By ROBERT REICH
With the Democratic primaries grinding to a bitter end, I have suggestions for both Clinton and Sanders supporters that neither will like.
First, my advice to Clinton supporters: Don’t try to drum Bernie Sanders out of the race before Hillary Clinton officially gets the nomination (if she in fact does get it).
Some of you say Bernie should bow out because he has no chance of getting the nomination, and his continuing candidacy is harming Hillary Clinton’s chances.
It’s true that Bernie’s chances are slim, but it’s inaccurate to say he has no chance. If you consider only pledged delegates, who have been selected in caucuses and primaries, he’s not all that far behind Hillary Clinton. And the upcoming primary in California — the nation’s most populous state — could possibly alter Sanders’s and Clinton’s relative tallies.
My calculation doesn’t include so-called “superdelegates” — Democratic office holders and other insiders who haven’t been selected through primaries and caucuses. But in this year of anti-establishment fury, it would be unwise for Hillary Clinton to relay on superdelegates to get her over the finish line.
Sanders should stay in the race also because he has attracted a large number of young people and independents. Their passion, excitement, and enthusiasm are critically important to Hillary Clinton’s success, if she’s the nominee, as well the success of other Democrats this year, and, more fundamentally, to the future of American politics.
Finally and not the least, Sanders has been telling a basic truth about the American political economic system — that growing inequality of income and wealth has led inexorably to the increasing political power of those at the top, including big corporations and Wall Street banks. And that political power has stacked the deck in their favor, leading to still wider inequality.
Nothing important can be accomplished — reversing climate change, creating true equal opportunity, overcoming racism, rebuilding the middle class, having a sane and sensible foreign policy — until we reclaim our democracy from the moneyed interests. The longer Bernie Sanders is on stage to deliver this message, the better.
Next, my advice for Sanders supporters: Be prepared to work hard for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination.
Some of you say that refusing to fight for or even vote for Hillary will show the Democratic political establishment why it must change its ways.
But the “Democratic political establishment” is nothing but a bunch of people, many of them big donors and fundraisers occupying comfortable and privileged positions, who won’t even be aware that you’ve decided to sit it out — unless Hillary loses to Donald Trump.
Which brings me to those of you who say there’s no real difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
That’s just plain wrong. Trump has revealed himself to be a narcissistic, xenophobic, hatemonger who, if elected, would legitimize bigotry, appoint Supreme Court justices with terrible values, and have direct access to the button that could set off a nuclear war.
Hillary may not possess Bernie Sanders’s indignation about the rigging of our economy and democracy, or be willing to go as far in remedying it, but she’s shown herself a capable and responsible leader.
Some of you agree a Trump presidency would be a disaster but claim it would galvanize a forceful progressive movement in response.
That’s unlikely. Rarely if ever in history has a sharp swing to the right moved the political pendulum further back in the opposite direction. Instead, it tends to move the “center” rightward, as did Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Besides, Trump could do huge and unalterable damage to America and the world in the meantime.
Finally, some of you say even if Hillary is better than Trump, you’re tired of choosing the “lesser of two evils,” and you’re going to vote your conscience by either writing Bernie’s name in, or voting for the Green Party candidate, or not voting at all.
I can’t criticize anyone for voting their conscience, of course. But your conscience should know that a decision not to vote for Hillary, should she become the Democratic nominee, is a de facto decision to help Donald Trump.
Both of my morsels of advice may be hard to swallow. Many Hillary supporters don’t want Bernie to keep campaigning, and many Bernie supporters don’t want to root for Hillary if she gets the nomination.
But swallow it you must — not just for the good of the Democratic Party, but for the good of the nation.
ROBERT REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley; author, ‘Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few’’
ROBERT B. REICH’s new book, “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few,” is now out. His film “Inequality for All” is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House reversed itself late Wednesday and approved a measure aimed at upholding an executive order that bars discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.
Wednesday night’s 223-195 tally reverses a vote last week on the gay rights measure. Then, GOP leaders twisted arms to defeat the legislation, causing several supporters to switch their vote, leading Democrats to erupt in protest.
Openly gay New York Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney returned to attach the measure to a funding bill for the Energy Department.
It would prohibit agencies funded by the bill to award taxpayer dollars to federal contractors that violate President Barack Obama‘s executive order barringdiscrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“It says you do not take taxpayer dollars and fire people just for being gay,” Maloney said.
Maloney said last week’s vote “snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality.”
That amendment, by Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., came in response to warnings from the Obama administration that it may take federal funding away from North Carolina in response to the state law that blocks certain protections for gay people.
“The President and his emissaries have stated … that funds should not be dispensed to North Carolina until North Carolina is coerced into complying with the legal beliefs of the President, and his political views,” Pittenger said. “This is an egregious abuse of executive power.”
The North Carolina law was passed after Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use restrooms of their chosen gender identity. The state law went further to take away federal protections for gays, putting the state at risk of losing a variety of federal funds.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California blasted Republicans as favoring discrimination against gays.
“Republicans overwhelmingly voted to support … the hateful and discriminatory state law in North Carolina, and to enable anti-LGBT bigotry across our country,” Pelosi said in a statement. “History will not look kindly on the votes Republicans proudly took to target Americans because of whom they are or whom they love.”
Maloney’s proposal had appeared on track to pass last week, peaking at 217-206 as an amendment to a veterans’ spending bill.
But GOP leaders prevailed on seven Republicans to switch their votes, including California GOP Reps. Jeff Denham, Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters and David Valadao. Swing-district freshmen David Young, R-Iowa, and Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, also switched positions on last week’s vote. Each of them switched back Wednesday, joined by several other Republicans who opposed Maloney’s plan last week.
The energy and water projects bill is the second spending bill for the upcoming budget year to come to the House floor.
Only in America: A computer algorithm about guns has been created to predict who is most likely to be shot soon, or to shoot someone.
The Chicago Police Department, desperate to reduce gun violence by street gangs, authorized this unusual tool three years ago and has been using it to track and caution the most likely offenders.
It is a remarkable state of affairs that local governments must resort to such an approach to deal with the reality of gun mayhem. Yet it is sadly understandable, too, as a timid Congress cowed by the gun lobby fails to enact stronger gun-control laws for a nation increasingly flooded with high-powered weapons.
As a rule, a public anesthetized by gun abuse tends to pay attention to the ubiquity of guns in this country when massacres seize the headlines, like the San Bernardino terrorist attack that left 14 dead, or the shooting of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut. But the full problem is far more widespread, deadly and almost routine, according to a survey by a team of reporters from The Times reviewing a year of these multiple shootings.
Tracking 358 armed encounters last year in which four or more people were killed or wounded, including attackers, the team counted 462 dead and 1,330 wounded, some scarred for life.
These brief, lethal outbursts of gunfire stirred no national concern. As a sum, they register like a dispatch from a secret war zone. They were sparked by minor, often drunken grievances — forgettable if guns had not been at hand. And the victims in these shootings are just a subset of the nearly 11,000 Americans killed by guns and the estimated 60,000 wounded each year in single homicides and assaults.
This is a public health challenge of critical proportions deserving a thorough debate from the presidential candidates. Yet Donald Trump, in his march toward the Republican nomination, has made a befuddling series of corkscrew turns on guns, depending on his audience.
He went for full-throated Second Amendment pandering before the National Rifle Association, which endorsed him, last Friday. But two days later, talking to an interviewer on national TV, not gun zealots at a convention, he backed away from his vow earlier this year to ban all gun-free zones in schools on Day 1 in the White House. In his latest molting, Mr. Trump wants guns allowed only “in some cases” where teachers can be armed and trained.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate, has for months been proposing a consistent agenda of gun controls. Mr. Trump previously favored a ban on assault weapons, but he dropped that once he was running as a Republican.
Mr. Trump’s supporters should be asking where in all his tweets and thunder there is believable concern for the nation’s gun victims instead of adolescent fantasies that they would have been better off armed for a “shootout.”
In times of war and turmoil, women have mobilized to take the suffering out of their countries. One of these heroes is the first female president of Chile, who led her country back to health after it suffered a rapacious regime. From dictator’s victim to democratic leader, Michelle Bachelet transformed what is possible for all oppressed people to imagine.
On January 15, 2006, hundreds of thousands of Chileans filled the streets of Santiago to celebrate the victory of Chile’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet. She is the first female president in Latin America who is not the wife or relative of male political elites—the first to be elected entirely on her own merits. Furthermore, Michelle is an agnostic, divorced single mother who has one child out of wedlock—a striking deviance from Chile’s historically conservative machismo culture. As Michelle describes herself, “I was a woman, a divorcee, a socialist, an agnostic—all possible sins together” (qtd. in Gutsch). Michelle is living proof that even those on the margins of society can rise to the highest elected office of their country. But the question remains: How did a longtime patriarchal country come to view someone embodying “all possible sins” as a leader?
At her story’s beginning, Michelle was as far from beloved president as she could be—she was a discarded victim of General Augusto Pinochet’s regime. September 11, 1973 marks the beginning of Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, 17 years of systematic repression and forced disappearances. Michelle’s family opposed the regime and her father was tortured to death. Michelle recalls, “When I walked down the street, people who had been very close to us crossed to the other side so as not to have to see us” (qtd. in Worth 66-7). In 1975, not long after her father’s death and just 22 years old, Michelle endured a month of detainment and interrogation alongside her mother in what had been a luxurious estate before Pinochet’s takeover. Former detainee Humberto Vergara remembers,
It was like a palace, with marble stairways and an indoor swimming pool. […] In the dark, we could hear screams all day and sobbing all night. It was how I imagined hell would be … The guards would splash in the pool and pass by the cells, saying they were going to kill this one or … that one. (qtd. in Worth 67)
Chilean professor Elizabeth Lira, an expert on the regime, further explains the horrors Michelle would have known:
It was 30 days of total fear. Rape was frequent. Plus the punches, sexual abuse, denigration. They had very long interrogations and the use of electric current was common. You had to listen to others being tortured. (qtd. in Worth 70)
Despite these abuses, Michelle remained strong. A woman who was imprisoned with Michelle recalls,
We could hear the screams from the torture chamber opposite our cell. [Michelle] remained calm and tried to help us with her medical skills, singing with us in the afternoons. […] [The guards] kept telling her that if she didn’t collaborate [and tell them about her political activities] they would kill her mother, but she never broke down. (qtd. in Worth 70)
After a month, Michelle and her mother were forced into exile. In the following years, not only did Michelle organize protests against Pinochet, but she continued her medical studies and later pursued defense policies, becoming the type of person who could nurse a country back to health—and that is exactly what she did.
Shortly after the restoration of democracy in 1990, Michelle became Chile’s Minister of Defense in 2002—the first woman to hold such a position in Latin America. In this role, Michelle captivated Chileans by encouraging the military and human rights advocates to move forward in peace, despite the tragedy Pinochet’s regime had caused her. Before long, Michelle’s political party asked her to run for president.
The campaign revolved around debates over whether a woman could be capable of presidential leadership. Michelle’s main opponent, Sebastián Piñera, drew on a tradition of paternalism in Chilean politics. But Chileans had an appetite for change—for new leaders who would ensure a future of liberty.
Michelle promoted a new style of leadership, “liderazgo femenino” or feminine leadership. As a feminist who raised three children herself, Michelle insisted that women can embrace a style of leadership modeled on motherhood. Michelle earned so much popularity in part because Chileans sought a leader who would give them some sense of nurturing reassurance. John Powers writes, “Bachelet’s soothingly sensible demeanor seems ideal for a country that’s shaking off its old ways. Her style is gentle, almost consciously maternal” (Vogue). Michelle claimed the gendered critiques of her leadership potential as sexist and asserted:
Strength knows no gender, and neither does honesty, conviction or ability. I bring a different kind of leadership, with the perspective of someone who looks at things from a different angle. Let us change our mentality. (qtd. in Thomas 76)
More than anything, Chileans marveled at Michelle’s approach to life—the resilience she mustered from a heart that knew tragedy. Michelle offered up her pain, allowing her tragic past to inform her leadership in a most selfless and necessary way. She explains, “I saw friends disappear, who were jailed or tortured. But I decided to turn my pain into a constructive force—guaranteeing that future generations never have to go through what we went through” (qtd. in Langman and Contreras).
Michelle won her country’s vote as a symbol of Chile’s new era of democracy. To an exuberant crowd on the night of her victory, Michelle beautifully conveyed in just one line why she ran for president: “Because I was a victim of hate, I’ve dedicated my life to turning hate into understanding, tolerance, and — why not say it? — love” (qtd. in Powers).
As president, Michelle maintained a cabinet of ministers with 50/50 gender parity—one of only few examples in the entire world. She also prioritized initiatives targeted towards women, including:
- A non-discrimination and good labor practices code for the public sector, with voluntary adoption for the private sector
- An end to discrimination against women of childbearing age in private healthcare plans
- A bill to ensure that family welfare benefits and subsidies are paid to mothers
- Stricter laws against domestic abuse along with more shelters for victims
- And her star initiative—a program to provide free public day-care for all working parents
Constitutionally prohibited from serving a second consecutive term, Michelle left office in March 2010 with record-high approval ratings.
She then pioneered the United Nations’ gender equality agenda as the Executive Director of the newly-established UN-Women. But in March 2013, Michelle resigned in order to campaign for a second term as president of Chile. Upon learning of her resignation, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated,
Her visionary leadership gave UN-Women the dynamic start it needed. Her fearlessness in advocating for women’s rights raised the global profile of this key issue. Her drive and compassion enabled her to mobilize and make a difference for millions of people across the world. […] This is a stellar legacy, and I am determined to build on it. (“Secretary-General”)
Back in Chile, Michelle once again became president on March 11, 2014, having come so far since the young victim of detention, interrogation, and exile she once was. In comparing her two campaigns, there is one remarkable difference. In the first election, Michelle had to assert women’s leadership potential against an overtly patriarchal man. In the second, Michelle’s main opponent was in fact another woman. This campaign is made even more phenomenal by the intertwining fates of Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei. They are both the daughters of generals. However, Matthei’s father was a member of Pinochet’s regime, the same regime that caused Michelle so much tragedy. Defeating Matthei in the election, Michelle’s story came full circle.
Her story demonstrates that women can gain respect for a special kind of feminine leadership—a nurturing, moral, and reconciliatory approach. Upon winning her first election, Michelle pondered,
Maybe history will tell what happened and why I came here because there are so many interpretations. Some people said it’s because people need on one hand, authority, but also need somebody to protect them. So some people said, ‘You are the big mother of everybody.’ (qtd. in Women, Power and Politics)
In a 2013 interview with the Journal of International Affairs, Michelle discussed the importance of women in leadership. She noted that in 2013, after years of patriarchal dictators, Latin America emerged as the leading region in terms of women parliamentarians—the legacy of countless women who fought against corrupt regimes. Michelle emphasized that the lessons from Latin America should be expanded worldwide:
The participation of women in politics is firstly, a matter of justice; secondly, a democratic necessity; and thirdly, efficient, because improving deliberative representation can lead to better policies that will have a positive impact on society as a whole.
In the manner of a true visionary, Michelle ended with this call to action: “If we are serious about the importance of increasing the involvement of women in politics, then we need to move towards a critical mass of female political leaders.”
One can only marvel at what Michelle will accomplish in her two remaining years this presidential term, and what wonders Michelle will contribute to history in all the years of her life yet to come. One thing is certain—we are all living in a truly remarkable world where a story like this can be the work of real life.
Bachelet, Michelle. Interview. “Making Gender Rights Visible.” Journal of International Affairs 66.2 (2013): 145-50.ProQuest. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
Gutsch, Bonnie. “Michelle Bachelet.” Ffrf.org. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Langman, Jimmy, and Joseph Contreras. “An Unlikely Pioneer; Michelle Bachelet: The first woman to be elected to lead a major Latin American nation could well be an agnostic, socialist, single mother. but that’s just what Chileans like about her.” Newsweek Dec 26 2005: 66. ProQuest. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
Powers, John. “A Woman of the People.” Vogue 05 2006: 268-271+. ProQuest. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
“Secretary-General Praises ‘Visionary’ Leadership of Michelle Bachelet, Following Announcement by UN-Women Chief of Departure.” Targeted News Service Mar. 15 2013. ProQuest. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
Thomas, Gwynn. “Michelle Bachelet’s Liderazgo Femenino (Feminine Leadership).” International Feminist Journal of Politics. 13.1 (2011): 63-82. Print.
Women, Power and Politics. Dir. Mary Olive Smith. Supervising Prod. & Writ. Maria Hinojosa. Senior Ed. & Writ. David Brancaccio. JumpStart Productions, 2008. Film. <http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/437/index.html>.
Worth, Richard. Modern World Leaders: Michelle Bachelet. New York, NY: Chelsea House, 2008. Print.
My entire life, I’ve been told to fear you in one way or another. I’ve been told to cover my body as to not distract you in school, to cover my body to help avoid unwanted advances or comments, to cover my body as to not tempt you to sexually assault me, to reject your unwanted advances politely as to not anger you. I’ve been taught to never walk alone at night, to hold my keys in my fist while walking in parking lots, to check the backseat of my car, to not drink too much because you might take advantage of me. I’ve been told what I should and shouldn’t do with my body as to not jeopardize my relationships with you.
I’ve been warned not to emasculate you, to let “boys be boys,” to protect your fragile ego and to not tread on your even more fragile masculinity. I’ve been taught to keep my emotions in check, to let you be the unit of measure for how much emotion is appropriate and to adjust my emotions accordingly. I’ve been taught that you’re allowed to categorize women into mothers/sisters/girlfriends/wives/daughters but any woman outside of your protected categories is fair game.
So to those of you who think you’re being helpful by “protecting” me and my fellow women, you’re like a shark sitting in the lifeguard chair. I wasn’t uncomfortable until you showed up at the pool and the only potential predator I see is you.
Your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters don’t need you to walk them to the bathroom for safety. Your fathers, brothers, friends and sons need to walk themselves away from their own double standards. Women are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on school campuses, on the street, at their jobs, on the Internet, in their own homes, in ANY public place. And it has been excused or ignored for so long because of what you and I are taught from the first years of our interactions with each other: You, as a male, are not accountable for your own actions. It’s MY responsibility, as a female, to not “provoke” you. But then you get to knight-in-shining-armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren’t you outraged every single day?
If you’re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a “loop-hole” to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms. The first problem would be your apparent lack of knowledge of how often it happens OUTSIDE of bathrooms, with no “loop holes” needed. This isn’t about transgender bathroom access. This is about you not trusting the boys and men in your communities and/or fearing that they’re all secretly predators. Why do you have this fear? How many fathers have panicked when their daughters started dating because they “know how teenage boys can be because they used to be one”? How many times have girls been warned “boys are only after one thing”? A mother can bring her young son into the women’s restroom and that’s fine but a father bringing his young daughter into the men’s restroom is disturbing because men are assumed to be predators and “little girls” shouldn’t be exposed to that.
So instead of picking up your sword and heading to Target or the girls’ locker room to defend our “rights,” why don’t you start somewhere that could actually make a difference? Challenge your children’s schools to end sexist dress codes and dress codes that sexualize girls as young as age 5. Advocate for proper (or any) sex education classes in all public schools by a certain grade level. Focus more on teaching your sons not to rape vs teaching your daughters how to avoid being raped. Stop asking “How would you feel if that was your mother or sister?” It shouldn’t take the comparison to clue you in to what’s right or wrong. Question why you’re more worried about your daughter being around men than your son being around women in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Stop walking by Victoria’s Secret with no problem but covering your son’s eyes if a woman is breastfeeding in public. Stop treating your daughter’s body as some fortress you’re sworn to protect as if that’s all she’s got to offer the world.