considered a big deal in politics anymore. I wanted to focus on “real issues” and forget about the whole gender thing.
When Kirsten Gillibrand dropped out, I said it was because she just wasn’t going to poll well. When Kamala Harris dropped out, I said it was because she was a prosecutor. With Amy Klobuchar it was because she “couldn’t connect with voters” and with Marianne Williamson it just wasn’t in the stars.
But when Elizabeth Warren dropped out, something inside of me snapped completely in half. I hadn’t been supporting her for a while and I was completely devastated. It’s like I was reminded that I, too, was a woman who wanted to go into politics and that is a problem.
Elizabeth Warren was a brilliant candidate. She brought every marginalized community in her campaign, had such wide-spread support, had more detailed, significant plans than anyone, could successfully work with people she disagreed with, was a beautiful public speaker, and had a sense of humor. She didn’t win because of her gender and regardless of who you supported or what party you identify with, when she was brutally defeated in the primary, it sent a message to young girls who want to go into politics: you don’t belong here. There is no place for you. It is, once again, not your time.
During the primary, I thought the people who called out sexism within the Bernie campaign were liars. I can now see that this was my own internal misogyny. I missed the whole snake debacle, the verbal abuse, the harassment, and the horrible op-eds on why the female candidates just weren’t good enough. When Warren dropped out and I reevaluated who I identified with, I was confronted by teenage boys who also supported Bernie telling me why “actually, sexism wasn’t really involved at all.”
I’m sick of seeing a lot of Bernie Sanders’ supporters use the concept of revolution as an excuse to deflect accountability and spew hate without consequence. I’m sick of having to pretend like the issues that affect me as a girl are not important and I am really sick of hearing how bringing up sexist behavior is a distraction.
I am starting an initiative called Every Opportunity which will launch soon to directly connect girls to every opportunity in politics and activism. It is inspired by a line from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 concession speech. This initiative is a way to give back and an apology. I will take all of the tools and recourses that I have cultivated and unapologetically give them to girls so that we can take over the political landscape. I will also use this as my way of trying to fix the irreparable damage we have all done by ignoring women who try to make their voices heard in the political system and get shut out.
I wanted to be liked by all Bernie supporters and ultimately I couldn’t because I was trying to make myself smaller. I was turning a blind eye to injustice in a campaign that, I know, at its heart is actually about justice for all.
Next time a woman runs for President, I will unapologetically root for her and yes, partly because she is a woman. I thought that we had come farther in this country than we have.
I do not regret supporting Bernie at all. I still support all of his policies and consider myself a hyper-progressive voter. What I do regret is buying into the electability trope that is exclusively used in a sexist way to keep women out of politics. The good news is that when Elizabeth Warren left, so did any fucks that I gave about making men comfortable. Now, that’s revolutionary.