Throughout the 2016 campaign, the hate-filled, misogynistic rhetoric toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was near-constant. Despite the fact that she lost to Donald Trump and she has since gone about her business and isn't particularly bothering anybody, conservatives' obsession with bashing her has continued. Now, it's not even just the so-called "alt-right" that's giving her grief — she's getting it from plenty of liberals, too: Bernie Sanders' comments about Hillary Clinton after the election are so not OK, and his conversations about "identity politics" remain hard to understand.
Politics is a game, but up until recently, it was one that Bernie Sanders seemed to consider himself above. As a candidate, Sanders' socialist ideals didn't exactly make him appealing to conservatives, but from the get-go he was the favorite of young liberals. When he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton, he fully endorsed her and pleaded with his supporters to do the same, if anything, so that they could keep Donald Trump from the White House.
The vitriol from both sides against Clinton, however, combined with the apparently desirable racist overtones of Trump's campaign, was enough to ensure Trump's win. Now that Trump's president-elect, Sanders seems to have changed his tone in some respects, making it appear as though he's pandering to Trump.
On Sunday, Sanders gave a speech at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston and then took questions. When a young, female supporter asked him how she could become the next Latina U.S. senator, Sanders gave a rather lengthy response that turned into yet another critique of the Democratic Party:
Let me respond to the question in a way that you may not be happy with.
It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans — all of that is enormously important, and count me in as somebody who wants to see that happen.
But it is not good enough for somebody to say, 'Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me,' That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on big money interests.
One of the struggles that we’re going to have right now, we lay on the table of the Democratic Party, is it’s not good enough to me to say, ‘Okay, well, we’ve got X number of African Americans over here, we’ve got Y number of Latinos, we have Z number of women. We are a diverse party, a diverse nation. Not good enough. We need that diversity, that goes without saying. That is accepted. Right now, we’ve made some progress in getting women into politics — I think we got 20 women in the Senate now. We need 50 women in the Senate. We need more African Americans.
He then added a thinly veiled jab at Clinton:
But, but, here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, 'I’m a woman, vote for me.' No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.
He continued with saying that, as far as he's concerned, a leader's race and gender ceases to matter if they aren't working for "all Americans," — by which he usually means the working class:
In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African American head or CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of his country and exploiting his workers, doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if he’s black or white or Latino.
Sanders then went on to say that Trump's win was a direct result of the failings of the Democratic Party to recognize the struggles of the American working class:
And some people may not agree with me, but that is the fight that we’re going to have right now in the Democratic Party. The working class of this country is being decimated. That’s why Donald Trump won. And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down, that young people in many parts of this country have a very limited future, that life expectancy for many workers is going down. People can’t afford healthcare, can’t afford medicine, can’t afford to send their kids to college.
We need candidates — black and white and Latino and gay and male — we need all of that. But we need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy. That is the fight of today.
Sanders' response was criticized by some as being not just a scathing critique of the Democratic Party, but a denouncement of "identity politics." He actually spoke to some extent about identity politics last week on CBS This Morning, when he shared his regret that the Democratic Party can't seem to talk to the "white working class" (which is Sanders' heritage).
Many also came to his defense, however, and pointed out that Sanders' remarks in full context are often ambiguous, and the "identity politics" commentary is perhaps not what it seems.
While he might remain vague about exactly what he means by identity politics, and go back and forth on his feelings about the Democratic Party, his remarks in Boston made one thing pretty clear: he didn't approve of Clinton's use of the "woman card," and he doesn't approve of anyone else playing it either.