(Note: This is a longer version of a series of tweets I made earlier. If you’re not getting enough of my ranting here, find me there for more!)
Thinking this morning about a dude who was at my caucus a year and a half ago: White. Army-green but not army-issue jacket. Close-cropped hair. There was little time for discussion, and the hall was noisy enough that few could be heard over the din anyway, but this guy had a loud voice, and decided he wanted to dominate the conversation. He spent a good ten minutes telling us about why he was there: He was 30, he said, and had never voted nor been involved in politics before. What changed things for him? Bernie, whom he kept praising to the ceiling.
Oh, FFS, I thought.
Across the table sat a middle-aged Black woman, wearing a shirt with the logo of the machinists’ union. She had her arms crossed over her chest and an expression that said, “Oh, it’s one of these assholes again.” I probably had the same expression, to be honest; she and I exchanged some eyerolls.
When I finally got a chance to speak, I talked about how long I’ve been fighting, and how the Republicans running (at the time, it was down to Trump and Cruz) terrified even me. I emphasized how critical it was that no matter who won the party nomination, we had to support them in the general, or all we’ve fought for for so long–all the progress, however small, we’ve made recently–would die. Bernie dude looked cranky at someone else talking, but he didn’t speak again. Fair enough.
Bernie won our precinct and caucus, and I later found out that what I’d seen was repeated around the area in other caucuses: White folks–mostly male and young–talking over the queer folk, PoCs, and lifelong feminists who have been fighting this shit for generations. The same thing later happened at the state-level caucuses, too: Lots of accusations of vagina voting, for instance.
While I’m glad that Bernie’s run did help finally get some people into politics, I’m angry that these people now want to be at the front of the line. Feeling free to ignore politics, vote third party or insist both parties are somehow the same is a function of privilege. If you’ve gotten to 30, like this guy had, without ever voting before, and it’s not because you were prevented from doing so, you are swimming in privilege. When your very status as a human being is a political football, you don’t have the luxury of being neutral. I was a baby feminist early on (long story), and figured out I was queer around 12. Politics for me have never been optional. I also grew up working class, as did many–perhaps most–other marginalized people. We are most definitely aware of economic-justice issues. We have always fought for living wages, safe working conditions, consumer rights, etc. right alongside our other fights for justice. For the politically apathetic to waltz in and tell us we’re doing this wrong and should turn things over to them is fucking infuriating.
If you only became politically active upon seeing your tuition bill or being stuck with an unpaid internship, you are not the head of this movement. Yes, we know student loans suck and labor theft is rampant, because WE deal with these things, too. We also, however, have dealt with the added economic injustices of going to shitty public schools, facing bias in education and hiring, and having to endure abuse by teachers, co-workers, and bosses. And don’t even get me started on the problems faced by people who have disabilities or chronic illnesses. We require accommodations and expensive health care that often aren’t available to us because employers don’t want to deal with those things. Acting like marginalized people don’t understand economic injustice is bigotry in itself. If you’ve never faced problems like these, don’t start claiming you know better than we do about how terrible unrestrained capitalism can be.
I don’t know whether the dude at my caucus eventually voted for Hillary in the general, but I know a lot of people like him did not, and they most definitely share the blame for where we are, but not just because they helped elect Trump. He’s just the latest in a long history of gross injustice we’ve always faced. People who never bothered with politics before Bernie also had a hand in the election of every other GOP jackass we’ve been fighting all this time. Trump didn’t happen overnight. Violent bigotry didn’t just spring up this weekend. This has ALWAYS been here, and we have always been fighting it. If you haven’t been fighting these people since you were old enough to be aware and do so, you are very much part of the problem.