So that happened. Bernie Sanders who's held political office since 1972 (that's right, nineteen seventy freaking two) berated two of the country's most effective and most respected rights organizations as "the establishment" that he's "taking on" simply because they have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
Leave aside for a minute the insult to people who have been fighting for the rights of women and providing family planning and health care services to women and families despite withering Republican attacks for decades being dismissed and discounted as "the establishment." Forget for a second the callous dismissal of the painstaking work by men and women who, under great personal risk, laid every brick of the principle that in America, who you love should not limit how far you can go simply because these men and women have been doing that work for so long.
Ignore, even, for the moment, the reprehensible belittling of activists whose line forms from police brutality to being beaten within an inch of their lives (and sometimes to their lives) because of their sexual orientation or even the women's advocates who have withstood everything from rabid right wing protests to domestic terrorist bombings and shootings.
And let alone for a second that "taking on" Planned Parenthood doesn't usually go well for politicians.
What does it say about a candidate - not just his campaign, but the candidate himself - who gets so rattled by a couple of high profile endorsements for his opponent that he starts badmouthing the country's most respected gay rights and women's rights and health groups? What does it say about a candidate who is supposedly the front runner in one of the early contest states and in a dead heat in the other? What does it say that he, the candidate, is taking it upon himself to beat up on civil rights groups?
What's next, Bernie Sanders cracking his verbal whip on the mothers of black teens whose lives were taken too early, because those mothers too have endorsed Hillary Clinton?
What Sanders did speaks far more to the state of his campaign and the character of their candidate than it does about rights organizations that have made more progress for women and LGBT people than Bernie has ever thought important. It speaks to two shortfalls for the candidate - shortfalls that, in my opinion, disqualify him from the presidency.
Social Justice Takes Center Stage, Knocking Bernie off His Economic Fantasyland Focused Campaign
First, the entry of HRC and Planned Parenthood into the primary debate detracts from what Bernie thinks should be the focus of the campaign, at the expense of all other issues: economic radicalism. Those statements remind Democratic voters that the Democratic party does not exist to take revenge on banks but to protect the disenfranchised - economic and social.
Planned Parenthood's entry reminds Democrats that ignoring the stellar economic progress the present Democratic administration has made and screaming about a $15 minimum wage won't stop right wing radicals from blowing up health clinics or Republican politicians from trying to force women to bear the children of their rapists. It brings to stark focus that belittling the most significant banking re-regulation since the 1930s and joining a drum circle about Wall Street perp-walks en mass doesn't substitute for a lifelong active commitment to full social and economic justice for women.
Women. The one clear majority demographic in the Democratic party.
HRC's endorsement refreshes our memory about how hard it is to win equal rights and how quickly it can be taken away. HRC's voice interrupts the magical fantasies of flat-tax-funded more expensive health care for families with children and brings us back to the reality that we are one Supreme Court vote away from losing marriage equality. It returns us to the reality that it is still legal to fire people for their sexual orientation or gender identity in more than 30 states, and threatening to walk off the stage when confronted by members of the Black Lives Matter movement is unlikely to lighten the struggle of trans-kids in Texas for the plain right to use the restroom of their gender.
Bernie knows that as soon as people wake up from his economic fantasy world and face the real world's social progress we have to protect, he's toast. Panic mode is setting in.
If It's All About You, You Are Not Qualified to be President
Second, and perhaps the most disqualifying characteristic exposed by Sanders' reaction to the groups' endorsement is his contempt for and vilification of anyone who cannot see salvation in Bernie Sanders. This isn't just a egotistical pitfall for a candidate who is wrapped up in his own perceived greatness, it is also the single worst character flaw of a leader - and it describes why Sanders, despite having been in politics since 1972 and in Congress since 1991, has accomplished next to nothing.
Sanders' campaign slogan may be revolution, but he is running for President. Of the United States. Of all the United States. He's running to be president of those who support him and those who don't, those who find him their savior and those who find him a bad joke.
This is why Barack Obama has made good-faith attempts to work with his political opponents to the dismay of ideologues in his party. It's not that the president who finally accomplished health care reform, pulled the economy back from the brink of disaster to the longest stretch of job creation in history, and brought the country back from warpath with Iran is stupid. It's that he is the president of all Americans, even the ones that despise seeing him in office.
Anyone running for the highest office in the land who does not remind himself or herself this every moment of every day is not fit to be president. This is why no one in the Republican field is fit to be president. And this is why Bernie Sanders is unfit to serve.
If This is Establishment, Count Me In
I would conclude here, but I cannot without saying a few words about the impacts of mammoth human rights institutions Bernie Sanders and his campaign find so easy to ridicule as "the establishment."
True, Planned Parenthood has fought for establishment all its existence. The establishment of women's equality as a bedrock principle of American society. The establishment of the full women's reproductive care, including abortion services, as an inalienable right. The establishment of the right of women to make their health care decisions without the interference of their government or their employer. The establishment of courage that will not bow to domestic terrorism, let alone a politician's denigration.
The Human Rights Campaign, the country's oldest and most legislatively accomplished LGBT rights group, too, has fought for establishment. The establishment of the dignity of every human being, the establishment of love and commitment rather than dogma and bigotry as the basis of family. The establishment of the reality that us LGBT Americans are just as capable as anyone at anything and deserving of the same rights as everyone else.
If these organizations feel so strongly about a primary that they are compelled to endorse your opponent, you should be humbled and consider your own flaws, not dismiss the organizations as part of some abstract political establishment.
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