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The Intersectional Swiftboat Waltz

This past week the Working Families Parties endorsed Elizabeth Warren in the democratic primary. It's a somewhat obscure thing, in terms of national politics. WFP is a nominally left party started in New York state. In New York rather than run their own candidates they endorse Democrats. The choice of the centrist Warren over Sanders isn't without precedent. They endorsed Joe Crowley over Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Andrew Cuomo over Zephyr Teachout. The entire affair is only relevant for what it suggests that we can expect from the rest of the primary.

When the endorsement was announced, members asked leadership to release the breakdown of votes, as they did in 2015 when the party endorsed Sanders. Leadership refused, saying something about preserving the integrity of the vote. What was obvious, where the 56 person leadership/advisory board had a vote equal to that of the 10,000+ membership, is that the leaders had heavily favored Warren while the members went to Sanders. It seemed the leadership was too embarrassed by their decision  to make their case for leaning so heavily toward Warren.

What's astounding is in the days following the endorsement there was a letter from 100 Black "activists" not in WFP decrying the racist and sexist abuse they say the leadership has experienced. There was an article in Time magazine detailing this racist and sexist abuse. The implication of both is that there is a problematic level of racism and sexism to the Sanders base of support.

A few issues with this worth noting: Sanders' base is both less white and more female than his primary opponents. One could presume this might be especially true for a party ostensibly of working class families. The other thing worth noting is that, generally speaking, few people outside the party know the race or gender of the leadership of this mostly New York-centric party. I didn't until the day before the letter one of the leaders implied that all of the animus over the opaque vote might be due to the race of the leaders:


Granted, by the time of the tweet the national director, Maurice Mitchell, had announced Warren at her New York City rally and appeared on CNN to "explain" the party's endorsement.


While I hadn't considered his race perhaps others had focused on it. Except Stamp's tweet isn't about receiving racist tweets, but requests for accountability on the basis of her race. The tweets that have been documented with derogatory racialized language came from a Black man and a Native American man.

 It's an attempted return to the Bernie Bro myth.

The most diverse voting base of any candidate, heavily working class, more female, who want policy that will disproportionately help Black, Latino, trans, gay, vulnerable people are portrayed as racist, sexist, and homophobic for passionately advocating for those policies. In this case they are portrayed as racist for wanting transparency in the endorsement of a woman who falsely claimed to be a racial minority for decades. I think the people who believe that Warren claiming to be Cherokee and being trolled into taking a DNA test by Trump is not that big a deal anymore are either naive or myopic.

One possible explanation for that myopia:
One could theorize that Warren's rise in the polls show a degree of apathy on the part of Democratic voters about Warren's claims to be a racial minority and her former Republican registration. I'd suggest, rather, that it reflects apathy on the part of the specific demographic offering her the strongest support, well-off white college grads, which just so happens to be the demographic most represented by our media.
The naivety is in accepting Warren's explanations for claiming to be Cherokee for so long despite the obvious contradictions.

This is an attempt to take Sanders' obvious strength and Warren's obvious weakness on the question of racial justice and somehow use it as a weapon against Sanders. This is the politics of Carl Rove and Lee Atwater once again coming to bear on the Democratic primary. It's intersectional swift-boating. It never truly stopped after 16, but the true season is upon us. If the past week is any indication, it's going to get particularly toxic. The intent is to connect Bernie and Trump in the minds of voters, by implying that their supporters are similar. It seems that the narrative tying Bernie and Trump more directly collapsed under the weight of absurdity, but occasionally the implication arises.

Angelica Ross at the LGBTQ Forum

On September 21, The Advocate and GLAAD hosted a presidential forum focused on LBGTQ issues. Bernie Sanders had a prior engagement and didn't appear at the forum. When asked about his absence by The Guardian, host Anjelica Ross said, "I was further disappointed to hear this was not the only LGBTQ event Bernie was making other commitments for. You don't show up for both of out LGBTQ events? That's obviously telling us all we need to know." Meanwhile, she had this to say about Elizabeth Warren reading the names of murdered trans women, "For me, it felt like more than an opportunistic moment. She is someone who is invested in the LGBTQ community."

It's not immediately clear why Ross finds Warren reading names and her public advocacy for marriage equality while running for office in a state where it was law to be a sign of investment. Or what exactly Sanders' absence tells us that we need to know that his long history doesn't. On Twitter, a number of Sanders' supporters reached out to Ross about what they felt was an erasure of Sanders advocacy for the sake of Elizabeth Warren.

On the day after the Guardian interview an article published by OUT Magazine with the headline.

Angelica Ross Leaves Twitter After Abuse by Trump, Sanders Supporters

Obviously the supporters of Trump and the supporters of Sanders were all abusing the actress. A few examples of the abuse from Sanders supporters from the article

"'To question Bernie Sanders on lgbtq rights is the most ridiculous thing ever and show your bias against him,' one fan tweeted. 'He's been an ally before it was cool and socially acceptable, while every other candidate just hopped on the equality train.' Another user tweeted that Ross was spreading misinformation" about the candidate"

Obviously this would drive anyone off of Twitter. After acknowledging the truth of Sanders' history the article goes on to say,  "[b]ut a majority of the backlash against Ross came from pro-Trump Maga trolls, who flooded the actress's mentions to misgender her and call transgender people mentally ill. These attacks came as a response to Ross' opening statements at the forum"

Despite the headline clearly there's no similarity between the people pointing out that Sanders has a long history of advocacy for the LGBT!Q community and  the people insulting and misgendering Ross. Despite this, the most consistent denouncement has been of Sanders' supporters:




I'm going to suggest that anyone toxically weaponizing accusations of racism/transphobia/sexism/homophobia like this isn't doing it out of concern for the most vulnerable people experiencing those degradations. These are not accusations levied at people promoting universal policies with an interest in helping anyone, or improving their lives, but in stopping any systemic change that would positively help any of those people.

There is not generally a good way to deal with persistent lies. These lies always cast Sanders into a context free vacuum. He's bad. He's inadequate. He's imperfect. My new preferred way of dealing with them is to accept the lie as possibly true, and then ask who's better.

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